Original blog published on Aug. 20, 2012 | Blog updated on Feb. 12, 2021
Discover If Your Brand Is Holding Your Business Back!
Is nostalgia, “nephew art” or a lack of brand standards holding your business back from reaching its maximum potential? It’s time to find out!
Having worked with several hundred small businesses on their brand development, our team at KickCharge Creative has seen our fair share of branding problems. Unfortunately, many of these problems can’t be salvaged with just a few tweaks. In order to move the company forward, a complete refresh is required.
It’s understandable why many HVAC, plumbing and other service provider brands need help. These small business owners allocate their financial resources to pay for fleets, equipment and other components required for getting their company up and running. Brand becomes an afterthought. This leaves business owners who have exhausted their financial resources to take shortcuts with their branding.
Unfortunately, taking a shortcut with your brand can hurt you in the long run. As you’re trying to grow your business and take it to the next level, your brand could be holding you back. If this is the case, then it may be time to take a fresh look at your brand and what it says about your company.
Here are six signs that it’s time to step up your company’s image.
1. You Have a Homegrown, Outdated Brand
Homegrown brands are good for nostalgia, but bad for business. Many small businesses have built their brands around logos that they or family members created. Between the advent of desktop publishing years ago and the prevalence of instant access to clip art on the web, this has become a common and rather unfortunate characteristic of many small business logos.
In the design world, we call this “nephew art”—and here’s why: When asked about their brand’s origins, clients respond, “My [nephew/niece, guy I know] is really good at art and he designed our logo.” While there are nephews and nieces who are talented artists and/or skilled at branding, the vast majority of them lack the qualifications required to handle your company’s most important asset—its brand! This should only be left to professionals.
2. Your Brand Is Obvious
From the ever-popular “blue and red arrows in a circle” to the “sun and snowflake” icons, many contractors use these common clip-art elements or other generic imagery in their brands. But here’s the problem: If your logo can be mistaken for a dozen other similar brands, how will your target audience remember it amid the clutter? Also, if your logo includes clip art, it can’t be trademarked. This means there’s nothing stopping another company from using the same design.
The idea behind good branding is to never fit in. Your logo should be unique, bold and memorable. That’s how you make it stand out.
3. Your Brand Makes No “Promise”
You only get one chance at a first impression, so it’s critical to the future success of your business that you make the right one! This is where your brand comes into play. A good brand provides insight to a company, leaving a positive impression on potential customers before any interaction even takes place.
So, ask yourself this: What does your brand say about your company? Does it communicate reputability, professionalism and trustworthiness? Or does it scream sloppy, cheap and homegrown?
At KickCharge, we’ve worked with countless companies that deliver fabulous work, yet you would never know that by just looking at their brands. This is where our rebranding expertise has proven to be paramount. Time and time again, we’ve used our expert design skills to help companies like yours create professional logos that effectively convey the right message to customers and instill confidence in the quality of your work—all with just a glance.
4. Your Logo Uses Photos
You don’t see large companies using photos in their logos and for good reason. A brand based around a photo is an amateur approach that is awkward, visually unappealing, can’t be replicated across media and, often, doesn’t make for a memorable image. Photos also tend to look dated very quickly. Icons and simple graphics work better as they’re able to be reproduced across multiple media, whether on a truck, T-shirt or website.
5. Your Brand Is Inconsistently Implemented Across Media
When you look at your marketing efforts, do they remain consistent in presenting your brand? Do all of your materials have that “branded” look that makes people see the connection in your advertising when glancing quickly? If your marketing materials don’t share a common denominator, it’s time to examine your brand architecture and consider rebranding from scratch.
Many small businesses don’t have a brand identity guidebook or haven’t been given a standard for how their brand should be integrated across various media platforms. Instead, they’ll have a few file formats of their logo, which they share with those working on their advertising media. What ultimately happens with this approach is that all who receive a copy of this file will interpret your brand implementation differently, leaving a significant margin for error. Over a period of time, inconsistencies dilute your brand.
If you have a single-source advertising agency that coordinates all of your marketing, this won’t happen. The agency is essentially the gatekeeper of your brand. But for those who rely on various vendors, it’s almost impossible to achieve consistent applications of your brand—especially in the absence of a lengthy brand style guide that illustrates all of the various ways your brand can be used and, more importantly, how it cannot (or should not) be used.
6. Your Branding Doesn’t Represent You
If your company is like most service providers, it has grown and evolved over the years. Maybe even your services or products have evolved and changed. This is very common. But has your brand kept up with these changes?
Many businesses have outgrown their brand without realizing it. And now that the business is growing, they’re trying to attract better clients and they just don’t quite look the part. For these businesses, a false brand identity is stopping them from achieving full potential.
Or, perhaps your brand was never good to begin with. If the original branding was not done professionally, it often portrays the business as being a mere start-up. But as your company attempts to take market share away from competitors, an amateur brand can act like an anchor around your neck. We often see companies commit a critical error at this point: They decide to hang on to the old brand because they equate using it with good business performance. To these company owners we often say, “Success in spite of poor brand identity is not a valid reason to perpetuate it.” Imagine how much more successful these companies would be with a better brand.
Your Fresh Start Begins Here!
No matter how large or small a business is, a brand redesign causes discomfort, both financial and otherwise. It’s not a proposition that should be entered into lightly. It’s a big endeavor and takes a lot of work to implement properly. To be done right, your designer or agency must understand the implications and develop a plan for integration that includes a strategy for a brand rollout.
For most small businesses, it is nearly impossible to simply erase all uses of a previous brand and use the new branding all at once. Not only are the logistics challenging, but it’s not often financially prudent to do a clean-slate rollout of your new brand. Typically, too many things use your old brand and removing them all at once isn’t always possible. We generally recommend that you roll out a new brand as things need to be updated or new equipment is purchased. Things like business cards, websites and uniforms are easier to change and represent the more obvious touch-points for your consumers. Those things should be updated first.
When it’s time to step out of your comfort zone, KickCharge Creative is here to help! To get started, reach out to us online or call 908.835.9000 today!