Some brands may have a brilliant product but end up failing with their competitors. There could be many reasons for that, but the major reason is simply the fact that they failed to establish an emotional bond with their consumers
Former Starbucks VP of Marketing once admitted that,
Consumers don’t truly believe there’s a huge difference between products
Instead of blaming the “product,” the company needs to blame the “brand” for not being able to establish an emotional connection.
We’ve expanded five fundamental brand sins, heavily inspired by Matt Haig’s discoveries. Here are the five deadly branding sins :
1. Brand Amnesia:
It happens when a brand forgets its true purpose and story. It mainly occurs when the leader ignores why they started their brand and instead ends up changing its direction to something else.
When Coke stepped away from its true identity and created New Coke, the public didn’t like the decision at all. In return, the fans launched nationwide campaigns to bring back the old coke.
For the brand, this was unexpected. Despite the New Coke tasting better than the previous Coke and even their competitor Pepsi, the public didn’t buy it. The change to the century-old taste didn’t go as expected.
What was the reason behind it? For the public, Coke wasn’t just a soda drink. They were passionate about it. It was more to them. And Coke realized that and came back to its core values.
Now all of its campaigns are merely “emotional marketing,” where the company promotes the idea that Coke isn’t just a soda drink. It’s a means to get families and friends together. A meal isn’t complete without a bottle of Coke. Hence people resonated with the idea.
2. Brand Ego
A brand develops an ego problem when it overestimates its worth and capability in the market. It can lead to issues such as refusing to enhance products with the changing marketplace.
A perfect example is Facet, which was known to make the best mechanical calculators in the world. Everyone used them. But in 1971, the modern Japanese calculators started to disrupt the market. What was the response from Facit? Nothing. They continued to produce the same thing.
Facit refused to acknowledge the importance of modern calculators and to bring a change in their product line. Instead, the irony was that the Facit engineers would themselves use the cheap Japanese calculators to double-check their calculations. The company vanished from the market in mere months.
This behavior occurs when the brand starts to attach its name to many product lines at once in pursuit of gaining sales and market share. When Egoism brought Facit to the brink of failure in a matter of months, it can also facilitate the brand’s expansion to other markets.
Virgin Group is a prime example. A company that started from a record label brand quickly advanced onto many sectors ranging from finance to airlines.
An article on The observer once highlighted “the perfect Virgin Life,” and it went on something like so :
Every morning you can wake up to Virgin Radio, put on Virgin clothes and make-up, drive to work in a car bought through Virgin using money from your Virgin bank account. On your way home you can pop into a Virgin Active gym. At weekends you can use a Virgin mobile phone or Virgin’s Internet service to find out what is on at the local Virgin cinema. As you head off on holiday on a Virgin train or plane, you can plan Virgin video games to pass by your time…..
It seemed anywhere Richard puts Virgin’s name, that company would work. But for once, it didn’t. That was with the Cola Industry.
Richard organized a massive event, where he tore down a billboard with a Coke ad with a tank. The event drove a considerable public to witness the launch. However, the product wasn’t great. It failed in comparison to the already leading competitors, Coke and Pepsi.
Coke took massive measures to make sure that Virgin cola doesn’t take up space on the retail shelves. Within days, an English-woman working at Coca-Cola sent a SWAT team out to England. They struck new unbeatable terms with retailers to fill up the shelves with Coke instead of Virgin Cola. Virgin even threatened smaller retailers with the removal of Coca-Cola fridges. Virgin Cola continued to survive in the market rather. Ironically, the same English-woman is now serving as senior vice president of Virgin Group’s clearing bank.
4. Brand Deception
Some brands think of “marketing” as the practice of exaggerating big claims about the positive effects of a product, to the point of even blatantly lying about the product features. One such brand was Danone’s product Activia which fell victim to such a practice.
In their marketing campaign for Activia, featuring American Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, they showed the viewers that occasional digestive irregularities aren’t pleasing. And later proceeded to show that having Activia 3 times a day can help improve the digestive function and make you feel great, based on “proposed research” and “doctor recommendations.”
In a legal lawsuit filed against the company for false advertising, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) said that :
“[i]n truth and in fact, eating one serving of Activia daily is not clinically proven to relieve temporary irregularity and help with slow intestinal transit time.”
False advertising can get you across in the short term. But can drastically affect you in the long run. Being truthful to your consumers is crucial for brand success.
5. Brand Paranoia
Being the opposite of brand ego, here, the brand acts defensively rather than offensive. Brand Paranoia leads to actions such as filing lawsuits against competitors, changing their branding every six months, or imitating every competitor move.
As early as 2009, Gucci accused Guess of copying Gucci’s logo on some of Guess’s shoes. In both New York and Milan, Gucci filed two lawsuits and won the New York case. It was ruled in favor of Guess by the Milan court, which stated that it was common for fashion brands to use the letter “G.”
The constant act of threatening competitors leads to brands becoming defensive. This continuous focus on competitors hiders them from focusing on the right group of people — their consumers.
6. Brand Irrelevance
It occurs due to market changes and changing consumer trends. When brands fail to move with the changing market, they become obsolete.
Blockbuster is a classic example. In 2000, Netflix approached Blockbuster with an offer to buy the company for US$50 million. They refused, saying that “ Netflix was a “tiny niche business.” In 2020 Netflix had 195.15 million paid subscribers worldwide and made revenue of US$20.16 billion.
The best branding agencies use interactive strategies to humanize brands by fostering a bond between the desired audience and the brand. Outstanding products can fail due to poor branding (what happened to New Coke) — because of this, establishing an emotional bond with consumers is essential.