Top 5 Branding Mistakes Startups Make

An easy way to pinpoint startup branding problems

Erik Messaki     |      April, 2023

Branding comes with plenty of different mistakes. You can’t possibly remember them all. Indeed, it’s not always clear what to look out for. A lot of these mistakes are anything but obvious, lurking in the shadows like a ticking bomb. Luckily, the Five Puzzle Pieces will help you identify and correct them before it’s too late.

There’s a word that crops up again and again in this article. That word is lack.

Branding is ineffective when it lacks the essential element of public communication, when it lacks the necessary information, or fails to present it properly, professionally, and promptly.

The Five Puzzle Pieces will help you pinpoint what your branding lacks and what you need to do in order to remedy the situation.

Hide — Branding for AI-powered mobile application

The Five Puzzle Pieces of Branding

There are five critical aspects of branding. Lack of professionalism or effort in any of them can seriously damage a business, no matter if it’s a startup or a well-established company. Not all problems are immediately noticeable. Sometimes a brand starts out just fine… only to wilt like an unwatered flower. Then you frantically try to figure out what went wrong and revive the dying business — not always successfully, and invariably at a great cost.

The Five Puzzle Pieces join together to form a comprehensive, recognizable brand image in the eyes of the audience. The pieces are inextricably linked. If one is missing or inadequate, the image falls apart; if every piece is in its right place, the brand takes off like a rocket.

Now you can check if every piece of your branding is in place.

Brainy — Brand Identity for Web3 Education

1. Goal mistakes

This category includes anything related to brand goals and the strategies for achieving them. It’s a complex and complicated area, so mistakes are inevitable. The most common and damaging ones have to do with marketing and ideology:

The last point is critically important for branding. Hiring professionals is the best way to solve all the above problems. The initial startup idea may come from one person, but to develop it properly, they will need some expert help. Branding is always teamwork.

Marketista — Brand identity for a marketing company

2. Timing mistakes

Miscalculating the time needed for branding is very common.

It’s not just the time that marketers, designers, or developers will need to do their job. Branding happens in stages, and each stage has to be evaluated and negotiated. This also takes time.

This time will never go to waste. You need to be constantly monitoring the market, the competition, and your audience. But before shipping it off to a marketer, do some research of your own. This will give you a proper perspective on the brand and its prospects. It will also inspire new ideas. Then you can give clear pointers to the marketing team, instead of unlimited creative rein.

Uptake — branding design for a medical startup

Communicating with contractors takes time. Most of them usually respond promptly, but they can’t move ahead until you provide them with the necessary info or feedback. If you don’t have full data (for example, if you’ve failed to properly research your audience and competitors), this will require even more time.

Design work occurs in stages. You can’t move on to a new task until you’ve accomplished the previous one. Take into account the time needed to:

The more comprehensive and exact your brief is, the less time negotiations and corrections will take and the better the end result will be.

Hint — Branding for a language learning platform

Social media marketing requires time for research, implementation, and analyzing results. You can’t always expect quick feedback. Social media promotion has a cumulative effect and can’t work instantly. These things take time to prepare, but the effect will be quick. Any kind of promotion requires time for analysis, result evaluation, and further planning.

A brand needs to be attended to, updated, and grown for as long as it exists. This work is systematic and continuous. It involves monitoring the market and the audience, planning, developing, maintaining contact with your audience and partners, promptly updating information and visual content, etc.

Homly — Logo and brand identity for a real estate agency

3. Budgeting mistakes

The Timing and Budgeting pieces are closely interlinked.

The most common budgeting mistakes are:

Milkow — branding and package design for a milk brand

Some business owners underestimate future expenses, fail to make proper budget allocations, and may run out of money at the worst possible moment. Others tend to overestimate, which leads them to cut costs at every opportunity, foregoing essential branding elements.

Both approaches will destroy the brand as surely as a time bomb. It will go off sooner in the former case than in the latter, but the detonation is unavoidable in both. And that means financial loss and frustration.

Krypton — Branding design for the NFT platform

Once again, you may need to hire professionals to adequately evaluate future investments and figure out the point when the brand will start paying off. Otherwise, you’ll have to do your own in-depth research. You must know exactly what you can save on and what should never be underfunded. This is the only way to avoid unnecessary expenses in the long run.

Krypton — Branding design for the NFT platform

4. Visual mistakes

A visual system is a tool of communication between the brand and the world. The most brilliant idea won’t work unless it’s communicated and demonstrated convincingly.

No brand identity elements? No landing page or website, no social media page, no ads, videos, mailouts, or banners? Then there just isn’t enough information to form a meaningful brand image. Nobody’s heard of it, nobody’s seen it. There’s no recurring experience that will make people remember it. No interest, no recognition, no trust, no loyalty. Hence, no audience, no sales, and no income.

Neuro — Branding for educational platform

When there are no visual components of the brand in the information-visual field, it is incomprehensible and uninteresting to users. The integral image of the brand is formed not only from the identity elements. It visibly carries the idea of the brand and gives users the sum of impressions and interaction experience.

A brand that is visually absent from the information space has already failed. The more visual, emotional, and recurring cues there are, the better the overall impression, recognition, trust, and desire to communicate.

A common visual mistake is relying on bad or outdated design. Design is a reflection of the brand at any given point in time. For the users, a company’s design is as much its product as anything else it has to offer. In other words, your design is a logical outcome of your branding work (or lack thereof).

Bona❤️ — Brand Identity for Support Centre

If your approach to the visuals is sporadic rather than regular and sustained, the outcome will be pitiful.

Bad design often stems from mistakes 1–3 above: lacking clear objectives and differentiation, foregoing research, rejecting professional assistance to cut costs, and so on. When designers aren’t provided with comprehensive data, they cannot produce anything unique or worthwhile. They may even get creative out of sheer desperation. Sometimes, it’s a godsend; more often, ill-informed creativity takes the brand in an entirely wrong direction. Prevent it by providing the designers with as much info on your business and product as possible and making sure they share your vision of the perfect brand.

Limonadi — Brand identity & package design for beverage product

Visual mistakes include:

Most of these problems can be easily solved by a good design agency. But continuously working on your visuals is your job and yours alone.

Soto Roast — Packaging design for the coffee brand

5. Communication mistakes

Communications are the basic building block of brand promotion. A lack of a communication strategy is worse than a mistake; it’s a kiss of death for the brand. A brand cannot thrive and grow without a clear plan. You need to create contact points, set up lines of communication, then maintain and develop them according to your established goals.

A brand is like a person with leadership skills. It’s not enough to look good for other people to take notice. It must learn how to communicate with them: how to meet new people, how to make friends, how to follow the news and innovations, and how to tell a fascinating story. Most of all, a brand must inspire and lead.

To do all this, you need to develop all kinds of communication channels with your audience. It’s not enough to post on social media and bombard them with mailouts. You have to actively study your users, seek contact, speak their language, encourage them, and unite them around a common cause (tied to your brand’s mission and goals).

derma.up — Brand Identity for Skincare Products

Communication mistakes include:

Dynamotion — Branding for motion design studio

In conclusion

Most branding mistakes don’t come from errors as much as from a lack of information. It’s both the information you collect for your own use (lack of research or testing) and the information about your brand that you present to the audience. It can be incomplete, outdated, irrelevant, useless, or visually unimpressive; sometimes, it’s just bad because you didn’t want to bring in professionals or underestimated their importance.

Of course, you can’t fix everything at once and quickly cover all the bases. Branding is a gradual and complex investment.

It is important, however, to know which puzzle piece is currently missing. Which of the five pieces is still too raw to be fully functioning? What do you need to concentrate on and devote the most effort to in order to bring your brand image into focus, to make it noticed and appreciated as soon as possible? I sincerely hope that the Five Puzzle Pieces will help you answer these questions and streamline your branding process.