Your Brand Sucks: A Case Study on Brand Confusion

One of my client relationships ended swiftly in March. Frankly, this relationship was a dysfunctional one spanning around 6 months. It was bittersweet for me when it ended. I knew that I could really help them but was never able to truly help the way I wanted to.


Truthfully, I’m grateful for the experience because it was a reminder of what I want (and don’t want) with my client relationships. Despite the outcome, it gives me great branding insight to cover in this post.

Here is a little background about this company:

  • This company is approximately 10 years old
  • They are currently the top job board that caters to one very specific industry
  • The owner of the company knows her industry well, and is respected and loved within that particular industry community
  • She has small team of super smart people and super talented contracted agencies helping her run her company
  • Yearly revenue is approximately 2M
  • Website engagement consists of slightly under 60,000 active users

I truly believe that past client could have more success in brand integrity and conversion rates if they revamp their brand strategy.

Disclaimer: I want to use this as a case study that may be a helpful learning opportunity for others. In other words, this post IS NOT meant to come across spiteful or snarky toward this client. 

Here are the attributes that are causing this company’s brand confusion:

Sometimes they considered themselves an HR solution and other days they consider themselves an employment resource.

Lesson learned:

If you don’t know what your purpose for existing is or your mission as a company, how will your customers know either? First and foremost, get clear on what opportunity you are trying to fill in the world. If you have a clear purpose then your team will be able to work with a united vision AND the right customers will be crystal clear about what you’re offering them.

Their UI and UX strategies are over a decade old, literally.

Each time a new service or function is added to their website, they create ad-hoc solutions to an already poorly designed website strategy.

Lesson learned:

If you’re a tech-based web app or mobile app company, make sure your technology standards and strategies are current. Hire a proper developer that is up on the current trends and that works well with your UI/UX person. This allows for faster loading times, cleaner code, better SEO, better usability for your potential customers, easier and simpler purchasing, among other things. Your user experience is directly related to your brand integrity.

They don’t have a UI/UX person. Customers were registering on the site, spending once or twice, then leaving and never returning.

Lesson learned:

If your potential or existing customers aren’t clear about what you’re offering, they will not engage with your site. Hire a UX/UI, or website designer that is experienced on how to create an engaging interface design. This will allow your customers to get where they need to go fast, be clear about your offerings, purchase, and go on with their lives.

They don’t consider any of their start up competitors as a threat.

Lesson learned:

Don’t let your ego get in the way of evolving your business for the betterment of your customers. Your competition could potentially blow you out of the water within 6 months because of technology and access to information. In other words, your competitors can easily find ways to do what you’re doing, but better. Do your research, have a plan in place and evolve if you have to.

There was no strategy with regard to where and how new products or services were being structured into their existing brand of online products.

Since there was always a rush on getting out their MVP, there was never much time to strategize brand architecture, UX, UI, or marketing strategies.

Lesson learned:

Define a structure for your brand of online products. This helps clarify your purpose for the products that your launching instead of being a hodgepodge of confusion for an internal team as well as customers. Customers will buy from you if they are clear about what they are purchasing first.

Each time they create an email drip campaign or run a print ad, the #1 underlying message is “Buy from us!” instead of “This is how I want/can help and bring value to YOU (the customer).”

Lesson learned:

Think about how you would feel about that one friend that never asks how you are doing, but continues to talk about themself the entire time you spend time with them. Brand trust starts to fade when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of as a customer. You are ultimately in business to help others. So, be clear about the value that you are trying to bring to those people. Treat your customers like gold, because they are the reason why you are even in business.

They didn’t have an email signature or a letterhead until this past year. Each business card, sales flyer, print ad, and letter has a completely different looking design.

The only thing that stayed the same was the color palette and the logo, although in varying sizes and skews.

Lesson learned:

Hire an experienced designer and have them create a consistent brand language as well as a standards guide. Your brand integrity will be higher, and your messaging will be clearer. Not to mention, your customers will less likely confuse you with your competitors since your visual language won’t change like your underwear.

There are other failings to the above, including poor company culture and marketing strategy weaknesses, but I think the above points are some of the main failings of this particular client.

On a positive note:

I’m very impressed by the owner’s humble beginnings of starting the company, which she leverages and I think that’s smart. Good storytelling is key to brand engagement because there is a human connection that is made. She started the company from the basement of her home (which she still runs the company from), and gained momentum through gorilla marketing. She knows the industry because she’s been a part of it during the lifetime of her career, which gains the respect of so many. Those two factors created a great start for her brand and the company.

Once your company evolves and matures, there are strategies that need to scale along with your business.

Once those start to fall by the waste side, then you start to lose momentum and brand integrity.

Have a solid brand strategy, visual language, and marketing strategy in place. This will ensure that you know why you’re in business, your talking to the right people, and the right people are buying from you over and over again.

Have an opinion or question? I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and feedback in the comments below.

~ Christine