Branding is the glue between the marketing side of things in your business and your consumers/clients. It creates a sense of ownership for the business and hopefully clearly displays differentiation for the consumer. Today, branding goes even further than identification and can tip the scale towards brand success or brand failure, in that bond with the consumer, in the image portrayed and the way it is done, in the promises associated with that image and finally the positioning of the brand in light of others.

It is a fair and important question to ask when we invest so much into our brands and businesses, what causes a brand to fail? What are the effects of that failure and what is the solution or even better, a way to prevent the failure in the first place?



The most common reason for brand failure might very well be the lack of understanding what a brand really is and focusing all one’s energy on creating a product or service instead of building a brand. We are past the days of being able to have a strong product and having that be enough to sustain a brand, a business.

The confusion also lies with the concept of branding, often defined by a logo, some ‘cool’ campaigns, color coordinated collaterals, and so on, instead of thinking of it as a set of principles, values, goals, supported by a visual identity.

Focusing on a product or service, and not knowing what branding is truly about can condemn your business or said product to an ephemeral success. As soon as another product with equal or even slightly less value but a strong brand identity comes along, the interest in your product will very likely start to dimmer. Good products don’t end up being the champions automatically anymore, strong brands do.

The best way to avoid that confusion and make sure you do create a solid brand is to invest in brand equity and attach emotional value to your brand rather than just your product, however great or affordable or original it is. That emotional connection/bond with the consumer creates loyalty in time, which creates longevity. That being said you still need to offer value in your product, it’s not one or another, it’s both.



Riding the trend waves can be a beneficial habit but as a brand it can be a reason for brand failure. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the new thing, especially when everybody else around seems to be doing it (think calligraphy for photographer logos, or pink and gold for women focused brands). The amnesia or the sudden or frequent change of brand direction can also come from a weak initial brand or a brand built on what seemed appealing at the time rather than what was truly the heart of the business.

It gets scary for the consumer when a brand completely changes gear and becomes unrecognizable. It raises questions: do they still stand for this or that value? Are the products or services still as good or as green or as luxurious? Is the customer service quality going to be different? Do I still want to support them with my money? Those are not questions you want your customers to ever have. They start to lose faith in the initial promises you made and might look around for another brand, which very clearly stands for the values they always have, values your consumers used to find in you.

Preventing the brand amnesia happens at two levels. The first is to build a brand in which you can, if you had to, defend with your life, meaning a brand with values that you truly share and believe in. That way you won’t feel the urge to continuously switch and adapt or reconnect.

Secondly, following trends isn’t necessarily dooming for your brand if, and that’s a big if, it fits right in your values and brand culture, and all the messaging you have been putting out, not the other way around.



Megalomania, also known as the delusions of grandeur, along with ego is an usual suspect in brand failure. Some brands get a little dizzy with big success and start to lose the initial vision and want to do it all, and be it all and try it all. Well, that does not work as well as we might think sometimes. This isn’t about diversification, which is by the way recommended, it is about either trying to grow too fast into something else/something new, or not paying attention anymore to the desires and needs of their current/loyal consumers, who have made the previous successes possible – because of the pursuit of new consumer groups.

The main danger in this case of brand megalomania is the risk of losing it all. The brand comes across as arrogant, power and/or money thirsty. The old consumers feel neglected and grow unsatisfied, while the new prospects feel ganged up on and not wooed enough (love takes time to develop, they say) and don’t end up latching on.

Backtracking could work in this case – might require a lot ‘red roses’ sent towards your previously loyal consumers but the key is to not fall into that situation in the first place. It’s paramount to take the time to understand our successes, their sources, their effects and how to build upon them without losing our minds in the excitement. The main antidote for megalomania is to keep people at the center and not money. Yes, we all are in business to make money but people will always be the ones who own the wallets, therefore they need to be your priority.



When paranoia or panic kicks in we tend to take a lot of reactionary actions and implement new strategies that are not always well thought out and consequently lead to failure. Paranoia usually happens when we are trying to remain profitable while our competitors are striving, it creates panic and then forces us to try to promptly keep up – somehow, someway. Brand paranoia is also connected to a lack of change out of fear of messing up and disturbing what’s been working, although the market and the consumers are requiring change. Finally, constantly trying to reinvent itself is a sign of a failing brand as well.

In this scenario change can make it or break it for a brand. Coca-Cola’s change attempt in the 1980’s, 1985 to be exact , when Pepsi seemed to be the ‘cool new kid on the block’ with ‘Pepsi Generation’ and ‘Pepsi challenge’ is the perfect example of change creating failure. Pepsi’s success brought on an obvious panic tornado within the Coca-Cola marketing and branding teams, as they then decided to launch the ‘New Coke’, the first formula change in 99 years. In appearance a new product isn’t so bad of a strategy to counter a new competitor, but when your message has been “you can always count on us to stay classic and keep that original recipe intact”, then it’s the worst possible move.

Polaroid is the opposite example of lack of change creating brand failure. They either didn’t foresee and anticipate the disinterest in printed photography or the rise of the digital world, but they stuck to their guns, stayed a one trick pony business, and didn’t adapt to the change of needs and desires, which didn’t only create a brand failure but also the bankruptcy of the company itself.

This is a delicate matter – what to do when faced with the need of change? To stay still and unshaken or to move and depart from what’s been done so far ( singing ‘should I stay or should I go’). I don’t think there’s a blanket response, it’s a case by case situation unfortunately. Coca-Cola absolutely needed to act but perhaps not react. Polaroid on the other end should have realized the path of innovation and adapted without losing the soul of the business. Their solid ground sadly turned into quicksand. Change isn’t a sin either way but it has to be well thought out if done and not either a result of paralysis analysis – the lack of it that is.



Sophism is the use of a fallacious argument deliberately to deceive someone. If the other reasons seemed accidental or clumsy at best, this one is purely intended and dishonest. It is not a matter of transparency, not every detail must be shared of course but spreading false information to create sales is deceitful and an obvious and shall I add a well deserved brand failure. I believe defects happen and can be explained and fixed, while purposely choosing to cheat and lie to your consumers is despicable and leads to terrible damages for the brand.

Deception affects reputation and reputation hits right at the heart of the giant. It’s almost impossible or extremely difficult to repair those damages even with the best PR. Losing trust is the biggest consequence of deceiving your consumers, aside from making them feel unsafe and disrespected. There’s a legal level of things that we won’t get into here but that also would contribute in this situation to kill a brand.

Not to state the obvious but “don’t lie, tell the truth” is the best advice I would have for anybody, any business, any brand. ‘Honesty’ should be part of every brand’s principles. Be upfront about your mistakes, forgiving an error is easier than forgetting a lie.

Brand failure can happen for all sorts of reasons and have all kinds of effects in the short and long run, but having strong and solid values in which you truly believe is the base for any successful brand. You cannot and should not ignore the market but reacting to every twitch and move can be a mistake.


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