You've likely heard the term "brand image" thrown around from time to time as a marketer. But what is it, exactly?
Well, brand image is the overall opinion consumers form about your company based on the interactions they have with your brand. So, how important is your brand image? While a positive image can help improve relationships, build overall trust, and make your sales efforts smoother... a negative image, well…
The problem is that companies are often too busy chasing financial goals and are reluctant to invest budget into building their brand. This is a big mistake. Neglecting your brand can cause a lot of harm in the long run.
But, how do you know when your brand image is at risk? Don’t worry! We’re here to point you in the right direction. This article will cover seven common mistakes to avoid if brands want to maintain their positive image — as told by brand experts themselves.
The 7 Things Harming Your Brand Image
Brand image is important and, in 2022, it's vital that companies understand the role that brand image plays in their overall marketing strategies.
Here, we'll discuss seven situations where your brand image is at a risk for negative associations. Let's dive right in.
1. Bad Customer Service & Communication
Jason Berkowitz, an SEO Director at Break the Web, believes that today’s consumers want honesty, transparency, and communication. If you’re not giving it to them, your brand will suffer.
“Let’s face it, today’s consumers are more suspicious and cynical than ever. If they don’t trust you or your business, they’ll simply block you and move on to someone else. Transparency and communication are key in any industry, and they’re especially important in the SEO space where there’s already a lot of distrust and ambiguity.
"In the current market, consumers want to do business with companies that are engaged, relatable, and have a human face to represent the brand. There are more choices than ever before, so you have to show them why your brand can be trusted to deliver on their promises.”
But convincing customers to purchase from you is not enough. Jason advises that you be transparent about your company’s values and culture, too.
“Being totally transparent and forming connections with your audience is the key to gaining their trust while attempting to be secretive or hide details about your product or service from your customers can be more damaging to your brand’s reputation than almost anything else.”
Bad communication practices are a common problem for both B2B and B2C companies. From his own experience, Michael Costin, Director of Local Digital, believes this can often be a result of a lack of quality reporting and poor communication.
“Clients like to know what’s going on with their business. It’s vital that you keep in touch with clients on a consistent basis with reports that actually provide value and insight. Poor communication is another common complaint. A lot of agencies will allow their clients to deal directly with the team members working on their account, either by phone or email, with no real oversight on how well these inquiries are handled.
"What happens when the team member forgets the client called or reads the email but doesn’t act on it? Many days can pass with no action and a frustrated client as a result. So being on top of this, having a process in place for handling client inquiries and support is vital.”
These experiences can seriously damage your brand’s reputation and trust amongst your target audience. But how can you ensure that your customers have a smooth experience when reaching out to you for help?
Yuri Burchenya, Cofounder of GetFound XL, recommends putting the training of your customer support agents high on your priorities list.
“Customer support agents are the face of the brand, and shouldn’t steep down to sarcastic, mocking, rude, or condescending remarks. Nor should they blame the customer for whatever the issue at hand is. Our goal should be to educate the customer and help them achieve their goals.
"When that happens, we build a stronger brand, and that greatly helps with word of mouth marketing for our products and services. Failure to do this would negatively impact your brand image.”
When it comes to replying to customer queries, quick answers are also important, suggested Brad Smith, Founder of Codeless.
“Customers form their own opinions based on their brief, fleeting first impression. And nowhere is that more true than one simple thing: response time. If you say ‘replies within 5 minutes’ actually reply within five minutes.
"Don't make customers jump through hoops to get answers to their questions. Otherwise, the Internet doesn't make the world smaller, but bigger. And there's no shortage of other companies or alternatives out there waiting to intercept new business.”
2. Not Dealing Well with Negative Reviews
Corey Northcutt, the CEO of Northcutt, thinks that review and reputation searches are a big deal for every brand. He shares:
“You can optimize a ‘reviews’ page on your site and proactively drive clients/customers to a few sites that you've decided are critical. Usually, those are the sites that your audience might also be going around Google to search directly.”
The hope is that these pages are overflowing with positive reviews praising your brand. But what can you do if you come across some negative reviews?
“Reacting badly to negative reviews will never be a good look for your brand. You should respond to all reviews you receive, good or bad, as this shows customers that you are willing to engage with them. However, arguing against a negative review will hurt your brand image more than anything.
"For the sake of your brand, reply to negative reviews but make sure all emotion is removed from your reply. Regardless of whether the negative review is true or not, you should only respond gracefully and factually, while apologizing for the bad experience.”
But should you have a different approach on different platforms? Nick Kanter, Director of Operations at Smash Digital, is of the opinion that you should avoid entering into discussions with the negative inhabitants of social media at all costs.
“Every brand will attract a couple of persistent trolls once in a while. You want to be very careful and avoid getting into a heated argument on social media with them and/or trying to defend your brand’s image as that can come off as disrespectful and bullying to others.
"Instead of trying to prove your point on social media, direct every troll to your customer service channels, politely, and warmly. If they keep kicking up dust, hold fast to the higher ground, and they will eventually tire themselves out at some point.”
When it comes to different platforms, Brandyn Morelli, CEO of Tilt Metrics finds it crucial to look beyond your own website and social media channels and browse the web a bit more to discover new customer reviews.
He shared the following tips:
“A mistake we see a lot of companies make is focusing on how they're portraying their brand on the properties they control (website, social media, etc.) while ignoring other channels.
"If you already have an established brand, start by using queries in Google like 'yourbrand + reviews', 'yourbrand + support', 'yourbrand + alternatives' and start researching what people are saying about your company. This gives you two primary benefits. The first benefit being you can directly interact with customers and potential customers who you may be on the fence of losing. Secondly, you can start to build relationships with bloggers and site owners who may be willing to review or write about your brand.“
But what if you ignore these reviews altogether? Amanda Thomas, a Partner at Konstruct Digital, explained to us what happens if you fail to solicit and respond to your reviews online — and how it will ultimately impact the perception of your brand in a negative way.
“Online reviews have been shown to impact nearly 68% of online purchase decisions. Ultimately, your buyers will be checking your online reviews before finalizing their decision.
"Buyers tend to look for a few things when assessing reviews:
- How many reviews do you have?- This can indicate how popular your brand is. - How frequently are reviews occurring?- Are all of the reviews from 2017 with nothing since? This can give the perception that people are choosing to no longer buy from your brand. - What did the reviews say?- Are a good proportion of your reviews negative? If more than 15% are negative consumers will feel unfavorable towards your brand. - How is the company responding? If you're not responding to negative reviews, buyers can perceive that customer satisfaction is not a high priority for your brand.”
Amanda recommends having an ongoing review solicitation plan, actively responding to both negative and positive reviews, and leveraging the information you find in the critical comments for product development. Following these steps will ensure that your brand will keep receiving the praise you deserve when it comes to online reviews.
3. Inactive on Social Media
“Inactive social media accounts is an easy-to-avoid brand mistake I see every day“, said Stephen Sumner, the Founder of Optimise Agency.
“If a business is going to link to an account from their website I don't want to see the last post from them to be from 2 years ago. Either use the channels or get rid of them. You would not show a non-functioning customer service telephone number, so why do the same with the web equivalent.”
He finds that choosing the right social media accounts for your business is something to look out for as well.
“If your business targets retirees you might not find them on Snapchat or Tiktok, so think carefully when you set your website up and choose which social media channels you want to use and the ones you don't, you don’t necessarily need to be on all of them.”
Being active and engaging with your audience on social media has countless benefits, but increasing your brand awareness is one of the most important of them all. Brandyn Morelli, CEO of Tilt Metrics, explained that being active on social media is a great opportunity to increase your brand awareness by engaging with relevant site owners.
“Site owners and bloggers get bombarded with requests from companies pitching their products and services. To stand out, start by following and engaging with their social accounts and then send an intro email asking for their opinion on your product or service. Be willing to give sample products or a free offering/subscription (depending on your business) to boost your chances of being written about.”
Now, you don't want to miss an opportunity to reach out to influencers and engage with your audience through your socials, would you? But is there such a thing as posting too much? What many people forget is that most of these platforms are very much focused on visuals — and creating content with low-quality designs can do more harm than good.
Here’s Elliott Davidson’s, Founder of Contrast Digital, take on this:
“Design is very important, if it is done on a low budget you are better off not posting that content as that poor design is then associated with the brand. You do not have to spend an extortionate amount of money but you would be able to tell the difference in quality.”
4. Poor Design & Copy
Following on our last point, good design should be a feature of everything you put out there — not just your social media content. Providing excellent service or having an outstanding product is sadly not enough these days.
Dan Christensen, President of Morningdove Marketing, thinks that even though there are plenty of companies out there that are good at what they do, the problem is that they don’t showcase it the right way.
“Poor branding, design, and copy are a few things that can be a complete turn-off to the casual searcher. I’ve seen lots of poor copywriting techniques being used by companies that by all available metrics, are legitimately good companies.
“A simple tweak in their messaging could enhance their brand image and cause people to engage with them. With all the freelance platforms available, and options for nearly every budget, there’s really no excuse to have outdated and bland copy on your site.”
But beware, quality design does not mean putting your logo or brand elements on every section or design element you can find. Tom De Spiegelaere, the Director of Mango Matter Media, finds the over-exposure of your brand, both in design and advertising campaigns, to be a big branding mistake.
“It’s definitely not a good look! As for advertising campaigns, we know people need a lot of touchpoints with brands to get those brands to stick, but there is definitely a point where you can cross the line with consumers. A point where the constant retargeting back-fires on you.”
5. Cold Email Campaigns
While this applies more to the B2B industry, it can apply to any industry where a ton of cold sales emails are sent out to valuable buyers.
“After listening to many cold email sales podcasts I've realized the risk of ‘burning out’ contacts at companies if you send a pitch that comes across as too spammy - whether it's the content of the message, the number of emails sent, or sending them to the wrong person at the company.
"Word gets around if your company sending the cold emails is looked at in a negative light. The solution to this is to be extra careful with email messaging and who you're targeting. This mainly applies to cold prospecting emails, but could also apply to marketing email sequences that miss the mark with overly aggressive sends and poor execution.”
6. Bad Website Experience
“I'm talking about a free theme with no customization, no thought put into their positioning, and no real purpose for their website (whether it's an agency site or a personal / name domain site). Even if you don't have the time to put something slick up, at least get up a single page that explains who you are and what you do.”
Does your website design follow Nick’s advice? Great, but don’t think you’re done. As your business evolves you need to keep updating and optimizing your website accordingly to avoid harming your brand image.
Chris Sloane, the President of Heaviside Group believes that your website is the most important part of your branding and that’s why you need to take constant care of it.
“If you let it ‘get old’ and look not up-to-date, you're telling potential customers that you are not on top of things and giving them a reason to doubt the quality of service you provide.
"Of course, the quality of your service likely has nothing to do with what your website looks like - but people checking you out are not going to know that. If the copyright in the footer on your site was last updated three years ago, and the last blog post was years ago as well - they might wonder if you're still growing and ‘in business.’“
7. A Blog with No Direction
Content marketing — and especially having a blog section on your website — can be a great way to provide value to your audience and connect with them. But you need to stay consistent and have a clear idea about the brand purpose behind your articles.
Curt Storring, the Founder of Floor500, admits that it's common to start a blog with no direction. Having a blog can yield massive returns for your business, but doing it wrong will absolutely negatively impact your brand image. But what does a low-quality blog look like?
“Either they write irregularly, they cover topics their target market isn't interested in, they don't target useful search terms to drive organic traffic, or they simply publish whatever is on the owner's mind.
"If your blog looks haphazard, it can erode trust in your brand. With such a forward-facing medium, your customers expect to be able to read valuable information about either your company, your products, or the industry. After all, you're supposed to be the expert.”
Curt offers advice on how to improve your blog articles.
“Combat an unprofessional blog by creating a content strategy and sticking to a regular publishing schedule, with content written by experts in your field.
"A content strategy might focus on writing content to increase organic Google traffic, or it could focus on writing content to share on social media (either with the intent of going viral or to establish thought-leadership in your space).”
If your blog is thrown together without much thought or hasn't been updated in years, consider freshening it up to boost your brand image.
Your brand image must mirror your company’s values to make sure that people understand what your company stands for while also receiving impeccable service.
Often, these minor mistakes in communications create major misunderstandings with consumers and can lead to disappointing your target audience. We recommend you listen to the experts, and don’t fall into the trap of these seven common branding mistakes.