Five Easy Ways to Kill Your Brand


Avoid Death by 1,000 Paper Cuts, The Five Most Dangerous Cuts to Avoid

DougDouglas Spencer
Principal, Spencer Brenneman

A big welcome to Boston-based guest writer Douglas Spencer, a brand marketing veteran who’s done every type of marketing communications known to man. Take it away, Douglas!

Inconsistency is enemy #1 of a strong brand. Yet, business moves quickly, calling for flexibility and rapid decision making. Many think that brand rules can slow you down. Many are misguided, as long as your brand system is well thought-out.

The “Death by 1,000 Cuts” analogy is one of my most frequently used retorts when managing a brand. One cut is not likely to kill you, but if blood starts seeping out of 999 others, your affairs had best be in order. Well-meaning, smart professionals often ask for permission to make an exception to brand guidelines “just this once.” Danger lurks in a “just this once” because exceptions are often like toothpaste: Easy to get out of the tube, impossible to get back in.

  • Different Rules for Leadership

If anything, leaders and their surroundings — offices, spokesperson ads, the webcasts they appear in — must adhere to the brand guidelines to the letter. That’s where the word leader comes in to play. If your leaders do not show reverence for the brand, why would anyone else? Good agencies build this support into how they work with your top dogs.

  • PowerPoint Presentations

If a genie granted me three marketing wishes, I would use one to wish for the demise of PowerPoint. The problem with PowerPoint is everyone has access to it — even those who don’t understand why a distorted logo is bad or why a cartoon calculator doesn’t mean business. Find an agency who can deliver a system of templates and wizards that let people build on-brand presentations easily and quickly.

  • Human Resources Communications

If your brand has verbal guidelines — and if it doesn’t, it should — it’s important to ensure that those tasked with creating employee communications understand it and use it. Because there is no such thing as “internal use only.” The tone your brand presents outside its virtual four walls is directly influenced by the tone it uses inside them. A strong branding agency knows just how to unite the two.

  • Third Party Platforms

Often companies will partner with vendors to create customer service or limited engagement portals, such as those for chat support or contests. Usually those partners offer visual customization so the portal matches your brand — at a cost. Invest in it. Do not skimp. No matter how attractive the third party platform, if it doesn’t match yours, it will confuse and alienate your customers. A seamless customer experience and a strong brand are not mutually exclusive.

  • Small Print Advertising

Sure, the big ad campaigns that establish your company’s brand will serve as perfect examples of your brand. But don’t forget about the smaller ones, those meant to drive leads or clear out last season’s inventory. If brand advertising differs from transactional advertising, you’ve just written an online dating profile whose headline says you are George Clooney but whose stats suggest you are George Costanza.

Strong brands enable long-term profitability. So hold your ground friends and be careful when playing the “just this once” game. Something that may require a bandage today may require a burial later.

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About

Claire writes about strategy, insight, and advice to help inspire smart and savvy marketers. She completed her MBA at UMass-Amherst and has been a team member at City Sports, MIT, and an organic farm in Maine. A former student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin, Claire now runs marathons, for fun! On her bucket list is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, dining at Per Se, and running the beautiful trails in New Zealand.