Ways to Kill a Brand

Now, we're not in the business of creating sub-par brands. Far from it. We aim to create brands that truly represent the businesses they serve, ones that create a connection to the intended audience, and are flexible enough to be used across multiple mediums while still maintaining a strong, consistent presence. That said, there are a lot of brands out there that fall flat. Learn how some companies miss the mark and how to avoid creating a weak brand yourself.

Ways to kill a brand blog Illustration by Šek Design Studio

Before we dive in, though, a little refresher on just what the heck a "brand" actually is... 

A brand is a name, slogan, design, experience, and any other feature that distinctly identifies one business from another. 

Your brand comes through in your logo, fonts, colors, imagery, messaging, and style. It shows up everywhere from your website, social media posts, and how you interact with your customers. Your brand is how your business is recognized. It's how you build trust with your customers and gain referral business. Your brand also provides internal direction so everyone who's a part of the business has a clear understanding on who your business is and what it stands for. Knowing this helps employees act in alignment with how you want your business to be represented. So, it's kind of a big deal...

Alright, now that we've quickly covered Branding 101, on to the elements that make a brand weak.

#1: Trying To Be Everything To Everyone

If your brand doesn't help potential customers easily understand who you are or what you do they'll go somewhere else. And they'll go quickly. Consumers' attention is finite, especially these days. They're not likely to stick around if it takes work to figure out if your business is the right fit for them or not. 

To combat this, get specific! To do this breakdown the following:

    • Who your ideal customer is
    • What problem your product or services solves
    • How what you do is different from competitors
    • What results you generate for clients

Understanding each of these will help you narrow in on a brand (and it's elements like imagery, messaging, etc.) that actually tells your audience something of value. 


Strong Brand Example  |  Kevin Kalligher

Since examples are always helpful, we'd like to introduce you to Kevin Kalligher. Real estate agent extraordinaire. We worked with Kevin to develop his professional brand and took the opportunity to create something modern and untraditional - steering clear of overused house outlines, front doors and keys. However, the line work in Kevin's logo still clues viewers in to what he does and who he is by incorporating the two Ks in his name as well as rooflines of homes. Fitting for a residential realtor after all.


Strong Brand Example  |  Port City Dental

For another example, let's take a look at Port City Dental. In working with this business, we wanted to create a differentiated brand, one that stands apart from large corporate practices. We wanted the brand to speak to the practice's location while also being flexible enough to work across their multiple branches.

The general shape of Port City Dental's logo was designed to have the feel of a tooth without looking like a commonly depicted or cartoonish tooth. This allows Port City to easily be seen as a dental practice while maintain a clean sense of professionalism and credibility. 

#2. Not Letting Your Personality Shine

We all have personalities, and businesses do too. They may be sophisticated like Rolex. Wholesome like Gerber, or reliable like Ring. It's exactly these personalities that attract us to one brand or the other. If you're too bland, people will pass you up or add their own seasonings (perception) and that could go in the wrong direction. Tell people who you are, and say it loud, say it proud!

It's easy to go unnoticed and unappreciated as a business if you don't take a stand and use your voice and visual elements to share your story or your values. This doesn't mean that you have to get political, take sides, or change the world - it just means that you need to create authentic connections with your followers. How many times have you watched a video from a brand and now you're a loyal customer? Yup, us too. It doesn't take anything other than your true self to connect with your best customers. 


Strong Brand Example  |  Kevin Kalligher

Some people might say all realtors are the same. But if you've ever worked with several realtors, you know that couldn't be farther from the truth. Each relator has their own approach. Their own style. 

You'll find out that Kevin is certainly a unique realtor after just 5 minutes of talking with him. So we wanted his branding to convey that uniqueness too and give home buyers a glimpse into the person who could help them find their next dream home.

We packed a lot into Kevin's branding. His initials. Home rooflines. Intersecting lines symbolize Duluth's street grid (the city Kevin mainly works in). We also incorporated similar angles to what is used in Kevin's parent company, RE/Max Results', branding. Each of these "hidden" elements help clue viewers into how Kevin is different.


Strong Brand Example  |  Port City Dental

We put a lot into all of our brand designs, and Port City Dental was no exception.

The hills, water, and lighthouse components within the logo tie into the practice's name, again, signaling the location of the practice. The overall brand's feel is pronounced through calming colors that exudes a connection to the medical field.

#3: Being Inconsistent

Inconsistency is confusing. Both personally and when it comes to businesses. In fact, 64% of consumers say that shared values are their primary reason they have loyalty with a brand. If your values or messaging keep changing, customers will find it hard to trust you and will spend their dollars elsewhere.

No shocker on this one, but the best way to not be inconsistent is to be, well, consistent. Consistently showing up -  in your business' own style - throughout all your customer touchpoints (marketing materials, storefront, employee interactions, etc.) will showcase the strength of your business. Delivering the same branding from one touchpoint to the next creates a feeling of talking with a friend, with a distinct personality, that your customer can trust and understand. 

On the flip side, when your logo, color scheme, voice, and typography change across platforms, your credibility is weakened. Consistent brands help build up that credibility. Consistency also drives more brand recognition; because we're all more aware of things we've seen before. 

It's of course fine (and even necessary) to evolve your brand over time, but strategic thought should be put into the decision to rebrand. Constant changes to pivotal pillars of your organization will cause confusion and a diluted brand your business may not be able to recover from.


Strong Brand Example  |  Kevin Kalligher

As we worked through developing Kevin's brand - and really all the brands we create - we're always thinking about consistency AND flexibility. That's precisely why we intentionally try to "break" our design concepts. We make sure a brand can be blown up on a billboard or shrunk down to a social media profile circle. Used well in an ad and in internal communication. 

A flexible brand doesn't mean inconsistent. It's a framework that allows for adaptability, no matter the medium the brand is being used in. See the examples below. Kevin's brand can be used on anything from coordination with his parent company (RE/Max Results), yard signs, and all the way to a disc golf disc. Talk about flexibility AND consistency.


Strong Brand Example  |  Port City Dental

Port City Dental's logo was specifically created with primary colors as well as dark and light versions to allow for a variety of overlay options. The options provide flexibility but still keeps all branding under a consistent umbrella. See how it all came to life for yourself.


There you have it. You now know some of the major causes behind what makes a weak brand. So avoid being one of them! Let your business' personality shine. Connect with your ideal customer, and be flexible enough to be present at every customer touchpoint in a consistent way.

And if you need help with any of those pieces, we're always here to help.