6 mistakes to avoid when building your brand

May 05, 2024

6 mistakes to avoid when building your brand

By avoiding these common pitfalls and embracing proactive strategies, brands can chart a course toward enduring success.

BY Kelly Conkright

Today, it feels like everybody has a brand. From major corporations to celebrities and young entrepreneurs, the digital landscape and social media have democratized brand launches. While capital is helpful, it’s not the decisive factor in a brand’s longevity.

For the past 25 years, I have been building brands globally, from iconic transformations to startups taking their first steps. I believe in the power of a brand to embody ideas, inspire change, and sometimes even shape societal norms.

How do you build a powerful, enduring, iconic brand? Whether it’s a product, service, space, app, event, or even your personal brand, you need a strong foundation and an emotional connection with your audience. With everyone launching brands, it’s harder to stand out, so finding your unique “white space” is crucial. This is where your brand can authentically thrive and fully realize its vision.

Here are the six most common mistakes I see in brand building and how to navigate them for lasting success:

Branding is not your style guide

While I obsess over a beautiful style guide with a smart logo, inspiring colors, and meaningful structure, a style guide is not your brand! Branding is about creating a lifestyle that encapsulates your company’s purpose, values, and identity across all touchpoints. The most magnetic people and the most desirable brands have nuance and depth. For example, GOOP has built an entire lifestyle ecosystem around wellness and Kin Euphorics creates a lifestyle narrative around mindful drinking, going beyond just visual aesthetics.

Generic and complicated messaging

One of the biggest differentiators for brands in our modern world is voice and messaging. Tone of voice, which should be synthesized into three to five words, is based on your brand’s personality and character. Once you have your character and voice established as your foundation, that will not change. What WILL change is the messaging depending on the medium, the goal, and the audience, which extends into how you write for your website, social and ads, and even the sound of your audio voice. Consider Oatly, which employs witty and irreverent messaging, or Spotify, known for its personalized and user-centric approach to messaging.

Straying from your strategic plan

You might feel tempted to speed through strategy each year, but if you do it right, you will save a lot of money in the long run. You want the strategy to be your rock-solid foundation. In digital marketing, it is a great idea to “test, learn, tweak, repeat” in that you are gathering data in real-time for what is resonating. BUT, in building your brand, it is more about insight and clarity in how you can be true to your brand DNA, different from competition, relevant to your audience, and on point with culture. I often get comprehensive decks from clients on competition, but with no clear takeaway on the action items. In this case, you need to do the strategy AND action it holistically.

Selling a product versus a promise

Obviously, you want to sell your products and services, but effective branding is crucial as it differentiates you from competitors, builds trust, and can influence pricing. Branding should stem from foundational ideas that improve society or solve problems, not just sell items. Focus on selling a solution, a feeling, and an experience. An easy and inspiring example is Patagonia with its environmental activism or Starbucks, which offers more than just coffee but a community-centric experience.

Operating in a vacuum

Many brands fall into the trap of operating in a vacuum, isolating themselves from the dynamic pulse of culture and consumer behavior. It’s crucial to escape this insular mindset by continuously questioning the relevance and impact of your brand’s content and initiatives. Immerse yourself in the experiences and cultural conversations of your target audience to understand their behaviors and receptivity moments. Successful brands actively participate in culture and evolve with societal shifts, staying true to their core values and vision, as seen with Nike and Lululemon adapting to changing consumer preferences and expanding their offerings.

Underestimating the power of company culture

Culture is your secret weapon. It’s not just about perks and benefits—it’s about activating your brand internally, bringing your values and vision to life through every interaction and decision. As your brand grows, cultivating the right team and environment is mandatory. With today’s demand for transparency and a constant digital presence, the culture within your organization reflects your brand to the outside world. Foster transparency, empower your team, and create an environment that encourages creativity, innovation, and authenticity. 

By avoiding these common pitfalls and embracing proactive strategies, brands can chart a course toward enduring success.

6 mistakes to avoid when building your brand



Kelly Conkright is the founder and chief brand strategist of The Brand Terminal, a global branding agency based in Los Angeles, with hubs in Melbourne and Paris. She has united award-winning talent from around the world to shape the brands of Fortune 500 companies, startups, and personal brands.  

Fast Company