Nine Troubling Branding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

AUG 28, 2014 5:08pm ET

Your brand is your claim of distinction, backed up by the evidence of performance. This is the most clear, concise way to define a "brand." If you're reading this, you know how important a brand is to your success. A strong brand will go a long way to help you conquer the boom and bust periods that we're all familiar with in the mortgage industry. While some were shutting their doors during the recession, the strongest brands were strategizing their next steps and taking action, looking into the future.

Despite knowing the importance of a brand, some companies place too much focus on their product or service and fail to invest at a minimum an equal amount of time on the customer experience or the brand. So, when it comes to the brand, the focus is more superficial and the end result can be disappointing for the customer.

Here’s a list of the nine most troubling branding mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Not defining who you are. Defining who you are is much deeper than just "we're a mortgage company" or "we provide LOS technology." Your goal needs to be to define who you are in just a few simple words so that your audience understands what your driving force is or what they can expect from you. The answer is usually right in front of you because you had a distinct purpose when you started your company, right? For example, maybe you're a mortgage company that specializes in helping underserved population segments, like entrepreneurs, more easily achieve homeownership. Make it obvious to your audience.

2. Not defining what makes you different. Now, if you're a mortgage company, this can be quite difficult because many offer the same products you do and claim to stand out among others in similar ways. So, it's not necessary to try to "own" a way of doing business that no other company can duplicate. Rather your goal should be reasonable; to position yourself as a top-tier company with which to conduct business. The positioning you adopt should be authentic and not be forced upon you by the results of a competitive survey. Rather it must come from within your company and ideally from the founder. All great brands have gone through this process, whether on their own or with the help of a professional. If you're a technology provider, the task of defining what makes you different becomes much easier. Surely, your technology was created to solve a problem others can't at the present time, right?

3. Too much focus on products and services. One of the biggest mistakes companies make, especially when starting out, is not placing enough focus on the customer or borrower experience. Yes, having the right product(s) is absolutely important, but this shouldn't overshadow designing the experience you want your audience to have through the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase cycle. People emotionally connect with experiences, not products. Be sure that the experience is smooth and memorable.

4. Not defining what you aspire to be. Your employees need to understand you're aspirations as a company. This understanding shows them what the future looks like and helps them understand and appreciate what they’re working towards. Think of it this way. Without hopes and aspirations, how would that affect the way you move through life? Would you be excited about your future? Probably not. Every day would just be another day on autopilot, taking in plenty of television when you are not working, not exercising, sleeping a lot and you might even be depressed. Don't allow your company to move in this direction. Let everyone know what you're working towards and make sure you do what’s necessary to keep the excitement and momentum going so that they give everything they can to help you.

5. Having a dated or unprofessional web presence. Your website and social media presence says a lot about your company, just like the clothes you wear for a meeting says a lot about you. First impressions count. The old adage "never judge a book by its cover" is not practical because people just do. Many companies exist with substandard websites that have clipart, are weighted down with copy, have a ridiculously small font size and links that don't work and the list goes on. This tells your audience that you lack technological prowess and probably don't have the right technology and internal processes to facilitate a smooth transaction or get things done on time. Worse yet, it could also communicate lack of success in what you do. The solution? If you're bootstrapping it or just fell on hard times, there are many places you can go to purchase a website cheaply online. Not an ideal solution, but if what you have now is sorely lacking, it could be a big step in the right direction to at least give you an updated, clean appearance along with some updated functionality.

6. Your messaging is inconsistent. This is quite common, especially for mortgage companies with many branches that don't have brand guidelines in place and loan officers that bring old habits with them. In these cases, marketing materials look inconsistent, messaging is inconsistent, Facebook pages exist that you never knew about, individual landing pages may even exist that you can’t keep track of and the list goes on. All of this contributes to a messaging disaster and compromises your brand. When these mortgage companies wish to right the course to better position their brands for success, they realize a culture exists that will be very hard and expensive to reverse.

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