In his 2003 book, Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time, Matt Haig explores the biggest brand blunders of all time and why they happened.

But before Haig expounds on the on the PR and product nightmares that cost brands like McDonald’s and Harley Davidson millions, he first explains how the concept of branding came into existence in the first place.

According to Haig, branding dates back to the 19th century when companies like Quaker Oats and Heinz were trying to ease public doubts about the mass production of products. These companies figured out that through designing brand identities, complete with human elements, they could put shoppers’ minds at ease and develop a deeper sense of trust from consumers.

Although most of the world’s most successful companies today have enjoyed longevity due to strong branding practices, most have also had to learn a few painful brand lessons along the way.

After all, the essence of strong branding lies in a company’s ability to connect with consumers; so, as consumer behaviors and mindsets shift, brands must also adapt. Calculated risk-taking is encouraged, especially for those brands looking to break away from the pack.

However, there are several proven mistakes that brands across industries should avoid.

Social slacking

Social media marketing is the new norm – regardless of industry or brand offering. Most companies today know that to be seen as relevant in the eyes of consumers, they have to be present on social media. However, simply owning profiles and pushing content out does not suffice.

Social media platforms are not simply soap boxes for brands to shout product messages; they’re networks that allow organizations to facilitate human, 1:1 interactions. To maximize the potential of social media, brands have to engage with and respond to audiences. Today’s brands know they have to push out content to stay top of mind among consumers, but content distribution is only half of the social media battle; community management is just an integral to social success.

Community management offers a more personal touch – it gives brands the chance to take off their corporate caps and showcase their personalities through individualized interactions.

Bad branding inconsistencies

Numerous digital platforms and customer touch points are a double-edged sword; on the one hand, they allow brands multiple opportunities to connect with audiences. However, on the other hand, more touchpoints also means more chances for branding inconsistencies to come to fruition.

Digital audiences don’t interact with brands in a vacuum; they’re constantly toggling between email, search engine results pages, Instagram, YouTube, and out-of-home branding messages. The omni-channel customer experience means that any inconsistencies in branding efforts – from logo variations, to clashing photography styles, and inconsistent copy – will be glaringly obvious to consumers.

Brands can avoid inconsistency mishaps by creating – and following – comprehensive brand guidelines.

Overexposure

Somewhere along the way brands adopted the notion that more = better: more content, more products, more advertising, more stories.

Many organizations thought that if they weren’t doing more, they would fall behind. Subsequently, many organizations have had to learn the hard way that over branding does not resonate with consumers, and does not necessarily help their bottom lines.

In fact, overdoing it seems to turn consumers off more than anything. Customer burnout, especially during peak times of year (like the holidays) is real; customers deal with a barrage of branding, which too often result in unfollows, unsubscribes, and disloyalty.

Furthermore, brands aren’t just speaking to their customers more across digital channels, many are also trying to integrate their company into third-party campaigns. While there’s nothing wrong with relevant brand partnerships, forced brand partnerships are jarring. When brands try to partner with every organization under the sun or slap their logos on the buzziest product trends, it creates a disconnect among consumers.

Customers today crave authenticity and expertise; they aren’t interested in engaging with companies that do everything with mediocrity, they want to engage with companies that do a few things really well. Nothing raises consumer eyebrows faster than overexposure.

The practice of branding came into existence as a way of buffering companies; organizations who build strong enough brand identities have an easier time launching new products, creating loyal customers, and quelling any customer fears.

Branding creates an emotional connection between consumers and the companies producing the products in their shopping carts. However, mistakes like overexposure, inconsistency, and audience ignorance can swiftly unravel any branding achievement.

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AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and management consultant. A frequent traveler, he writes about the leadership and marketing lessons he’s picked up while traveling the world. Follow AJ on Twitter at @ajagrawal24.

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