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The Top Five Branding Sins

July 25, 2018

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The Top Five Branding Sins for UK Small Businesses

Jake Amos, Head of UK Marketing, Vistaprint

There are 5.7 million private businesses registered in the UK and 96% of them are classed as micro businesses employing nine people or less[1]. While small in number of employees, these small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and their day to day contribution is vital to driving growth, opening new markets and creating wider employment opportunities.

When starting a new business, businesses owners are mainly focused on the products or services themselves so other factors like marketing and brand may come second or even further down in the priorities list. However, the choices made regarding marketing when starting out on a business venture can really have an effect on how your business performs.

At Vistaprint, we recently conducted a study analysing the websites of 1000 small business in the UK. The findings published in the Small Business Uniqueness Report found that many small businesses were lacking in distinct branding. The report highlighted that many businesses used the same colours, fonts and words to describe themselves, leaving them at risk of fading into the background and merging into one.

With the Internet being the customer’s first port of call when making purchasing decisions, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure they are not only searchable, but memorable.  Small business owners who work independently, such as a mobile hairdresser or a plumber may not even realise the positive effect a brand can have on their business.

The benefits of being able to communicate what makes a small business unique leads to improved brand awareness, recognition and recall which are all vital for long term success.

Here we look at the top five branding pitfalls, as identified by the Small Business Uniqueness Report, and what you can do to ensure your business doesn’t get lost in the crowd:


1. Poor business descriptions

68% of small businesses are not adequately describing their business online, with some not even describing their offering at all. By failing to describe themselves they may be attracting fewer new customers and impacting on customer retention.

To avoid falling short and blending into the background, businesses should think of the best way of describing their business effectively, so they can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

How you describe your business can give you a greater advantage over someone selling a similar product or service for a similar price. This will also help your SEO ranking which today is so important for prospective customers searching on the Internet for the best solution for their problem.  A better SEO ranking will increase your chances of making it to the top of people’s searches and get in touch.


2. Too much jargon and cliched adjectives

33% of small businesses in the UK use overused and cliched adjectives to describe themselves. Vistaprint’s research found friendly, independent, family-run and experiences were some of the most frequently used adjectives.

If too many businesses use the same language (which can sometimes be seen as jargon) they are at an automatic disadvantage due to sounding the same as other businesses.  While it’s difficult not to repeat cliched adjectives, one thing you can do is look at what your competitors are doing and ensure your language differs and is more engaging for your audience.


3. Lack of attractive imagery

5% of small businesses had irrelevant imagery that’s unrelated to their brand or no imagery at all on their website. Many businesses opt for stock images, again leaving them lacking in individuality.

To ensure your website won’t get forgotten or confused with a competitor, make sure your website has relevant and visually attractive imagery.  It’s sometimes worth paying for a photographer or calling in favour to get some strong snaps that are unique to your business. It may also be worth having a bank of case study examples with imagery to share on social media and feature on the website. This will increase your credibility and help attract new customers who actively want to work with you as a result of viewing your established portfolio.


4. Inconsistent fonts

The research also found that a huge 77% of UK small businesses use more than one font size on website copy and 51% use more than three!

When putting together content for your website, consistency is key. Well-chosen words, letters, font choice will greatly impact how the end-user views your business. You don’t need to have to have your own type font, but one that represents your businesses and is consistent across all of your customer touch points. It’s proven that having a distinctive font is better for brand recall, which in the long-term is most beneficial to a business’s success.


5. Playing it safe with colour 

Our research showed that an astonishing 98% of small businesses only use one colour in their logo, with 46% of small businesses favouring the colour blue and using it in their branding.

When designing your brand’s logo and website, think about which colours are in line with your brand values. Do you have a brand colour? Colour plays a large part in evoking emotions for a potential customer and many companies use a consistent colour across their marketing collateral to be recognisable. With colour choice, it’s more important to choose colours through the lens of customers rather than a favourite or ‘safe’ colour.

Some businesses may be tempted to play it safe with fonts, descriptors and colour choice but it I so important for them to harness their individuality. With small businesses playing such a vital role in economic growth in the UK, it’s important we continue to empower them with knowledge which allows them to harness their unique qualities and be the best they can be.


Jake Amos is Head of UK Marketing at Vistaprint. Vistaprint is the leading provider of customisable printed and digital marketing materials, empowering millions of UK small businesses of any kind to market themselves professionally and affordably.



[1] House of Commons Library – Business Statics Dec 2017

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