60 Signs Your Brand Is Dying

Mark Di SommaNovember 15, 20136 min

It’s often not hard to see why other brands have died – especially after the fact. There’s also one interesting and abiding constant in all the casualties. What kills a brand, more often than not, is what it lacks rather than what it does: conviction; energy; value; humility; cash; discipline; imagination; focus…

  1. Your new product or service failed. If that’s a continuation of a recent pattern and not just a one-off, then you’ve either disconnected with your audience, failed to hold their attention or been superseded.
  2. Customers are leaving. You haven’t noticed, or you don’t care.
  3. You’re getting more and more questions about the value you add.
  4. You’re being asked to discount on just about every deal, and you feel you have no option but to do so.
  5. You don’t feel you’re in a position to take a position (on anything).
  6. You keep diversifying in the hope of attracting more business, but all you’re really doing is piling on more cost.
  7. You don’t have a story.
  8. You keep telling yourselves you have a story but it keeps changing to fit your latest campaign.
  9. You can’t diversify. You only stand for one thing at one price point. Or you did diversify, but you haven’t done anything with the acquisition that’s at all meaningful.
  10. You keep expanding, with the expectation that sales will catch up at some point with capacity. But it hasn’t.
  11. Your product is weak – but everyone at your place thinks it’s the customers who don’t “get it”.
  12. You’ve backed the wrong product – falling sales remind you every quarter.
  13. You’ve been overtaken, or usurped, by someone else’s technology/service/idea.
  14. You don’t have a growth plan. You just have an existence plan. (Perhaps you don’t even have that.)
  15. External costs are killing you. You can’t live with them and you can’t survive without them.
  16. You have a growth plan but you don’t have a business model (or at least one that people are prepared to stick with).
  17. You’re too slow.
  18. You act without thinking.
  19. You think without acting.
  20. You’re steadily losing momentum and velocity. You’ve run out of energy. Everyone feels too tired to fight.
  21. You dismiss every new development as a “trend”.
  22. You’re in love with trends – you’re always looking for the next wave.
  23. There’s increasing dissonance between what you communicate, where you’re telling yourselves you’re going and what your research shows your customers want.
  24. Your brand architecture’s confusing to your customers – too many product names, sub-brands, logos, taglines, etc, fighting for attention and market share.
  25. Your ethics worry people. You behave badly, or desperately, but even when you’re called out, you fail to absorb blame or to acknowledge any level of irresponsibility.
  26. You’re missing budget – consistently – but no-one’s alarmed because your strategy is focused on building “long term potential”.
  27. Everyone’s focused on hitting budget. It’s the only thing people care about.
  28. You cut corners – on health and safety, on marketing, on supply chain, wherever you think you can get away with it.
  29. There’s no reason to prefer you. Nothing that you have secures you any level of consistent or distinctive advantage.
  30. You can’t align supply with demand or you can’t keep pace with demand. Either way, you’re starving your market share.
  31. You’re less connected with your customers than you used to be, or than your competitors are.
  32. Your distributors increasingly hold the relationships and the tables are turning. They’re treating you like the supplier rather than the other way around. Or they’re introducing house brands that undermine your margins.
  33. You’re past your heyday. There’s a lot of talk about history and the “glory days” of the business and/or the sector.
  34. You’re paying too much attention to the wrong metrics.
  35. You don’t know as much about your buyers as you need to.
  36. You’re increasingly focused on technical excellence at the expense of relationships. My term for this fascination is “redundant excellence”.
  37. Your customer base is static. So is your market share. Everyone’s comfortable.
  38. You’ve lost the spark that’s got you this far. You’ve run out of ideas.
  39. You’re riding a wave (but that’s all you’re riding).
  40. You’re fading. Your competitors are less intimidated by you (and less respectful of you) than they used to be. You’re being successfully copied and bettered by those you would once have never given a second thought.
  41. You respond to customers on your terms not theirs, because you view customer service as a cost.
  42. You price-gouge your current IP rather than innovating. But exclusivity is drawing to a close.
  43. You copy the market leader and bank on undercutting them to win customers.
  44. Your product, or a core component of your product/profitability, is one short regulatory step away from being outlawed or substantially restricted. That day’s coming. Everyone knows it. You don’t have a back-up plan. You’re depending on lobbying to stave off the inevitable.
  45. Your reputation is now dominated by what you can’t do, haven’t done, won’t do or did badly.
  46. You’re lying to try and win business. Everyone knows.
  47. You have no focus. You’re easily distracted into side projects that detract from your brand.
  48. There’s no consistency in your customer experiences nor your brand’s touchpoints across media or cultural borders.
  49. Your brand strategy is a revolving door. It changes as new executives come and go.
  50. You’re giving away IP or leaving money on the table because you haven’t licensed your brand for maximum effect.
  51. You’re boring. You’d rather stick with the tried and true than reinvent.
  52. You squabble internally or with your competitors or investors and those wars consume more and more of your time and energy.
  53. You lack zeitgeist. You can’t stay relevant – or at least you can’t stay as relevant as others seem to be.
  54. You’re tied to a partner who is dragging you down and you can’t/won’t separate from them.
  55. You’ve lost touch with what makes you special. You have 100 ideas looking for a home.
  56. You keep confusing your current customers and yourselves with new strategies.
  57. You’re caught in an identity crisis. You can’t decide who you want as customers. You keep holding onto the market you know, but that market has moved on, and you’re reluctant to chase a new tribe.
  58. Your CEO cannot articulate what your brand stands for or what it stands against and is not capable of being the ultimate brand champion.
  59. The media has lost interest in your brand.
  60. You’re inconsistent or unreliable. No-one knows where they are with you. Perhaps there are privacy or confidentiality concerns.

You can run this list up against many of the brand fades in recent years and find perfect matches on one or several points.

Here’s the good news. Strong brands reflect the qualities of those who have steadfastly built equity. And that’s a great cause for hope. Because brands are people-based and people-built, failure is not intrinsic. It is not something that is often beyond anyone’s control. But it takes open and decisive minds to take back control, act to turn things around and shift consumers to a positive frame of mind.

At The Blake Project we are helping clients around the world, in all stages of development, redefine and articulate what makes them competitive at critical moments of change through online strategy workshops. Please email us for more.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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Mark Di Somma


  • Hilton Barbour

    November 16, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Great list and fine work as always.

    2 additions which I might add

    Your brand or category has been disrupted by a competitor you never saw coming, from an angle or POV you never consider

    You eschew Scenario Planning and subsequently only have a Plan A…and no Plan B, Plan C or Plan D

  • Mark Disomma

    November 16, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Great additions Hilton. Thanks.

  • Hilton Barbour

    November 17, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Mark – with a strong tailwind, we may yet get to 70.

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