Branding No Nos! Refocus Your Business Branding! From Inconsistent to Unified & Recognizable

A strong brand can distinguish your business from competitors in a crowded market, establish customer trust, and drive business growth.

Building something unique and trustworthy, however, doesn’t happen overnight.

To achieve those goals, you’ll need to develop a brand strategy and stay focused on its mission.

Like any morning routine, diet, or workout regimen, inconsistency can set our success and progress back days, weeks, or even months—and we can quickly feel a lack of direction and inspiration. The same can be said for any business whose team fails to understand the importance of the company’s visual identity—from the color palette and typography to design elements that represent your brand.

Here are several common branding mistakes to avoid when establishing your company identity.

1. Logo inconsistency

It can be challenging to maintain consistency in the messaging, visual identity, and customer experience across all channels and touchpoints.

Following a company rebrand, your agency or designer will likely turn over all logo files (.jpg, .png, .svg, .eps, .pdf, .ai), business cards, letterhead, and any additional templates included in your contract.

While it’s advisable to return to your original designer and ask for new templates to be created as the need arises, it would be unrealistic to assume you wouldn’t be inserting your logo into some documents yourself.

When using your logo outside of a pre-created template, check your brand’s style guide. It should have at least one page dedicated to the proper application of the logo and answer questions such as:

  • Can the logo be placed over an image or color background?
  • Does it require a certain margin, padding or white space around it?
  • If there are multiple versions of the logo, is the version inserted approved for this application?
  • Can the logo be used without the logo mark/graphic icon?
  • Are you using the most recent iteration of the logo? Using the branding guide (as seen below) will be an indicator.
Harvest Investment Consultants Branding Guide Sample

Without consulting this guide, there are still a few ways to recognize if you are not using the logo properly:

  • The logo is pixelated after being manually resized.
  • The logo is placed on a colored background instead of being transparent.
  • The letters feel too fat or skinny compared to usual.
Holzman & Dickriede Branding Guide Sample

Use a style guide: Create a style guide that outlines the brand’s visual identity and how it should be used. This will help ensure consistency across all touchpoints.

2. Misuse of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, & Excel

The most common programs for creating documents can also be the most tricky to brand if you don’t know your way around keyboard shortcuts and formatting tools.

Microsoft may have once been essential back in the 1990s and 2000s for Millenials, but unless it’s an active part of your life, it may seem challenging to navigate, especially for Gen Z.

Common mistakes that damage your clean brand include:

  • Using spaces instead of tabs for lists. This means manually counting out the number of times you hit the space bar for each bullet. It leaves a small margin of error for misalignment and wrapping text.
  • Using periods instead of leader dots in a table of contents.
  • Inserting a double space after each paragraph instead of setting establishing paragraph spacing. This is definitely a Boomer and Gen X habit from the typewriter era.
  • Using Microsoft’s default color palette instead of your brand colors for charts. The program’s default red is most likely not the company’s approved red.
  • Using one of Microsoft’s PowerPoint templates instead of using one branded specifically for your company. When teams use different templates, it creates inconsistency in how the brand is applied. These templates should be coming from your marketing team.
  • Not changing the font from the default Minion Pro to your company’s font. Keep in mind as well that serif fonts work best for print applications.
OmniBiz before & after marketing material redesign. Click here for a full dive into OmniBiz before and after PDF handout redesign by Harford Designs.

3. Winging it

Corporate branding and the marketing departments will cringe (and internally fume) if you:

  • Create a flyer using Microsoft Word instead of approaching an approved designer for support—DIY design is never the way.
  • Use clearly fake stock photography or clipart in a PowerPoint presentation. I know it’s 2023 but this still happens!
  • Use non-branded colors in email signatures and documents. Check your branding guide for the official company signature & format. You can usually copy and paste.
  • Don’t apply any formatting/branding to official documents clients and investors will see. It is, in essence, a
  • Grab images from Google instead of paying for them on iStockphoto.com.

Use high-quality visuals: Use high-quality visuals, such as photographs, graphics, and videos, to represent the brand. These should be professional and consistent with the brand’s identity and messaging.

But… I don’t have a marketing department…

I get it. You’re running your business and not too worried about pretty pictures and colors. But graphic design is so much more than that. It is meant to inspire AND inform.

Remember to be consistent and periodically review.

Maintain consistency in using the brand’s visual identity across all touchpoints. This will help build recognition and trust with the brand’s audience.

When you can unite your materials through your brand you stand out among your competitors as established, reliable, and a leader in the industry. And if you are a small business, you look bigger than you are. Imagine their faces when they discover your business is a one-woman/one-man show!

Here are a few things you can do to revitalize your everyday work documents:

  • Hire a graphic designer on a need basis or on a retainer to glance over your work, format, or put the entire project together.
  • Always use the very first version/original template file so your documents have that crisp, factory reset feel.
  • Use stock photography for your images. Unsplash.com or pexels.com are good for projects on a budget, but be mindful that these free images are all over the internet. Consider using a pay-per-use site such as iStockphoto.com.
  • Take advantage of sites like creativemarket.com or elements.envato.com that have a library of templates.

Alternatives to DIY

Hiring a professional branding agency can be a valuable investment for businesses looking to build or refresh their brand.

A branding agency has the expertise and resources to help businesses define and communicate their brand effectively, and can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on market research and industry trends.

A strong brand is essential for attracting and retaining customers, and a professional branding agency can help businesses establish a clear and consistent brand identity that sets them apart from the competition and inspires customer loyalty.

Overall, working with a professional branding agency such as Harford Designs can help businesses build a strong foundation for long-term success. Contact us to see how we can help.

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Jessica Valis, CEO & Owner
Jessica Valis, CEO & Founder

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