Me? I've got a few pet peeves. Passive aggression. Uggs. Improper grammar. And bad branding.
Yes, bad branding makes my skin crawl.
When one company uses more than one logo, I hear nails on a chalkboard. I practically hyperventilate when a company's website looks nothing like their brochure which looks nothing like their business card which looks nothing like the inside of their store which looks nothing like…well, you get the point.
The other day I refused to shop at a Walmart simply because the old, outdated all-capital-block-letter-star-as-a-hyphen logo was plastered across the front of the building. I went to CVS and spent twice as much buying the things I needed instead.
Psshhh. I showed them…
Listen, I'm all for variety. In fact, I believe that variety is the spice of life.
But variety is NOT the spice of branding.
Consistency is the spice of branding. This I promise.
Now, not a whole lot of shoppers recognize the role that bad branding plays in their choice to buy or not buy from a company. I bypassed that Walmart because of the outdated logo. Because, to me, that logo represented a large, impersonal corporation with zero business ethics, dingy stores, and poor quality products. When Walmart unveiled its new logo did it change as a company? Of course not. But it changed as a brand. Its stores got a facelift – suddenly they were clean and bright and sold organic fruits and vegetables at prices I could afford. Their new logo, in title case, with a pretty little sunburst at the end…this logo was consistent with the look and feel of their stores. It was consistent with their updated website. It was consistent with the tone of their TV commercials, with their presence in the social mediashpere, with the look of their gift cards even. Consistent, consistent, consistent. All except for that one store, which I refused to shop in.
So, in short, their logo – be it new or old – evoked a psychological response strong enough to influence my decision to shop there. And that's what a brand is supposed to do.
I used Walmart as an example, but don't be fooled: branding isn't just for multi-billion dollar corporations. It is as much for the 99% as it is for the 1%. In fact, it may be more important to the 99% than it is for the 1%. And if you don't believe me, I strongly suggest reading Anita Campbell's article, 'What is Branding? And Should Small Businesses Care?'
The truth is, that, given the choice between a company with an inconsistent, unprofessional looking brand and a company with a brand image that is consistent across all of its marketing channels, the vast majority of people will go with the properly branded company. It's a subconscious decision, but a decision nonetheless. A small business with good branding just seems more professional, more credible...
At the very minimum, a small business should have:
a. an official logo
b. business cards
c. a professionally-designed website
These should all look and feel the same.
Depending on your industry, and on whether or not you have a brick-and-mortar location, you may also need signage, brochures, letterhead, or an email template, etc. Again, these should all look and feel the same.
The bottom line is this: good branding drives sales and bad branding doesn't. Think you can't afford branding? No, you can't afford NOT to brand.