The 7 Dumbest Mistakes You Can Make When Building a New Brand

by jefframos on June 4, 2012

So let me guess.

When you decided to launch a new brand, you probably settled back into your chair, hammered out a business plan, created a logo, purchased a domain name, and signed up for a few social media sites, right?

After all, that’s how you start a brand. You give it a name, give it a home, and create the channels where the world interacts with it.

Starting a brand seems like it should be simple. It seems like it should be easy. It seems like it should be fun.

But is it?

For most of us, it’s in the weeks and months after we take the wrapper off of a new brand that we realize a hard truth:

Anyone can start a brand, but the real test is actually making good on the brand’s objectives.

As anyone who’s been working with a new brand for a few months knows, getting traction is complicated. Making money is hard. And within those first few months, gaining new fans is certainly not fun.

Most people get fed up and quit. The motivated ones, like you, scour the Internet for answers.

Either way, it’s frustrating because you don’t know what to do when you first get started.

So, for our very first post on #BrandingHacks, that’s what I decided to talk about. Let’s begin by protecting you from the most common mistakes brands make.

Dumb Mistake #1: Believing that social media is a silver bullet

You’ve convinced yourself of this.

“Everyone is building brands with social media, so we need to be online NOW!”

And it really does make sense. After all, your social media presence will be the place where you communicate with the world. It’s where you can discuss issues or new ideas with existing fans and customers. It’s an invaluable resource for free data that your fans, customers, supports, and haters will offer up for free.

Social media is where it’s at because it totally democratizes the strength a new brand can have. 

When you’re first getting started, it’s likely you won’t have a massive advertising budget to increase awareness for your brand. So with some clever conversations, campaigns, and simply listening to the millions of conversations in your niche, social media is a free way to gain traction, increase awareness, maintain engagement, and have a hell of a lot of fun.

But in those starting days, none of that means a thing if you don’t have any followers. And somehow, we trick ourselves into thinking by the mere virtue of having social media accounts, the conversations will come to us and life will be a peachy world of retweets and Facebook Likes.

At this point, you’ve discoverd that’s wrong. So if you’re about to start opening up a myriad of social media accounts, consider this:

If you don’t have any users to have conversations with, or you don’t even know what your brand should be talking about, why waste time sitting on your ass looking at social media?

So, find those people first.

Dumb Mistake #2: Not cultivating early adopters

“If you build it, they will come.”

Kevin Costner’s line in The Field of Dreams has been deceiving brand builders since 1989.

You’ve convinced yourself that if you build a knock out product, that people will be lined up around the corner to snatch it up, rave about it online, and give you all the “viral” push you need.

But take a look around. It’s not true, right?

The secret to building a great brand actually has nothing to do with you, your product, your team, the hours you’ve spent creating your core values, or how pretty your damn website is.

It has everything to do with who you get on board in the beginning.

If you don’t give a shit about the first few 10 fans you have, you can forget about the next 1,000.

When you’re dreaming of your brand’s success, it’s really exciting to think of what it’s going to be like to have millions of fans worldwide that can’t wait for the next product launch, blog post, or online campaign.

But if you’re not listening to the first 10 people who you can legitimately get on the phone, or take out to lunch, you can bury those dreams along with your brand.

Dumb Mistake #3: Thinking you can survive without partnerships

Want to know another way brands sink their own ship the moment it sets sail?

By being selfish.

Don’t get me wrong, your brand is your baby. At the end of the day, it’s the thing that will help you pay the bills, change the world, and give you an outstanding quality of life when it succeeds.

But if you think you’re going to get there alone, that’s what you’re going to be: alone.

No matter how great your brand is, no matter how much your niche will love it, and no matter how much impact it will have, you’ll only have so much power. Your reach will only extend so far.

Brands that don’t spend time networking with those inside, and more importantly, outside their niche, are destined to stay in their own pond forever. And instead of outgrowing it and moving on to bigger ponds, they end up being a fat bullfrog stuck in their niche, hogging up all the space, and eventually, boring everyone to tears.

So, if you don’t want to be that bullfrog, put this idea in your head now:

There are other brands out there that have direct access to tons of potential new fans and customers. And as awesome as they are, your brand actually has something they are missing. And when you find out what that is, and make an attractive offer to get involved, you’ve just dropkicked the door open to a new world of waiting fans, and money.

Dumb Mistake #4: Not defining a set of core values

Okay, so maybe you actually love the idea of buddying up with other brands.

And maybe you do listen to your early adopters.

You would think that you’re on the right path, but that’s the kicker: When you listen to fans and have requests from partners, you suffer from having “too many chefs in the kitchen”.

So how do you stop that from happening? How do you make sure that the next customer email or partnership request won’t force your brand to pivot in a way that totally upsets the order of your precious brand?

Create some core values.

Very early on, you and your team must sit down and iron out the how and why of your brand. Everyone absolutely needs to be on the same page with all aspects of the brand, so everyone can make valuable decisions or have important conversations led by a set of values you all agree on.

Basically, you need to make sure that everyone is always playing for the same team and understands the rules. If you do that, your brand can grow the right way, without worry, and without allowing anything to throw it off course.

Dumb Mistakes #5: Over-thinking everything and not “shipping”


The word alone probably brings up plenty of unpleasant thoughts.

Even with core values in place, meetings can drag on forever and delay even the simplest of things. Approval and vetting processes slow down progress and often, you’ll have days where you felt like you didn’t get anything done.

A lack of decisiveness can create the feeling that the brand hasn’t moved in days. And you hate that feeling, don’t you?

When it comes to growing your brand, every decisions feels so important, and let’s face it, some are. Most aren’t.

We look at other brands who are more polished, and we try to analyze all the nuances and widgets that seem to make them so special. We think “We can’t launch without this WordPress plug-in! We can’t launch without a mobile app! The copy on this e-mail has to be perfect or no one leaves the office!”

I’ll tell you the truth:

No matter how much time you spend on all these things you think are so vital, your brand will never be perceived the way you think.

All the little changes you thought would drive traffic to your site won’t work. All the hours spent learning search engine optimization won’t amount to anything changes in 3 months. Those additional plug ins didn’t bring in more comments, and having someone set up that new social media account didn’t pull in more traffic like you thought.

What matters is just getting your brand out there.

Just put something, anything, out there and see what happens.

You’ll learn so much more from the reaction, or the lack of, than you will having endless meetings about what you think will work.

Dumb Mistake #6: Not embracing failure

I think we can all agree that nothing is more frightening that screwing up, or worse, being totally ignored.

Even when you’re learning from your fans, working with rockstar partners, foregoing pointless meetings, and getting yourself out there, the chance of totally fucking up is still pretty high.

Starting a new brand and betting on it almost always feels like high risk, no reward.

We often get into this “all or nothing” mindset of thinking if this idea doesn’t work from the get go, it’s a failure.

But give yourself a little credit.

First of all, you actually had an idea worth pursuing. How many people can say that? Second, you actually had an idea and did something about it. You made it real, and you took a chance on something you believed in.

Failure will always be a possibiity, but so is greatness.

And let’s be honest, do you really think that you’ll knock it out of the park, doing something you maybe never done before? Failure will happen and as likely as we are to beat ourselves up over it, you have to embrace it for what it’s worth.

When you understand that failure is very real, a few things can happen. The worst is being so gripped by it, that you do nothing.

The second is that you give it a try and fall flat on your face. You don’t end up seeing the forest for the trees and you consider the entire endeavor a failure, give up, and settle for less.

Or, you take responsibility for the failure, try to understand “what you could have done better,” not “what you did wrong”. And then, you take what you learned and try harder next time.

You have your entire life to try out “good ideas”. Every moment you’re alive brings new opportunities if you keep an eye out for them and put your best effort out there. I know failure is hard to swallow, especially if you really believe in what you do, but take it for what it’s worth and cultivate strength and the understanding that you may learn more from royally screwing things up than being successful.

Mistake #7: Believing that hustle is all you need

Hustle is a powerful thing.

It’s the juice that keeps my motor running and when the chips are down, it’s the thing that helps me rise from the ashes. Hustle has literally kept me alive and it’s the driving force behind how I accomplish big goals.

But an intense desire to get out there, make things happen, and keep things moving is far from the only thing that has made me successful.

I won’t lie and say hustle is the #1 most important thing out there. I will say, that hustle is the thing that will separate you from competitors, give you an edge, and make you an absolute champion. There is however a less sexier thing that will ultimately make you successful.


For all your hustle, passion, and smarts, none of them mean a thing if you don’t know how they fit together. A lot of what will make you a success comes in the lonely nights planning ahead, prepping emails, studying copywriting, or secretly analyzing what others are doing.

Planning is not extremely interesting to talk about, but it’s an essential skill. The key is figuring out what sort of hustle you’re good at and deciding how to put it out in the world. If you love speaking, you need to make plans on how to learn to speak more effectively. If you love writing, plan on devouring every copywriting and advertising book there is.

Effective research and planning is what makes your hustle more powerful. If you know exactly what you want and make a plan to get there, your hustle is the magic that will make it all happen.

What I’m saying is, hustle hard, but hustle smart. Don’t hustle hard for hustling’s sake.

So, now what?

For my first post on this blog, you can plainly see I put down some serious work.

I spent hours trying to make the perfect post. I put in a lot of time making sure that I made a strong impression.

But I know I could be doing more from you.

I’ll be honest: This blog will mark a new chapter in my life. This is where I will help brands grow. This is where I will teach brands to become more powerful. This is where I will help brands make their dreams come true.

I can’t do this alone.

I want you by my side. I want you to be a part of this with me. Let’s find everything you need to create the brand that will give you whatever you want. Whether it’s more money, more freedom, more respect – whatever.

It’s my dream to help build brands all day, and I want to start with yours. There’s two things I need you to do if you’re in:

First, below this post, you’ll see a box containing my #BrandingHacks Cheat Sheet. Download it.

Inside, are the essentials to building a stronger brand. It’s not a long read and that’s not the point. The essentials for building a great brand are few, but powerful. In the Cheat Sheet, you’ll learn what they are and get actionable ideas to make real changes, now.

Second, tell me what you think after reading this post. Do you fall victim to these mistakes? Did this post help you realize something? Do you feel empowered to make a change now knowing these common mistakes?

Give me all you got and I promise you, I’ll give back 200% in return.

What’s on your mind?

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  • MC

    All over #5. I’m of the Seth Godin “just ship it” mindset but it’s easier said than done. This is a great post (will probably need to re-read it again to absorb it all). Thanks!

    • Jeff Ramos

      I’m definitely no stranger to paralyzing myself from overthinking.

      The rough part is that we don’t know how to make the best decisions sometimes, yet we know that every decision matters, and so we chose to not make any decision at all.

      Sometimes you just need to roll that ball down the hill and just see what happens and make the best of it. Right?

  • Nate Ginsburg

    Great post Jeff! Really enjoyed it and learned some things that I will be applying to my company. Thanks!

    • Jeff Ramos

      Awesome Nate!

      What specifically?

  • Marie

    I’m totally victim to #5 also. only Im an odd mix between an intuitive risk taker and painful over-thinker. So in the midst of taking action, internally im paralyzed and unnecessarily scrutinizing details in the moment. I just have to trust my instinct and keep going while the tide is right! Thanks for the post Jeff!

    • Jeff Ramos

      It’s rough, I totally agree.

      Sometimes it’s best to keep trying things out and see what works (and more importantly, what doesn’t!)

      You get a bigger education from doing than thinking.

  • Danique Robinson

    I’m a student and aspiring PR pro. I’ve been watching your vids and I am so happy that you decided to write a blog! I subscribed and will be referencing you on my personal blog. I am going to take your advice from this post. Thanks for writing!

    • Jeff Ramos

      Danique, let me say that I support you too!

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