This article was originally written May 27, 2013… we decided to updated to be more current with today’s marketing styles and information.
Whether you’re a startup or an established enterprise, you work hard to create a brand that connects with customers. No matter how hard you work toward establishing trust and building brand loyalty, your success is more fragile than you think.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, unintended consequences can lead to ruin.
One PR misstep, faulty product, or data breach can do irreparable damage.
What are the best ways to destroy your brand, and can a company ever come back from the edge of ruin?
10 Best Ways to Ruin Your Brand
1. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
There’s a general mindset in business that says “More is better”. If one thing works, why not add two, three, or a dozen more?
However, there’s a fine line between expanding your product line, sustainable growth, and spreading yourself too thin.
One of the most important aspects of branding is consistency. When you try to introduce too many product lines at once or reach too many markets, you pull focus and confuse the customer.
You remain on-brand by doing one thing, and doing it better then the competition. When it does come time to grow or expand your market, do it thoughtfully and strategically.
2. Failing to Put Satisfaction First
We all want to put the customer first, but too many companies pay lip service to customer satisfaction. They make promises they can’t keep, force customers to jump through hoops to get support, or think that simply rebranding will fix a problem.
If you’re going to make promises about performance or features, make sure you back them up with reliable products that deliver as advertised. It may cost a little more to do things right the first time, but you’ll get a solid ROI in terms of customer satisfaction, social proof, and repeat business.
When you promise responsive customer support, make sure that customers can reach the right department without getting the runaround, that there are multiple methods of contact, keep help desk turnaround times to a minimum, and always follow up.
Satisfaction also applies to employees. Low staff morale due to understaffing, unrealistic deadlines or duties, and an overall toxic work environment contribute to staff and customer churn. That’s bad for business.
I once worked for a franchise that had a set of rules all staff were forced to follow under threat of write-ups, retraining, or termination if they didn’t follow them to the letter. Unfortunately, these customer service guidelines that were cooked up by someone who has obviously never worked with customers were the very same things that our customers complained about when asked for feedback.
Micromanagement on any level can ruin your brand by robbing staff of their autonomy and sense of purpose. It leads to mistrust, stagnation, and sometimes even sabotage.
You don’t hire the best people just so that you can tie their hands. You hire them because they’re good at what they do, they offer a unique vision, or they bring something new to the table. Trust your team, empower them, embrace change, and welcome new perspectives, and then watch your company grow and thrive.
4. Making it About Your Brand
One of the biggest mistakes in branding is putting the focus on the brand or a personality rather than on the customer. Consider each time a CEO becomes the public face of the company and retires or is ousted in shame. Think about tone-deaf tweets or social media posts during times of social upheaval or a natural disaster.
Marketing is about raising brand awareness, but that is best done without making the brand – or a person associated with your brand – the central focus.
Avoid this mistake by putting the emphasis on the customer experience and how your brand adds value to that experience. Listen to the customers, engage with the public, and get involved in conversations rather than trying to steer the narrative.
5. Taking the Negative Route
It would be a mistake to think that you can further your brand by attacking the competition. Like the schoolyard bully who eventually gets his comeuppance, this will ultimately backfire and end in humiliation.
Besides, there’s enough negativity in the world.
Engaging in brand or personal attacks, spreading rumors or gossip, and other negative lines of attack are unproductive. Even when such negative behaviors are embedded in your corporate culture rather than your marketing strategy, they’ll eventually seep out into the public sphere and poison your brand perception.
Never attack a brand or brand spokesperson by name. Instead, focus on how your brand improves the customer experience. Rather than rewarding bad behavior within the company, incentivize unity and strive for excellence.
The Importance of Proactive Brand Management
When you’re running a business, you spend a lot of time worrying about marketing, budgets, and product development. But, what about your reputation? Reputation is a real brand killer if it sours so here are 5 more ways reputation could ruin your brand
You know on the surface how important it is to present a good public image and furnish social proof of your brand’s effectiveness in relation to its promises. In fact, up to 80 percent of your perceived worth comes from intangibles like brand equity and good will.
It’s not good enough to go into recovery mode after the fact. We’ve all seen those sad “I’m sorry” videos. At best, they come off as too little, too late. At their worst, they’re contrived and disingenuous.
In order to protect your brand, it’s essential to engage in proactive reputation management. When you’re authentic and transparent, people trust you, Even if you make a mistake, recovery is shorter and less costly.
If you don’t protect your reputation, your brand will suffer from:
- Public scorn
- Possible legal action
- Loss of revenue
- Low staff morale
All of these factors contribute to public perception, which in turn lowers your value in the consumer market and the stock market. You’ll lose credibility, customers, revenue, and limit your ability to attract investors or otherwise obtain funding.
If you make a mistake, you need to own it. Everyone makes mistakes, and most people will be forgiving of reasonable mistakes. But it’s possible to go overboard and offer too much remorse. The more you revisit an issue, the more desperate (and guilty) you look. Also, coming back to your mistake over and over simply draws attention to a negative situation. If you blow it, simply say so, state you’re sorry, make it right and move on.
7. Being Inconsistent
People need to know what to expect from you. Inconsistency will kill your brand.
Consider the case of a retail store. If you visit one location and find it offers affordable fruits and vegetables from a local co-op farm, you might feel that you’ve found an excellent source for your produce. Yet, what happens when you visit another branch on the other side of town and find moldy, spoiled fruit shipped in from overseas? Your perception of that brand will be tarnished.
You may not be running a brick-and-mortar business, but you’re still maintaining a brand. You have to be consistent across all marketing campaigns. Know what your message is, and present it consistently every time.
8. Over Promoting
Promoting your blog is a good thing. Over-promoting will make it appear spammy. If you’re pleading for people to read your content, then you’re working too hard. Over-promoting is going to drive people away from your content, rather than towards it. Instead, provide consistent, quality content, promote it a reasonable amount, and you’ll get the traffic you want.
9. Failing to Communicate
Today’s consumer is Internet-driven. He knows he can find you and communicate with you online, and he expects a reasonable measure of communication back. If you fail to provide that, you’ll lose that customer.
Imagine this scenario: a disgruntled customer comes to your Facebook page and sounds off about his poor experience. Your followers all see that post, and while some will write it off as a disgruntled customer (you can’t please everyone all the time, after all), some will take it more seriously, and may even walk away from your brand.
Open communication can defuse this, though. By communicating with the customer, posting your resolution to his problem in a public place where all can see it, you might be able to solve his problem and keep your customers, even the disgruntled one, satisfied.
But what happens if you ignore his post? While it might seem like the right idea, because it doesn’t “fuel the fire”, your other followers will notice your silence. If they see you ignoring an unhappy customer, they’re going to wonder when you’ll do the same thing to them.
Customer satisfaction issues, when ignored, only grow in one direction – they get worse. Address the problem openly and fairly, own up to mistakes, and go a little beyond in making things right. Your other followers aren’t stupid… they’ll see what you’ve done, and if the disgruntled customer continues to complain, they’ll ignore him. I’ve even seen many instances in which other followers told a whiner to shut up… he’d been treated more than fairly. You can’t buy better loyalty than that.
In short, it’s better if you’re the one telling the world what you’re all about, not someone who’s unhappy with you.
10. Not Being “You”
Your competitor may have a fantastic branding idea and it may be working really well for him. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Mimicking someone else’s brand is going to make you look shoddy, and nobody likes a copycat.
Find a way to make your brand unique so that it will stand out on its own. Create an authentic brand that is entirely yours, rather than a cheap copy of someone else’s. Every business should have its own USP (unique selling proposition) that places it above others. Find yours and build upon it.
Want to know what could harm your marketing goals more than anything else? Take a look in the mirror. Making spur of the moment marketing decisions can put you in a position you can’t get out of. The best way to avoid that is to lay out your standards on paper and live by them. Define your message, stress your USP, and avoid the 5 traps above.
Your brand is only as good as its reputation. By being proactive, you can avoid common mistakes that will lead it to ruin.
How solid is your brand?
Consulting with a branding expert from Level343 will provide you with an objective analysis of your vulnerabilities and strengths as well an an actionable plan for lasting, sustainable branding.