The #1 Branding Mistake Small Businesses Make

What’s the worst thing you can do when creating your brand? Learn the branding secret big-time marketers know that most small businesses don’t.

It happens all the time. Maybe you’ve done it, too.

You know you need to “brand” your business, so you hire a designer create some logo options for you. You then show them around and ask for everyone’s opinion. Maybe you even post the options on social media for people to vote on.

Starting with the logo is the biggest mistake you can make.

A brand is not a logo.

A brand is how others collectively perceive you/your business. When you build a brand you are influencing perception. While a company may own and “create” a brand, the brand actually lives out in the world, in the mind of your customers. You use your many touch-points and interactions with customers to influence minds, behaviors and perceptions.


Visual identity (of which a logo is one small part) bridges the world between your strategy and all of your executional elements. Visual identity includes logos, typography (fonts), colors, elements, general aesthetic, and photo/illustration examples — all the things you need to define your look and create consistency in execution.

But not just any visual identity will do. Your visual identity should communicate and influence customer perception in a very intentional way. It should be more than just a logo and it must be based on your brand positioning strategy.


I recommend taking two important steps:

  1. Start with strategy. Specifically, start with a clear targeting strategy and brand positioning strategy. This becomes the creative brief for branding.
  2. Instead of just a logo, develop a complete visual identity — a system of elements that create a consistent look in all your materials.

If you get the above two steps right, you won’t just have a logo. You’ll have a defined visual system that influences your customers in a specific way and gives you a competitive advantage.

In order to get your strategy right, there are a few critical questions to answer. The following are the five most important. Once you answer them, you are ready to hire a designer and give them direction for visual identity development.


All great marketing starts with this question. Your target audience should guide everything you do. If you are targeting Baby Boomer foodies looking to explore foreign cuisine, your communications and visual identity will sound and look much different than if your target audience is rebellious teenagers.

Here’s a breakdown of how to define your marketing target audience.


Once you understand whom you serve, you need to specifically define the problem you solve for them. What challenges and tensions do they face? What stands in the way of their goals? What is the dragon that you slay for them?


This should answer the problem you identified in the previous question. It can be functional or emotional. What does the customer get as a result? What do you do for them? How does it make the customer feel? What’s that one big thing?


Offering a relevant benefit to your customers is not enough. If you are not different from their alternatives, you will likely lose in the market place. When customers perceive their options to be similar, they typically go with the least expensive option. This is not good, as the point of building a brand is to command a premium in the marketplace. So, how are you better than the competition?


This last question might sound a bit more obscure, but it helps set up your designer for success. That’s because your brand values inspire different creative avenues. For example, Nike’s values of victory and empowerment will look and feel a lot different than Southwest Airlines’ values of love and fun.

What values would your brand go to war and fight for? Can you name three?

The answers to the above five questions may not always be obvious or easy, but they are extremely important to answer first. Then and only then should you create an entire visual identity that communicates your positioning in meaning and spirit.


Maybe you need a little help working through the strategic questions first. Maybe an expert’s perspective would help give you greater confidence. If so, consider our course designed specifically for small business owners and entrepreneurs: 30 Days to a Winning Small Business Marketing Strategy.

Over the course of just 30 days, we’ll teach and coach you to define whom you are seeking and what your positioning should be. We’ll also show you how to determine appropriate marketing strategies and channels. You’ll walk away with a custom strategy written by you with personal, expert guidance.

With bite-sized lessons, 1:1 coaching, and easy-to-use templates, you can knock out a marketing strategy with confidence — even if you have no previous marketing experience.

You have two options:

  1. 30 Days to a Winning Small Business Marketing Strategy (Premium Coached Version)
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Choose the premium version if you want personal, 1:1 expert coaching along the way. Choose the standard version if you want to pass on the 1:1 coaching and save a little on the price.

The links above will automatically apply a 25% blog-reader discount. But, if you have any issues, simply enter discount code BLOG25 during checkout. This discount is good through January 11th, 2018.

Start the New Year off right and invest in yourself. In 30 days you’ll be glad you did.

This article originally appeared on the Gurulocity marketing blog. If you found the article helpful, click the clap button below. You can also subscribe to receive blog and article updates.

Kevin Namaky is the founder of Gurulocity, a marketing education company. Our mission is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs hone their strategic marketing craft and unlock their full potential.