How Misbranding Can Hurt Your Business

branding a business
Branding a business means creating a personality. It is about taking the qualities, values, and unique parts of your business and creating an attractive image that reflects them.

Get it right, and your business becomes remarkable or memorable in the mind of your target market. Get it wrong, and you may discover that you have a business that isn’t earning what it should, or attracting the clients you want.

Misbranding creates a false sense of perception in your potential customer’s mind. It develops expectations that aren’t correct and misrepresents your business identity. It can cause an impression that doesn’t reach the people you’d like to buy from you.

It also hurts your sales because it doesn’t target your best market.

A story of branding gone wrong

I once knew a writer who sold his services online. His website conveyed corporate appeal. The colors reminded visitors of suits, offices and boardrooms with a strong level of professionalism.
That was excellent; but the business owner himself was laid-back, casual and liked a personal approach. He liked to work with people who needed creative work and who preferred a one-on-one relationship. He also didn’t like routine or rigid, tight deadlines.

There’s nothing wrong with those preferences at all—many people enjoy working with others who have a relaxed personality, and people prefer developing relationships with like-minded people.

The problem is that the writer’s website was attracting corporate executives with tight deadlines and high performance expectations. They often needed much more sales writing than creative work.

The branding of the writer’s website gave the impression that he was a corporate style person with experience and skills in journalistic and sales copywriting.

The business owner did the work and took the money, but he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t getting the type of jobs he preferred and wasn’t working with the type of people he enjoyed. He wanted to be creative and to be himself.

The branding wasn’t a good fit. It’s like a suit two sizes too small. It’s uncomfortable.

Sending the right image to the right people

The previous example may seem a bit extreme, but it really isn’t. Many business owners believe they need to convey a strict professional personality or they’ll lose customers. They keep their true personality under wraps, working to create an impression of something they’re not.

Then they wonder why their business isn’t attracting the right clientèle or the proper line of work.

It’s important to brand your business in a way that conveys who you are, your personality and that reaches your target audience directly. To reach your target market, you must know who they are and show them the right image.
Energizer sells to people on the go. Nike wants active people who just do it. Apple likes the young and trendy. Mercedes wants people who like luxury.

Each of those companies creates a brand and marketing message that reaches their ideal client specifically and emotionally. The companies certainly try to get everyone to buy their products, but they don’t market to everyone. They focus their personality to reach exactly who they want in a way those people want to be reached.

These companies convey the right personality—and they make it fit. They find a stance to take, a message to tell and a tone to tell it in that fits just right, like a suit cut to measure.

Now what about the writer in the example? Well, he redesigned his website, changed his marketing message, let his personality shine through and started targeting the type of people he wanted as clients. The work started pouring in, and he’s never looked back. He’s also never been happier, either.

Reader Comments

Apr. 3. 2008 3:19 PM

Good post, I really liked it.

I’ve always thought branding was necessary because it would get me new clients. I never thought about what kind of new clients it would get me if I didn’t do it right.

It was a good eye-opener. Thanks!

Apr. 4. 2008 2:23 AM

Some good thoughts here. It’s not just about how many clients you get, but who they are.

Apr. 4. 2008 11:45 AM

Hey Mark and Hunter,

You got it exactly. People often forget that the reason we are in small business is to make things better for ourselves, and if we go attracting the wrong clients it can be just the opposite.

Apr. 4. 2008 7:08 PM

Very good point. We all say do what you love, but you could find yourself in a trap if you don’t show people who you are and what you want to provide them.

I think the best websites are those that represent to some degree the owner’s personality.

Apr. 4. 2008 9:12 PM


Now you just brought up an interesting question—which personality do you represent for a multi-person company?

The founder? One of the partners? Or does the business have its own blend? If the business has its own blend, what should it be?

Now that’s marketing.

Apr. 7. 2008 9:45 PM

I guess this highlights the importance of knowing yourself. Define who you are and the world will beat a path to your door.

The trick is that it’s hard to do that. Fear causes us to be all things to all people, leading to very little traction anywhere.

What would you rather be, a dull Swiss Army Knife or a razor sharp blade?

It takes courage and hardwork to become a blade.

Raza Imam

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