Branding is one of the many disciplines that make up marketing.  It sits alongside sales and advertising, and shares many of the same concepts and practices.  Like any other discipline, branding carries its list of dos and don'ts.  Here are ten that can help you avoid the potential pitfalls and minefields of the practice:

  1. Don't think of branding as an endgame
    Branding is an on-going exercise and discipline.  Building a brand will never be a one-day activity; branding is a habit your company needs to be in because it affects everything from product design to advertising to customer support.
  2. There is no "branding department"
    A brand is not built in isolation.  Since the brand touches all aspects of the organization, all of those stakeholders must be actively engaged in its development and ongoing maintenance.
  3. Branding should not be expensive
    In a Microsoft/Apple/Intel world, most managers assume that "branding" is an ambiguous umbrella term for all things that cost money and deliver no real ROI.  But just because a handful of marketers have tarnished the discipline's reputation is no reason for you to funnel money into branding initiatives.  Smart branding is cost effective and delivers more ROI than any other action your firm can take.
  4. Re-branding should be avoided
    OK, you've invested time, effort, and money into building a great brand image ... but it doesn't resonate with your customers.  Don't spend more time, effort, and money re-doing things - maybe you just need to adjust your market target a little.
  5. Social networking is NOT branding
    While it is important to be present in the major social media outlets, having strong personal brands in these spheres does not substitute for real branding.  A great Facebook profile will not bring in many new leads, but it might be important to retaining old ones.
  6. Always keep the brand in mind
    Whether you're writing a corporate blog post, publishing a new piece of direct mail, or making a phone call to an old client - always keep your communication brand-focused.  Branding is about delivering a consistent experience to your customers, so every interaction should be somewhat similar.
  7. Be your brand
    This is redundant of #6, but only because it's important.  You must always represent your brand.  In everything you do.  Always.  Branding is not two-faced bait-and-switch marketing - if you don't accurately represent your external brand inside the company, your customers will eventually catch on ... and disown you.
  8. Be relevant
    A brand all about excess, self-indulgence, and extravagance had its place once in society.  To a certain extent it still might, but in the current economic and political climate, it doesn't quite fit.  A brand with a more resonant image is more likely to find success in this or any market.
  9. Take the proper amount of time
    Your customers will know if you did a half-assed job putting your brand together.  Don't risk being slapped by the market just to meet a deadline.  Spend some serious time researching your market and building a good brand.
  10. Just as in marketing, there are no "rules"
    Every company and market is different, and every brand is unique.  A process or "rule book" that works for one firm might utterly fail for another.  Don't try to copy anyone else's brand - be true to the uniqueness of your product/service offering and work to learn your own rules as you go.