Since 1999, I have helped more than 170 brands address their problems and strengthen their market positions. In the course of this work, I have occasionally run into brands that were struggling with problems of their own making. Without naming the brands or even the industries, I will share some of these examples partly as an admonition and partly to infuse your day with a little bit of levity.
- One company allowed its salespeople to position its portfolio of brands as they saw fit in their respective geographic markets. This led many brands to be inconsistently positioned globally, including a couple of brands that were positioned as premium/luxury brands in some markets and value/low price brands in other markets.
- One company decided to move away from regional brands that went back hundreds of years with deep roots and strong loyalties and reintroduced those brands based on customer need segments. The problem was, they took away the brands people knew and trusted and replaced them with brands they had never heard of. To make things worse, they did not have the resources necessary to build brand awareness or reinforce the new brand positionings in any of their markets.
- A private equity firm bought a portfolio of brands and were making changes to make the brands look financially healthier before they sold them again on the market. We were hired to conduct marketing research to help them understand how the changes were perceived by current customers. We discovered that the private equity firm was increasing sales by inviting an extremely low end of the market in to participate in a brand that was perceived to be an exclusive high-end luxury brand by its current customers. Part of the brand's cache was exclusivity and keeping out the "riff raft," something the private equity managers were now inviting in with open arms.
- One organization had a new CEO that had a new vision for the organization and its brand. He said that he wanted to use a consensus building process to develop the new organization mission, vision and values and the new brand position. However, each time anyone disagreed with his point of view he would ridicule them in front of others and then fire them.
- One organization had encouraged its employees to use the brand identity as much as possible on everything including company BBQ t-shirts, employee bowling and golf leagues and charity events. The problem was that there were no brand identity standards. People were merging other images with the brand's icon. They were rendering the brand in a variety of new color combinations. They were adding words to the brand's name. And they were even rendering the brand's identity in humorous ways.
- After intensive brand strategy work that was well received by an organization's entire leadership team (excepting its CEO) and that tested very well among its customers, the strategy was presented to the organization's CEO for his approval. He refused to be a part of the process despite our very strong urging because he was "too busy with important matters to be bothered with such trivia." Upon reviewing the brand strategy work, he said, "What is this differentiation sh*t? Our mission is to serve our customers whoever they are. That's all we need to say and that's all we need to do." This was the same mission statement that I had seen posted in the company's main reception area when I first met with its executives months earlier. I finally found out who wrote what had to have been one of the weakest mission statements ever.
Here's to smart brand strategy decisions and sound brand management practices.