Updated: Jun 22
Hey, relax. You actually started a new business, and that's the hardest obstacle in your journey. A conversation about startup branding mistakes isn't stressful — it's your first major advantage over the competition.
You're here to win, and we're here to help. So take a deep breath, and approach this article with a determined grin.
It's exhilirating to craft new branded content from scratch. You'll experience a rush of ideas and bursts of creative energy. The challenge is honing that energy into a focused, cohesive initial brand strategy.
Many startup brands get tripped up as they develop strategy. You don't have to be one of them! Learn the 6 major branding mistakes that most startups make, and save yourself countless hours (and dollars) in the process.
Before we target those major errors, you should know how to identify a branding mistake as it happens. So how do we define — and fix — these issues in real time?
How to Define a Branding Mistake
TLDR version: If it doesn't feel like your brand, it's not right for you.
A branding mistake is a piece of marketing that doesn't enhance your brand value and target your ideal customer. As a startup business, you cannot settle for anything that achieves one or the other.
You have to be a little bit selfish, and a “lot bit” picky.
Your startup branding must be intentional and consistent. It's absolutely possible to cultivate a strong brand from day one — the key is ensuring every piece of content marketing drives your brand in one clear direction.
Each time you propose and develop a new element of startup marketing, ask yourself these 4 questions to stop any potential errors in their tracks.
4 Questions that Stop a Marketing Mistake in Advance
1. Can I easily define who this content is for?
If you aren't sure who the piece is speaking to, customers will be confused as well. Think about who you're speaking to (see Mistake #1), then write for them.
2. Does this sound like our brand, or someone else's?
It's tempting to mimic your favorite brands and digital marketing strategies. Don't. The average American sees between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. If you sound like someone else, you'll either be ignored or viewed as a copycat.
3. How does this fit into our larger marketing plan?
A good piece of marketing achieves a short-term goal. A great piece of marketing fits seamlessly in your overall marketing strategy. It's tough to edit well-crafted content — but if it's not coherent with your other efforts, you must do so.
4. Will new customers “get the message” without knowing us?
You're a startup company. It's crucial your target market understands who you are as quickly as possible. Your initial branded marketing must explain your “who, what, where, when and why” as efficiently as possible.
You now know how to spot startup marketing mistakes in advance. Great! Let's move on to higher-level solutions.
It's time to look closely at 6 startup branding mistakes. You'll learn why they're made, why they're important, and how to overcome them. It's a major step on the road to beating your startup competitors and cementing your space in the market.
Mistake #1: Identifying The Wrong Target Audience
We've highlighted the dangers of targeting the wrong customer in multiple articles. The pursuit of the wrong target audience is a waste of time, money and resources. So how do you determine who the right audience is?
Simply put: Content marketing isn't about the audience you want. It's about the audience that wants you.
Use 3 market research tactics to effectively determine your ideal customer:
Host your website on a platform that provides demographic feedback, and track it in real time. There is no such thing as too much information. Age, gender identification, household makeup/income, job title, industry, education level, hobbies and outside interests are all useful tools.
Once you determine your key demographic, find people you already know who fit that target. Ask them questions. Find out what drives their purchasing decisions. Determine what words, phrases and images trigger an emotional response
3. Industry Analysis.
Take a deep dive on industry-specific research. Who is the average potential customer in your market, and what is their spend? Where do they live? What is their household structure? And — most importantly — why do they choose the brand they currently support?
Brand visibility means nothing if it's visible to the wrong people. Identifying the ideal customer (instead of your perception of one) is a huge win for your startup business.
Now that you've targeted the right customers, let's make sure your brand is easy to understand.
Mistake #2: A Brand Identity That's Too Vague
Every piece of branded startup marketing must answer one question — who are you?
It's a hurdle you cannot skip. Your new business can't build trust, gain a following or take marketing risks without establishing its identity. People need to know who you are in order to invest in your journey.
With each new message or content piece, ask yourself this:
Does what I'm creating directly benefit my brand story? Does it tell the world more about me?
If the answer to both these questions isn't a clear “yes”, revise your approach. The impulse to churn content for content's sake leads us directly into Mistake #3…
Mistake #3: Too Much Branding, Not Enough Brand Strategy
“There are too many stars in some places and not enough in others.” - Mark Twain
A team of all-stars still loses without a gameplan. The same applies to content strategy.
It's hard to leave a killer piece of copy on the bench. It's even harder to shelve beautiful ad pieces for another day. But if these elements don't tie into your initial strategy, you have to let them sit.
Don't think of these efforts as wasted time. Think of them as fireworks you saved for a bigger, bolder display next season.
Cohesion is the name of the startup marketing game. Your copy, imagery, tagline and digital content must face the same direction and convey the same thought.
Mistake #4: Crafting an Impossible Brand Promise
Make sure you can make good on your brand promise. Every claim you make in advertising or branded marketing content constitutes a promise to the consumer. When you don't make good on that claim, it's not just falling short — you've created a bad customer experience.
There's a reason phrases like “The best pizza in town!” don't work. They are claims based on subjective opinions you can't control. Any customer who happens to prefer someone else's pizza to yours feels lied to on a subconscious level.
Find ways to set yourself apart that don't involve hollow superlatives or impossible promises.
Learn what makes your brand truly different, then tout that to build brand equity.
Some of the best startup marketing campaigns focus on originality and difference. Instead of another pizzeria that claims to have “the best pizza in town”, isn't “a uniquely delicious pizza experience" more interesting?
Mistake #5: Confusing Social Media Marketing With Brand Awareness
Social media ads don't cultivate brand awareness. There's simply too much noise on people's timelines and feeds for new brands to have a major impact. That doesn't mean to avoid social media. If you're confused, this should clear things up…
Startup business owners must focus on strong social media posts, not ads.
74% of people say they're tired of social media ads. While they're still effective for entrenched brands — repetition of familiar logos, etc. — a new image or ad campaign isn't as rewarding.
Take the extra time to curate your social media platform. If you're selling goods with visual appeal, focus on Instagram. If you're seeking an older demographic, look at Facebook. Younger social media consumers crave the movement and virality of TikTok.
If you're worried about posts becoming time-consuming, you can schedule them in advance on most platforms. New customers appreciate a personally-crafted message from a startup founder or small business owner. It feels “more human” and makes your brand feel more relatable.
And being relatable is vital to overcoming the sixth error startups make — abandoning their identity.
Mistake #6: Deviating From Your Brand Personality
It's easy to doubt your brand identity in the early going. Keep going.
If you've done your research and found the right audience, stick to the plan. Change your messaging too soon, and you'll sabotage your marketing efforts. A successful startup strategy doesn't “glow up” overnight.
The temptation to copy a thriving competitor's branding is real. Resist it. You'll find more success being the first you instead of being the latest copycat of someone else's message.
Believe in your strategy, believe in your research, and believe in yourself. You'll easily avoid this final startup branding mistake.
Pro Tip: Get a Free Consultation from a Startup Branding Expert
Find a content marketing partner that's passionate about branding from the ground up. They'll help you develop brand guidelines for tone and style, research your industry and desired audience, and craft your first marketing campaign.
If you don't know where to start, good news — you already found us.
Perk Copywriting is a copywriting and content marketing partner with relevant experience you can trust. We've met enough entrepreneurs to know each new business is different. There's no startup owner quite like you, and we offer agile, scalable solutions for your specific goals.
There's no risk in reaching out — your first consultation is always free.
Get in touch with Perk Copywriting. Let's work together and write your new brand's very first chapter.