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Why Brands Fail: A Case on What NOT to Do

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Only 1 in 3 small businesses will remain open for 10 years. Learn more about why brands fail so you don’t repeat their mistakes.

Nearly 80% of small businesses survive the first year of being on the market. The success rate drops after the first year. The truth is businesses of all sizes need strong branding to develop any degree of brand longevity.

However, it only takes one brand blunder to hurt your brand. One mistake could ruin years of hard work and profit. That’s why it’s important to avoid branding fails before they ever happen.

Here are some branding mistakes you’re better off avoiding:

Stagnation

The word “stagnant” means being dull or not showing any activity. Becoming stagnant can kill your brand.

When a brand becomes stagnant, it’s usually because the marketing and branding strategies haven’t changed with the times. It’s important to keep up with consumers’ needs and the changing demands of the market.

As a brand, it’s easy to fall into patterns that have worked in the past. But once those methods stop working, it’s time to explore other avenues for marketing/branding success.

For example, Old Spice used to be associated with older generations. (And to some extent, this association still exists.) Before 2010, Old Spice was a stagnant brand.

To fix this, the company released a commercial starring athlete Isaiah Mustafa. The commercial reframed Old Spice as youthful, attractive, and fun. This helped Old Spice tap into a new demographic and successfully rebrand itself.

You can accomplish rebranding with more informed strategies for marketing, advertising, and branding.

Being Inconsistent

Brand positioning is defining the space you want your brand to occupy in a consumer’s mind. Getting the best brand positioning relies on consistent branding.

“Be consistent” is one of the most important branding tips there are. Why? Because breaking consistency can have serious consequences for a brand.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Pepsi was doing better than Coca Cola. In response, Coca Cola released a “New Coke” that supposedly tasted better.

However, Coca Cola’s brand image is built on nostalgia and good times. Coca Cola consistently brands itself as being classic, not “new.”

Releasing New Coke flew in the face of 50 years worth of marketing efforts. That’s why Coca Cola had to pull New Coke from the shelves.

If you understand how branding affects human behavior, you’ll understand why consistency is key. Consistency creates familiarity. Consumers feel more comfortable with spending money on familiar brands.

Take a risk if it seems “worth it,” but don’t become inconsistent.

Weak Brand Story

A brand story is a narrative that involves your brand’s facts and impact.

Strong brand stories inspire an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction increases brand bonding. When people bond with a brand, they buy from it.

Weak brand stories aren’t inspiring. Consumers feel no connection to them. That’s why they’re ineffective.

Good brand stories involve storytelling. They take the consumer on a journey with a plot.

Your brand story must be 100% authentic. For example, Airbnb centers customer experiences and imagery in Airbnb’s brand story. That’s how the site’s Belong Anywhere rebrand in 2016 became so successful.

(Fun fact: Airbnb’s Belong Anywhere campaign raised over $1 million for refugees.)

If you take notes from Airbnb’s brand story, your brand story will do the opposite of fail: It’ll win over customers’ hearts and wallets.

Don’t use the word “story” as a synonym for “theme.” A brand story should reflect your values. It should also highlight what differentiates your brand from others.

Breaking a Brand Promise

A brand promise is a statement from a company about what kind of experience customers can expect from a brand. This statement often mentions a commitment to providing a quality service/product.

Once you make a brand promise, you can’t break it. If you do, you’ll face negative consequences.

For instance, consumers once associated Volkswagen with being environmentally-friendly. In 2015, word got out that 11 million Volkswagen vehicles had a software program that fooled emissions testing.

As a result, Volkswagen got slapped with a hefty lawsuit. This blunder also destroyed any brand trust Volkswagen had built with their customers.

Do the opposite of what Volkswagen did: Stay true to any statements you’ve made regarding what customers can expect from your brand.

Your brand promises are an aspect of how you define your brand. Sticking with these promises builds brand trust. When consumers trust your brand, they’re more likely to express brand loyalty.

More brand loyalty means more sales.

Watering Your Brand Down

Having a brand specialty is great. Watering your brand down by overextending it isn’t so great.

If your brand is known for a product/service, focus on making that product better. Expanding what your brand offers takes away from that focus.

Remember MySpace? Well, Myspace is now the scene queen of fail brands. MySpace failed because it was covering too many angles.

At one point, Myspace had verticals for music, fashion, celebrities, books, and more. The social media company tried to be everything to everyone and failed.

Soon enough, people started using Facebook instead. Facebook offers one service: interacting with friends and brands. Extra bells and whistles would take away from this focus.

Not Staying Relevant

If you do decide to do something new, make sure it’s relevant. Your brand’s success in one area doesn’t equate to success in another area.

For instance, Cosmopolitan is an international women’s magazine. In 1999, Cosmopolitan released edible products like yogurt and cheese. Experts predicted these products would be a success.

The result was a brand failure of epic proportions. For branding, it’s often better to narrow your focus instead of expanding it.

Learning Why Brands Fail Will Save Your Brand

Around 95% of new products fail each year. If you know why brands fail, you can steer your brand in a better direction.

Companies release about 30,000 new products every year. In order be counted in the 5% that succeeds, you’ll need a strong branding strategy.

Boost your brand identity and work with a designer to create the perfect logo. Your brand will thank you for it.


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