Branding mistakes AEC firms make every day

Mar 04, 2019

“When it comes to branding for an AEC firm, I wouldn’t look to other AEC firms. Frankly, we make a lot of branding mistakes in this business.”

When it comes to branding for an AEC firm, I wouldn’t look to other AEC firms. Frankly, we make a lot of branding mistakes in this business. Stuff that we think is normal would never happen in a consumer products company or national financial services firm where they have more knowledge of what to do and what not to do.

Here are some ways we often go wrong, branding-wise, in this industry:

  1. Do-it-yourself graphic design. I’ve said it before – just because you have a graphic design software package and someone who knows how to use it doesn’t mean you have good graphic design. Just in the last 12 months I have seen good companies – make that great companies – in our industry launch new logos that looked beyond horrible. So bad I was amazed. I had to look at them on a computer to be sure my phone hadn’t somehow distorted them. Get someone good to design your logo and script. It’s money well-spent.
  2. The wrong colors. As part of point number one above, pick your colors with some sensitivity. I’ve seen some really boring stuff used recently. Do your colors make you look hip and trendy? Or do they make you look safe and ultraconservative? Colors are critical to your brand and image. Picked properly, they can be used on your vehicles, company shirts, signage, and even office decor. And they should be used consistently, every time! There’s a reason “Coke” is always red and white. It is immediately recognizable. Your colors should be the same.
  3. Alphabet soup. Why do some companies have names like Zweig Group or “Schlockmeir, Briggs, and Rosentein,” and then routinely refer to themselves in internal and external communications as ZG or SBC? Even worse is when the initials become the company name. The firm loses much of the goodwill it has built over the years, and it also makes it indistinguishable from all the other alphabet soup names in this business. Use one name and use it everywhere – inside and out – every time.
  4. Different names in different places. I see this a lot. “DEF Associates” decides to do a marketing newsletter. But instead of using it to promote “DEF Associates,” it has its own catchy name, like “Site Lines” or “Great Workplaces,” which completely defeats the purpose of doing the newsletter in the first place. It’s akin to a great TV commercial that you can remember, but don’t recall what company or product the commercial was for.
  5. Signage that doesn’t match up with the brand/logo. Why do people do this? They should be the same. I’ve seen a million examples of signs on buildings or signs on projects that don’t match up with the brand. Not good!

So, tell me – do any of these problems sound like ones you have in your firm? If so, address them!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.