Thursday, June 28, 2018

Common Brand Problems

Over the past twenty years, I have helped more than 200 brands in a wide variety of product and service categories. Here are the most common problems that brands seem to encounter.

  • A disruptive technology has made the brand's core product obsolete. Example: Kodak.
  • The brand's level of service and product innovation has not kept up with the competition. Example: Burger King.
  • Stuck in the middle. The brand is neither low cost/high convenience nor does it deliver a high-end or unique customer experience. Example: Sears.
  • The brand has extremely low customer awareness. Example: many start-up brands.
  • The category has matured and all of the brands in the category seem to offer the same product quality, functions and features. Example: this has occurred in many categories.
  • The category has been infused with new life through investment in advertising/marketing, but the brand in question has not participated in that investment. Example: any insurance brand that has not begun advertising at a fairly high level.
  • The CEO or other organization leader has created a dysfunctional culture. Example: more brands than you would think.
  • The brand's leadership is risk-adverse and so the brand (and its products and services) has not been proactive about reinventing itself. Example: numerous brands, Hallmark being one of them.
  • A venture capital firm buys the brand, strips out costs and assets, dresses the company/brand up for sale but has not really invested in the long-term viability of the brand. Example: I have encountered many examples of this. I do not want to name them.
  • Profit-focused management driven by Wall Street demands has gradually reduced the quality or increased the price of the brand's products (or both) until the perceived value is noticeably diminished. These actions can also be influenced by retailers such as Walmart that have huge leverage over manufacturers and how they price their products. Example: Newell (Rubbermaid). 
  • In the effort to increase sales significantly, a more upscale brand broadens distribution to a mass channel, significantly diminishing its brand cache. Example: Columbia (vs. Patagonia or North Face).
  • A brand walks away from or ignores its primary differentiating benefit in an effort to broaden its offering and gain more sales across more customer need segments. Example: Volvo (safety).
  • A premium brand extends its product line down to the mass market but in so doing risks decreasing the social status associated with the brand. Example: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have had to grapple with this tradeoff as they try to extend down into the aspirational or mass luxury market
  • Through rapid expansion and wild success, the brand becomes ubiquitous increasing the difficulty of maintaining uniform quality standards and feeling more commonplace in peoples' minds. Examples: Nike and Starbucks.
  • The company and brand have been complacent for a long time, so much so that they have not kept up with evolving customer needs or the competition. Examples: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • The brand's product or service is so new, revolutionary or complex that people really don't understand what it does or how it works. This is a communication problem. Example: I have encountered this with several high-tech start-up brands that are based on new product concepts.
  • Management does not have a good understanding of who their target market is, what they really want or what messaging or product configurations would work best for them. Example: I have encountered this more often than one might think. Stuhrling (watches) is one example of this.
  • The brand has a ill thought through pricing or distribution strategy that does not support the positioning of their brand. Example: I have had a few clients that have had these problems. 
  • The brand's founder, leader or spokesperson has encountered personal problems that reflect negatively on the brand. Examples: Anita Bryant and Sunkist and President Donald Trump and the Trump brand.

Hopefully, none of these problems seem familiar to you or applicable your brand. If they do, you need to take action before it is too late.


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