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Remember those movies where the villain pushes the big red button that counts down to total destruction of their shark-infested volcano lair? In my past twenty years in marketing, I’ve seen and experienced many of the problems that bring even great brands to the brink.

A brand is a living and breathing organism that must be nurtured in order to thrive, yet in so many cases the brand itself is ignored or taken for granted. So what can you do to prevent your brand from crumbling to pieces before your very eyes? Well, here are 10 symptoms of a potential impending brand disintegration:

1. There’s no clear understanding of the brand’s target audience

Every company needs to develop their buyer personas. This means figuring out who your dream customers are. How would you describe their personalities? What are their tastes and dislikes, etc.? Those are the people you want to connect with.

2. Poorly defined core brand values

It’s imperative that your brand stands for something. It’s equally important that everyone in the organization exudes the aura of the brand’s core values if you expect your target audience to do the same. For example, are you selling running shoes or athletic performance? These core values will help shape who you are as a brand.

3. The brand does not promise anything

Your brand promise is your commitment to your audience. Like a good neighbour, State Farm is there. The brand promise for State Farm is that no matter what trouble you encounter, State Farm will be like that reliable neighbour that you can trust.

To start mowing the lawn at 8am on a Saturday.

4. Inconsistent identity

Your visual identity is the outward appearance of your brand. It’s important that it reflects the values of the brand in a consistent manner. For example, it would be detrimental to the Nike brand if someone decided that they didn’t like the direction of the swoosh and altered it for a certain piece of communication. Brand guidelines are established to maintain structure and consistency and must be followed religiously to keep the integrity of the brand.

5. The company gets tired of the brand, therefore they change it too often

It’s important to let a new brand build some prestige and not simply chase trends. Check out this article on identifying the right reasons to rebrand.

6. Advertising budgets are the first to get cut

Research shows that firms who cut advertising during difficult financial times typically see sales and income fall by 20-30 percent over the next two years as a result. It’s important not to sacrifice the future for short term gains. Advertising not only helps generate immediate sales, it helps build confidence in your brand over the long term which in turn builds market share that is ultimately tied to profits. Henry Ford once said “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”

7. Brand extensions have repositioned the core brand values in a negative light

Many times as a brand grows it will expand its service offerings to gain market share via brand extensions. In some cases though, these extensions don’t necessarily reflect the values of the core brand. For example, when Coca Cola felt its market share was being raped by the youthful Pepsi brand, they put aside their core values of being “The Real Thing” and introduced “New Coke.” This completely backfired and nearly ended the life of this mogul brand.

The only thing that could have been worse would be if they started pushing actual cocaine.

8. The brand is no longer relevant

This issue arises as a brand gets dated and nothing is done about it. Successful brands are constantly adapting and evolving. Let’s use Apple as an example – one of the biggest brands in the world. Look back and you’ll clearly see the evolution of the brand to where it lives today.

9. New management wants to leave their mark

You see this all the time with sports brands. A new owner takes over a team and suddenly there’s new logos and uniforms all around. When Wayne Gretzky became part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, he didn’t care for the old kachina style logo, uniforms and direction of the team. The Coyotes were rebranded to the logo and colors we see today. When new team ownership took over from Gretzky in 2013, they tweaked the brand again and changed the team name to Arizona Coyotes to include more of the geographical fan base. Sometimes these changes make sense – like when a team changes cities and wants to be branded appropriately for its new fanbase, but when new ownership or management comes in and feels the need to make a change for the sake of making change without any research behind their ideas, it almost always leads to disaster.

10. There’s no emotional connection

This is usually a byproduct of problem #1. If you don’t fully understand how your buyer personas behave, then it’s going to be difficult for your brand to tap into their emotions. Your brand needs to captivate the hearts of its audience.

It all goes back to your buyer personas. Who are they and what do they stand for? And most importantly, how do you fit into their lives? Get started on discovering your dream customers with this free guide:

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The complete guide to identifying your dream customers

A free, customizable buyer persona worksheet





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