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The Seven Pitfalls of a Modern-Day Brand

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The world is small. Right now I'm talking to you, and you may be thousands of miles away. Yet you can leave a comment and I can reply in minutes.

Reaching people is easy these days. For all intents and purposes, we no longer have technological barriers and geographical boundaries to worry about. Brand awareness is easy to come by.

Or is it?

If you run your own business or you are tasked with improving your company's brand image, you know better than most that the barriers maybe lower and people maybe easier to reach, but life is still tough.

Brand Awareness is hard to come by.

A Modern-Day Issue

Just because you can doesn't mean you will.

We could all become the next Coca-Cola, but most of us won't. In fact, the vast majority of companies will come nowhere near such success. One of the biggest reasons is how companies approach brand awareness.

They assume being on Twitter is enough.

Or they treat people the same as we did the generations of yesteryear.

It doesn't work like that. Times have changed and the way we communicate has, too. Adapting is easy, but many people avoid doing so.

The Seven Pitfalls

The pitfalls are many, of course. Every business is different, and what works for one to avoid a pitfall won't necessarily work for another. Still, the pitfalls are apt to be the same or similar, and here are the ones I come across most often.

1. Lack of Voice

Voice is important. You may think this only applies to writers and actors, but in my opinion a brand's voice is one of the most valued things it owns.

It's the message, and the essence, of what you're doing.

A brand may have amazing ideas, but if the message is worthless... the execution will suffer. Think about Toms Shoes: Its message is what helps it stand out. Its voice is different from almost any other shoe brand's.

2. Too Much Thing, Not Enough Human

People want to deal with other people. Gone are the days of dealing with a company. We have no desire to interact with a thing... We want a real, live person.

Don't create a Pinocchio... That story's been done.

Companies that emphasize human elements see success. Think about Zappos and how its supporters look at it as more than a brand. It has personality and values and real world attributes.

3. Too Much 'Sell'

We all need to sell. A world without selling would be a world without money.

It would be a world of chaos.

However, we need more than a salesperson, we need engagement. Brands that go on Twitter and talk about nothing but their products suffer in the long term. Converse with your followers and offer them a story. Show them some love.

A great example of a brand that does so is Mint. It doesn't merely help you with your finances, it has created a community you can be apart of. The company engages with its audience, make them part of the brand's story.

4. Overcrowded

A Brand needs substance and structure. A Brand that latches on to every new idea, fad, and bandwagon will become strained.

Do what you do great... not just good.

Businesses that create their own way forward are those that leave a mark.

Coca-Cola is a good example. It is involved in many types of communication, but it wants to do it on its own terms. Its 2020 Vision is showing how it'll create its own future, and not merely be part of someone else's.

5. Low Ceiling

Brands need room to grow. Sometimes this is about products—making sure they can create new opportunities and diversify.

Other times, however, it's to do with the brand name, website, or brand identity.

Take Evernote. It has expanded a great deal in recent years by joining forces with other people, allowing third-party apps to take advantage of its platform, and staying open to new opportunities. It has ensured that there's room to grow.

6. Easy to Forget

A brand can be great in nearly every department, but it can still be easy to forget.

People say, "Oh, you know, that great Brand that sells [fill in the blank]."

Vital to brand awareness is making sure people stay aware of you. If you get in their mind, that's the first step; but if they then immediately forget who you are, the whole exercise is wasted.

The example I will use here is my own. I chose Turndog Millionaire as my name for several reasons, but standing out was one of them. Matthew Turner is easy to forget, but Turndog tends to stick in your head.

7. Trying Too Hard

Finally, you need to remember that trying too hard is never good.

Yes... be thorough and complete.

Yes... create the very best you can.

But to stay human and to have a message that resonates, you need to relax.

Consider the startup Dollar Shave Club. It's seeing the good times roll. It's very relaxed about what it does. It isn't too serious, it isn't too corporate, and although a great deal of work likely goes into its brand... it's done in a relaxed manner.

Fixing the Problem

You can go about fixing the above-listed problems in many ways, but the best way I like best is via a brand story that delves deep into your brand and discovers what it's all about:

  • What's your vision?
  • What makes you special?
  • What color or name or logo is best for you?
  • How does everything come together to make your story unique?

A brand story allows you to create something of worth, and most important, something that matters to you: It's built on your terms!

What about you?

What is the number-one issue you have with your brand?

Share your thoughts in the comments section, below, and let's see if we can answer some questions.

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Matthew Turner is a strategic marketing consultant and author who helps writers and entrepreneurs create brand stories. Reach him via his website,, email him at, and follow him on Twitter @turndog_million.

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  • by Leslie Hale Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    "lack of voice" - brand voice is usually the tone and personality. Is what you are talking about here more the message?

  • by Justine Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    This is a fantastic article. Branding, no matter how old the definition and concept is, is still a vital part of a company's overall image.

  • by Samantha Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Love that brand voice made your #1, by the way. It's pretty much what we blog about every week at

    I tend to agree with the comment from Leslie, that brand voice is more about tone of your message rather than the message itself. When it comes to branding though, it's hard to distinguish the variables. I often refer to brand voice as the brand's "personality," which would include the message as well.

    If you don't have anything good to say, it doesn't matter how you say it. Message comes before voice, but both are essential in building a strong brand.

  • by Heather Poduska Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Great article Turndog!:) Love the part about relax. My resolution for the New Year is to be more approachable. Sometimes, especially as branders or image specialist, we try so incredibly hard to come across as professional, polished and having our own brand zipped up, the shiny veneer of it all gets in the way of creating natural emotional human connection. Thanks for the reminder!

  • by Matthew Turner Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Leslie: I suppose I see voice as the personality, which like Samantha says, opens the door for the message. The message is such an important aspect, but how you come across needs to align with everything else, too.

    When I say lack of voice, I mean doesn't pack a punch. It's a mere whisper :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • by Matthew Turner Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Justine: couldn't agree more. It's so important, more so going forward I think. We need to develop brands with meaning!

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • by Matthew Turner Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Thanks Sam, appreciate it :)

    Both indeed are vital for a solid build. It helps tell a very particular story, which in the future - at least in my opinion - will make or break many companies. We desire emotional connections, us crazy consumers do

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • by Matthew Turner Thu Jan 3, 2013 via web

    Heather: I know what you mean. We get pushed into the squeaky clean image, but to be honest it doesn't matter so much anymore. Smart and clean, sure, but I think a little quirky, unique traits go a long way!

    Plus, it's much more fun to be comfortable :)

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • by Linda Killion Fri Jan 4, 2013 via mobile

    Absolutely agree that staying human is essential: taking the "social" out of media and thinking of it as simply another ad opportunity defeats the purpose.

  • by Steve Ulin Fri Jan 4, 2013 via web

    Hi Matthew ... thanks for your insight.
    You mentioned Coca-Cola as a success.
    I've recently been thinking about Coke and how they approach brand awareness.
    Looking at the Sergio Zyman book again prompted it.
    I'm wondering ... have they ever been as successful as when Zyman was CMO all those years ago?
    When everyone thought the market was saturated and nobody believed Coke could sell more, he boosted sales 50% and the stock price responded by quadrupling.
    I'd say that's a fairly good job in avoiding the pitfalls. It might be an idea to interview him and get his take
    on how he might do it all again today.

  • by Serge Sat Jan 5, 2013 via web

    Great article! Thank you

    Absolutely agree with too much 'sell' part. It's only engagement that brings the best result. And the example provided is very appropriate.

  • by Matthew Turner Sun Jan 6, 2013 via web

    Linda: 100% spot on. I think we forget that it's in the name... SOCIAL

    Sell, sure, but it comes down the list of things to do


  • by Matthew Turner Sun Jan 6, 2013 via web

    Steve: that would be an interesting interview. He also made mistakes, so it would be interesting to see what he thought did and and didn't work


  • by Matthew Turner Sun Jan 6, 2013 via web

    Thanks Serge :)


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