Brands exist on an emotional level in the mind of the consumer and they must work hard to maintain that special relationship as social culture, markets and technology constantly and dramatically change around them.
There are numerous reasons why brands fail, and many of them are interrelated. In no particular order …
1. PANICKING – brand-owners often take ill-advised panic measures to arrest sales decline, developing inappropriate diversification and brand extension strategies which come back and bite them. Examples: Guinness Red and New Coke as mentioned below.
2. DESERTING CORE VALUES – a brand’s core values are the anchor to the emotional relationship with the consumer, and a brand must always remain true to them in every way. Without those values being established within the mind of the consumer, the brand simply does not exist. Example: A smoother, sweeter Guinness Red was launched in the 2007 to capitalise on the fame of the original which had declining sales – it was considered a failure. It’s interesting to see Guinness are currently trialing a ‘Black Lager’ in Ireland and the US … hmmm.
3. INAPPROPRIATE DIVERSIFICATION – often caused by an over-inflated brand ego, thinking the brand is big enough to be extended into totally unrelated market sectors, and often into far too many of them. The mother brand can suffer considerable damage by association. Example: Bic – well known for its cheap, disposable pens, lighters and razors extended the Bic brand into a line of ‘disposable pantyhose’ for women – disaster darling!
4. DECEPTION – all brand communications must be based upon truths to ensure retension of consumer trust. Consumers catch on very quickly if they feel they are being misled or disrespected and today social networking can destroy a brand’s reputation in an instant. Examples: Coca-Cola’s disastrous UK launch of Dasani ‘designer’ bottled water exposed as no more than filterered tap water. Gerald Ratner’s infamous ‘totally crap’ remark when referring to his firm Ratners jewellers’ products, resulting in a £500m loss in value of the company.
5. UNECESSARY RELAUNCH – a brand-owner can get bored , and relaunches with the intention of breathing new life into a brand, but can shoot themselves in the foot if it unecessarily disturbs an otherwise content customer.
6. OBSOLESCENCE – a brand must keep one step ahead of evolution in the market and fast-moving technological advances. To be left behind isn’t an option.
7. PRODUCT NEGLECT – the product is now the ambassador for the brand, rather than the other way round, as used to be the case. Neglect product quality, or make unecessary, unwanted changes, and the brand itself is likely to suffer as a consequence. Example: While losing sales to Pepsi, Coca-Cola’s ill-fated launch of New Coke in the 80’s, which was not only rejected by consumers, but also had a damaging effect on sales of the original Coke, before it returned to the original formula.
Andy Sellers is founder and Creative Director of S&® the brandvertising agency, and a ‘Seriously Creative’ Consultant.