Fact: 96% of businesses fail within the first 10 years.


Well, there’s myriad reasons, of course, but one common theme is unsuccessful branding. For every iconic brand that takes the market by storm, there are literally millions that don’t hit the mark—and suffer the consequences.

Even those companies with the best of intentions who throw bucket loads of money at branding can fall flat.

Branding is anything but easy. Success requires careful research and a foolproof strategy.

So, what do you need to avoid to ensure your brand doesn’t end up in the statistical majority?

1. A lack of competitive differentiation

If there is little to nothing differentiating you from the crowd, you’re likely to fade into a pool of mediocrity. Most unsuccessful branding doesn’t fail in a spectacular belly flop, it simply sinks into similarity and never finds its way to the top. To be relevant, you need to identify what distinctly sets you apart from the competition and brazenly exploit those differences. Avoid bland messaging and safe positioning or risk being relegated to the ever-growing pile of irrelevant wash ups.

2. Inauthenticity

Inauthenticity stinks. Consumers can smell it from miles away and they will avoid inauthentic brands like the plague. Think about it like this: authenticity is a characteristic we value in people. We don’t tend to trust or like people who come across as false or phony, we look for (and trust) genuineness. The same principle applies to business. Say what you do and do what you say. Be in the business of genuinely helping people and the community and watch as your brand flourishes. Branding is the vehicle you use to convey your authenticity; it is the way you shape consumers’ perceptions of your business and what you offer. Get clear on who you are as a business, what you do best and your target audience.

3. Mistakenly believing everything can be done in-house

Many companies don’t understand the far-reaching consequences (not to mention time and effort involved) and erroneously believe that they can handle their branding in-house. Branding is all about the perception of your target market. Unless your in-house team are branding experts, they’re unlikely to understand the nuances and complexities of branding and what it takes to capture and retain investment from customers. In other words, it’s less important what your receptionist thinks is best for your business and more important to understand your target market and current trends. Let professionals who have tried and tested branding experience handle your strategy. Take them a brief and a vision of what you want for your business and trust them to take the best care of you. As difficult as it might be to hand over the reins, it will be worth it.

Related: Trusting your designer: 5 reasons why it will benefit your business

4. Not keeping your brand promise

Making good on your word is absolutely vital in the branding game. If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, you may as well throw in the towel now. This is the number one way to build equity in your brand and ensure consumers develop an emotional attachment with your brand. Nurture trust by keeping your promise and you’ll garner yourself a cult-like following.

5. Allowing yourself to go stagnant

For unsuccessful branding, remain stagnant. Don’t confuse consistency with complacency. Yes, you need to be consistent but you also need to adapt. The market is forever changing and progressing and if you let your brand stay stationary, you will fall behind. Keep your brand dynamic, agile and current.