Your brand is the most valuable aspect of your business--and the most fragile. You are online, so the whole world is watching you and your business. From my experience as a CEO of a digital marketing agency, I've noticed major branding mistakes that can easily be avoided. Years of hard work on a brand can be wiped out in a single day, so be cautious of these top branding mistakes that can result in major setbacks or even brand death.
Mistake No. 1: Not Getting a Trademark
Countless brand owners never register their trademark, and many who do fail to defend their trademarked brand. As soon as you create a brand, file a record of the trademark itself under your name with the right government offices.
Deal with every single infraction of your brand use guidelines and any possible violation of your trademark. If you don't, you may lose the chance to take any action at all. The point of your trademark is to protect your brand reputation, and keep the competition from copying your work or diluting your brand value. Make sure it does that by addressing infractions.
Mistake No. 2: Not Vigorously Searching Google
Careful research helps you choose the kind of name, look, voice, logo and website that will appeal to your ideal customer. It also offers you the best protection against infringing on the intellectual property rights of others (such as choosing a logo that infringes on an existing trademark or copyright). Use Google for your research, and when it comes to choosing names, domains, and other branding elements, also search visitcopyright.gov before you make permanent branding decisions.
Mistake No. 3: Not Coming Up With a Good Domain Name
Coming up with a good domain name is really half the battle of running an online company. I've spent hundreds of hours picking domain names for my companies and clients. First, make sure you get a good domain name extension. The most popular right now are .com and .co for general business. But there are many new options out there. There is nothing wrong with picking an industry- or even country-specific domain. In general, avoid dashes or numbers in your domain name, and make sure it's easy to spell. You can also check for similar social media profile URLs.
Mistake No. 4: Picking a Name That Competes With a Well-Established Brand
This is a sign of major research and preparation failure. You need to know what came before your brand that could possibly hurt it. Don't risk naming your brand only to find out later that the name has some seriously negative online history (even if it's totally unrelated). And don't forget, a name that's too close for comfort may be infringing. Imagine building up your business for 10 years only to find out that you are no longer able to use that name.
Mistake No. 5: Picking Color Schemes and Visuals That Aren't Relevant to What You Do
Know the meaning of the colors before selecting them. The graphics and visuals that represent your brand evoke an emotional response in clients and potential customers. Choosing colors, images and other visuals that just don't work with what you're doing can dead-end your branding strategy. For example, pink may be your favorite color, but it may work against your new software brand.
Mistake No. 6: Not Checking Cultural References Around the Name
Content can go viral in hours, so don't set yourself up for an embarrassing failure in the cultural awareness department. Make sure to review how your name is interpreted in all the major countries you will be doing business in.
Mistake No. 7: Not Checking the Name's Translations in Other Languages
There are lots of examples of this problem. Even the biggest companies fall victim to this mistake and, sometimes, pay dearly for it. When Coca-Cola first appeared in China, the brand name was simply read and translated randomly by shopkeepers. The four syllables each had multiple potential meanings, and it was often interpreted as "Kekoukela," which translates to "Bite the Wax Tadpole," or "Female Horse Fastened with Wax," and it's a sure bet that Coke was not after either of those images.
To fix the problem once it was aware of it, Coke researched 40,000 Chinese characters looking for a phonetic equivalent with a pleasant connotation; they settled on "kokoukole," which means "Happiness in the Mouth." Imagine if they'd just taken this step in the first place? In 1927, when Coke was first sold in China, no one thought of this kind of problem, but today there's no excuse for this kind of blunder.
Mistake No. 8: Check Potential Stigmas Associated With the Name
IKEA ran into this problem when it airbrushed women out of catalog photos for the Saudi Arabian market. Their goal was to avoid offending customers in Saudi Arabia, but the practical result was that IKEA offended people all over the world--so much so that Sweden's equality minister made a public statement against the move. The bottom line here is to always research and consider alternative meanings and potential stigmas that could be associated with your brand.
Branding definitely isn't easy, but it's absolutely essential to your business. Anyone can make a branding error, but why repeat mistakes when you can learn from them instead? Avoid these simple yet dangerous branding mistakes, and save yourself from serious setbacks.
John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing agency. He is also a professor at the University of California San Diego and the author of the book, Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online.