4 Branding Blunders That Can Make or Break Your Startup

4 Branding Blunders That Can Make or Break Your Startup

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Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen many entrepreneurs make the same branding mistakes. New businesses and startups often feel like they need to cut costs, which can cause important elements to get missed.

Today, I’ll share 4 critical branding mistakes I’ll also provide tips on how to efficiently and cost-effectively build your brand.

4 critical branding mistakes:

  1. Not understanding the target audience
  2. Not differentiating from the competition
  3. Not having consistent brand visuals
  4. Not utilizing social media

1. Not understanding the target audience

Understanding your target audience is critical in branding. Entrepreneurs may think they know their customers through research and interviews, but this information often just focuses on solving problems and developing product features. It’s important to also consider how to emotionally connect with customers.

Here’s how to do it better:

1. Know their pains

What are the difficulties and obstacles your target audience faces? It’s important to not just focus on the functional struggles, but also the emotional ones.

Consider these 2 questions:

  • How does their struggle make them feel about themselves?
  • How does it impact their image and perception by others?

2. Know their gains

What does your target audience truly want? In addition to functional outcomes, what are their emotional desires?

Consider these 2 questions:

  • How will they feel about themselves if their pains are addressed?
  • What is their desired perception among others after resolving their pains?

3. Craft your brand message

Now that you understand the emotional drivers of your target audience, you can align these drivers with your brand and create brand messages that resonate with them on an emotional level.

As an example, let’s take a maternal health app named “Mama Mate.” The target audience for Mama Mate, expecting mothers, often feel worried, excited, and out of control. These are their emotional drivers.


To align their brand with these drivers, Mama Mate ensures that their products address these concerns and provide solutions. This leads to the creation of a brand message like: “Say goodbye to pregnancy worries. With Mama Mate, you can feel confident and in control of both your and your baby’s health every step of the way.”

2. Not differentiating from the competition

A startup must find a way to stand out in the market by creating a unique and differentiated brand. Why? With so many goods available, consumers are constantly making decisions. If you’re not differentiated, that means you are not a must-have brand, you will become a commodity and likely have to compete on price.

Differentiate or die!

Here’s how to do it better:

1. Know the 26 brand positioning territories

Discovering the right brand positioning can be a challenge, but Ulli Appelbaum has made it easy for us.

He analyzed over 1,200 successful brand case studies from around the world, resulting in 26 ways to position your brand.

Here, I’ll list out all of them, but for a deeper understanding, I highly recommend reading Ulli’s book: (it’s an easy read 😉) “The 26 Universal Questions To Help You Position Your Brand!

Here is the list:

  1. Tap into consumer rituals
  2. Disrupt category conventions
  3. Claim the gold standard
  4. Leverage the usage context
  5. Identify an enemy
  6. Overcome consumption barriers
  7. Resolve a category paradox
  8. Redefine your business
  9. Be a part of culture
  10. Highlight the benefit
  11. Dramatize the reward or the threats
  12. Celebrate the sensory properties of the product
  13. Communicate shared values
  14. Create a branded ritual
  15. Highlight your purpose
  16. Identify your brand’s archetype
  17. Identify your brand’s defining attributes
  18. Give meaning to the brand’s weakness
  19. Craft a creation story
  20. Romance how the product works
  21. Celebrate the ingredients
  22. Conduct a torture-test
  23. Romance the origin
  24. Create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity
  25. Let experts tell your story
  26. Become your brand’s archaeologist

2. Choose the top 3 brand positions

After reviewing the list of potential brand positions, choose the top 3 that you believe will make you stand out and be claimable. Make sure to be objective and verify that your competitors have not already used these positions.

3. Finalize your brand positioning

After examining your own brand and considering your competition, select the 1 position that resonates best with your brand and sets you apart from the rest.

3. Not having consistent brand visuals

“A scattered brand is a lost opportunity.” This is a common issue I hear from clients who are in need of rebranding or a new brand identity.

If your logo, colors, fonts, messaging, and imagery are inconsistent across all platforms, it can confuse your audience.

To build brand recognition and trust, it’s crucial to have consistency in your brand presentation.

People need to see your brand 5-7 times before it becomes recognizable, so don’t waste any opportunities to finally be recognized.

First, establish brand recognition, then build brand trust.

Additional info

The Marketing Rule of 7: your target audience must come across your brand at least 7 times before they take action, such as moving down the sales funnel or sharing their information with you.

Here’s how to do it better:

1. Stay consistent with your dominate color

Stick to your brand’s dominate color, like red for example, in all your designs and communications. Keeping a consistent color helps build brand recognition and consistency. Don’t switch it up!

The use of color can boost brand recognition by up to 80%. (Forbes)

2. Stick to the same font

Don’t get too fancy with different fonts styles. Stick to 1-2 fonts that represents your brand, making it easily recognizable.

Pro tip:

For startups or new businesses, accessibility is more important than uniqueness. Consider using Google Fonts, which are readily available on most commonly used software.

🌼 Pik’s 20 favorite Googles Fonts

  1. Inter
  2. Syne
  3. Fira Sans
  4. Georama
  5. Roboto
  6. Source Sans
  7. Poppins
  8. Archivo Narrow
  9. Karla
  10. Proza Libre
  11. Eczar
  12. Source Serif Pro
  13. Roboto Slab
  14. Playfair Display
  15. Cardo
  16. BioRhyme
  17. Alegreya
  18. Libre Baskerville
  19. Lora
  20. Frank Ruhl Libre

3. Use templates

Maximize the value of your designs by turning them into reusable templates. From social media posts to presentations, business cards, letterheads, print materials, ebooks, case studies, email marketing and more, templates keep your brand consistent and cost-effective.

Pro tip:

Stay organized by storing all your templates in a central brand asset folder, along with your logo files, colors, and fonts.

4. Not utilizing social media

Don’t wait until you have an MVP to start using social media. You’ll miss the opportunity to build an audience who is eagerly waiting to purchase your product at launch.

Start sharing information about your product now and engage with your audience. Share your story, mistakes, misconceptions in your industry, and behind-the-scenes updates.

Here’s how to do it better:

1. Choose your social media platform

Select 1 platform to start with and get familiar with its features:


A visual platform, good for consumer goods and personal branding.


A professional networking platform, good for B2B services and products, and building personal brand.


A micro-blogging platform, good for real-time updates and news, building brand awareness and customer engagement.


A video sharing platform, good for video content, product demonstrations, tutorials, and building brand awareness.


A short-form video sharing platform, good for creative and engaging content, reaching younger audiences, and building brand awareness.

2. Share content

Here are some content ideas for your social media posts even before you have a product ready:

Share your story

Let your audience get to know the people behind the brand, your journey, and what inspired you to start the business.

Behind-the-scenes updates

Show your followers what goes into making your product and what a typical day at the office looks like.

Industry insights

Share your knowledge and opinions on the latest trends, challenges, and misconceptions in your industry.

Beta user testimonials

Share positive reviews and feedback from your beta users. This helps build trust and credibility.

Q&A sessions

Engage with your audience by answering their questions and addressing their concerns.

Behind-the-scenes moments

Share lighthearted moments from your daily life and work.

Mistakes and lessons learned

Share your failures and what you learned from them. This helps show your audience that you’re transparent and human.

Collaborations and partnerships

Share news and updates on partnerships and collaborations with other brands.

Community building

Encourage your followers to share their own experiences and insights, and create a sense of community around your brand.

Kung Pik Liu


Kung Pik Liu • Founder of Design Angel

Whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

1. Startup Branding Quiz:

Health check your brand to identify areas for improvement and take your brand to the next level. → TAKE THE QUIZ

2. Build a Fundable Brand™ Bootcamp:

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3.  Brand Perfect Unlimited: Subscribe to our friendly service plan with no proposal or scope of work required. Request unlimited designs hassle-free. → SEE PLANS