Branding, as a subject, is often confused with marketing and advertising. It has led to a massive misunderstanding of the subject and how it impacts a company. As a result, branding blunders are not all that uncommon. Even the big companies occasionally get it wrong. Some of these mistakes are relatively harmless while others can cost a company millions in revenue and irreparable damage to their credibility.
Take Mercedes-Benz for example. It tried to enter the Chinese market under the brand name ‘Bensi’. Loosely translated, it stands for ‘rush to die’ in Mandarin. It’s just one of the thousands of branding fails that cost a company quite dearly. Most of these mistakes are easily avoidable if one understands branding adequately, or at the very least, hire a reputable branding agency to carry out one’s operations.
Inconsistency in the branding approach
Where branding is concerned, consistency is a virtue. A company has to be consistent in its identity across different platforms. It builds a sense of trust in the minds of consumers. The first step towards achieving consistency is managing your visual assets across different platforms such as your website, social media sites, advertisements and hoardings.
You need to build a ‘brand style guide’ which is essentially a set of fonts, colours, logos, imagery and other visual assets that you can use everywhere. Think of any successful brand - Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google - all of them use a consistent colour and design scheme across all platforms. It’s a necessary part of creating your brand identity.
Dipping fingers in too many pies
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Nokia? Dependable, perhaps? That’s because Nokia spent a lot of time and effort in branding itself as a dependable company. That’s one of the reason that it did reasonably well upon re-launching its smartphones in India after a hiatus of several years. People of India still remembered Nokia as a dependable company.
Many companies mistakenly think that they should widen their horizons to cover as many bases as they can. The simple truth about branding is that it’s more fruitful to build one tightly clad perception in the minds of your consumers and hold on to that identity. Keep your message simple and relatable. Nokia and TATA bank on dependability, Reliance embodies ambition, Google and Apple are synonymous with innovation and so on.
Any branding agency worth its salt will tell you not to translate your existing tagline into different languages. There have been countless branding failures arising out of translations.
For example, the American Dairy Association tried to penetrate the Spanish market with its famous slogan, “Got milk?” The only problem was that in Spanish, it translated to “Are you lactating?” Coca-Cola in Chinese loosely translates to ‘Bite the wax tadpole’.
The examples are too many and too frequent to count. So, if you have global aspirations, take proper care in monitoring what your brand message means in the local language.
Branding is an intricate process requiring years of dedication and strategy to do effectively. Even a simple mistake can set you back by years. Practice caution!