Key Steps to Saving Your Brand From Brand Death
A few weeks ago, we explored the two sides of Brand Death. In the first, Sudden Brand Death, media exposure fans the flames and a company’s only recourse is swift, corrective action and strong public relations, which is what save the Tylenol brand back in 1982. Enron, Firestone, the cases of Sudden Brand Death aren’t numerous, but they are extremely memorable.
Unfortunately, the second side of Brand Death is much less visible and hard to identify. Slow Brand Death could be caused by management inattention, lack of focus, overall neglect, misunderstanding or incompetence, but the signs are there if you look.
- Decreased customer loyalty: If your brands are showing signs of losing loyal customers, you may be suffering from the early onset of Slow Brand Death.
- Lack of differentiation/distinction: If you are noticing that your competitors are looking more and more like you and that you are hearing the dreaded “c-word” (“commodity”) in management meetings and discussion, commoditization may be attacking your category and your brand.
- Increased price sensitivity or declining price: If you find that you are not able to command a price premium with your target customers and that you are experiencing more price sensitivity, you may be seeing the first sign of Slow Brand Death.
- Lack of internal alignment with the brand promise: If your employees aren’t clear about the promise your brand is making in the marketplace, how do you expect the customer to be clear about it? If your company is not set up to deliver on the brand promise, your brand-customer encounters may vary to the point of eroding your brand strength – or Slow Brand Death.
Here is the process you should undertake:
- Get the buy-in of executives::
- customer loyalty and its volume benefits and even willingness to pay a premium
• lowered cost of sales and improved operational efficiency
• higher revenue and more predictable cash flow
• enhanced shareholder value
- Understand the current situation: Once you have the support of top management, you need to complete a thorough brand assessment. Your goal is to understand where your brand is now and where your competitors’ brands are, in the hearts and minds of the market. Additionally, you need to assess trends and emerging markets to predict how your brand – and your competitors’ brands – will be impacted in the future
- Define the desired brand: Based on the brand assessment, you should have a good idea of market gaps your brand can credibly fill, based on what the market is willing to let your brand do and where the market is going. From this, develop a complete definition of your brand of the future – say five years out. This future or desired brand becomes your goal set.
- Identify the brand drivers: The brand assessment will help you understand which brand contact-points or functions are having the most impact in creating customers’ brand perceptions. Each brand will have different drivers. For an automobile, it may be the actual test drive and driving experience.
- Align internally to deliver the brand promise: When the desired brand position is determined and defined, many companies move to communicate to the marketplace. This is premature, as it is not yet certain whether your organization can consistently deliver on the brand promise you want to make. Take the time to evaluate your organization’s readiness and ability to deliver the brand promise. You may find that you will need to take some action to bring your company into alignment with the brand.
- Communicate the brand externally: With all of the other steps in place, you can now begin communicating the new brand externally. But before doing this, take the time to evaluate your key audiences for brand communications
- Measure and monitor: No time to rest on your laurels – the key to avoiding Brand Death is to know what’s going on in the marketplace. There are three factors working on your brand: you, your competitors, and your target audiences. Put in place a measurement system (internal and external) to monitor the critical brand contact points and brand perceptions to make sure that you are not straying from your plan and that you are progressing as anticipated toward your future brand.
Brand Death is costly and avoidable. The decision to kill a brand is the decision to throw away a corporate asset, similar to jettisoning real estate or other capital assets. Management can and should manage their brands as the valuable corporate assets they are.