by Edward Israel-Ayide
Lengthy articles have been written about how to create a brand, improve your brand and how to ensure that your brand stays relevant in the marketplace. All these are good, and shows that if you are in need of good help, men will come to your aid, providing a billion and one “tried and tested” solutions to your brand building efforts. Thing is however, as wonderful it is that aid will always come to you in form of professional (and some not so professional) advice, most times what brand owners need to be taught is not how to build and rebuild their brands, but how to kill it. Yes. You need to learn how to kill your brand. For only then will you avoid the many pitfalls that have swallowed years of brand strategy, advertising creativity, and sales efforts.
Let me explain; in a sea of seemingly infallible Band-Aid solutions to your brands many problems, you need something that will slap you back to brand-reality. Complacency in the fact that you will always find help wherever you turn (Google has oodles) takes from you the very thing you need to understand: Not every solution is for you. Not every trend must be followed.
Below I have listed five key areas that you need to consider if you have had it with your brand and want to kill it.
WHO CARES IF YOU ARE BUYING OR SELLING?
Every year, brands spend billions of dollars on advertising and research all geared to understanding what the consumer wants and how best to give this to him. Unfortunately, most brands forget what is the most important: What side are you on? Are you selling or buying? As it is in the marketplace, what brands do is SELL to their consumers who BUY. Understand that your brand has two sides SELLER<>BUYER. When a brand assumes that it is a consumer and believes it knows what they want to buy, most times they make the mistake of developing strategies that are not consumer-centric, but are more examples of show and tell.
Know your brand and everything it stands for and why consumers should choose it over other competitors in the market. Ask yourself the 3 major brand questions and ensure that your answers sound convincing enough to yourself or to any consumers that might ask
1. Who are you?
2. What do you do?
3. Why does it matter?
IMITATE AND NOT INNOVATE.
They say imitation is the highest form of praise, so if you want to show appreciation to the leaders in your industry, single out the brands that have shown resounding success with their brand imagery, brand identity and offering, and go on to copy the heavens out of them all. They will see that you are appreciative of all they have done to bring their brand so far and thank you for it- they will also thank you for saving them the trouble of killing another competitor in the market. For free.
When pure (Sachet) water business began in the 90s, it wasn’t long before every entrepreneur with a well in the back of his yard jumped on the bandwagon and proclaimed their brand as “the undisputed water provider” (I didn’t make that one up). What happened soon after was that because there were so many sellers in the market selling a similar product, it made it hard for anyone to attain the role of a leader in the pure water market and as such, sales was generally low. Until one morning when some smart waterman decided Dispenser water (and dispensers) was the way to go. The rest is a most refreshing history of what makes brand stand apart. It was still water, but someone had added class and a certain aspirational appeal to it. This was not for the masses; dispenser water meant you had “arrived”.
This one you will agree with easily: TECHNO can copy all that SAMSUNG has done all it wants, but it will never be SAMSUNG. Android phones have become ubiquitous and cheaper, but there is still only a clear leader in that market- SAMSUNG. Why? Innovation. SAMSUNG consistently thinks of innovative ways to improve its glass display, its batteries, chip design among other components of their phones and cameras. This makes it easy for them to come out with more exciting products faster that you can say TECHNO.
Sometimes, when brands move into new markets they forget to ask themselves this very fundamental question: what does my brand communicate to the local audience? Pepsi learnt this the hard way in China where their slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” translated into the local dialect meant “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”
Quite a bold claim to be made by a cola brand, but I am sure some nostalgic Chinese customers must have stocked up on Pepsi certain that it would bring old Pa Cheung back from the afterlife.
Ford Motors got a shocker as well when sales of their new car the PINTO recorded low sales in Brazil. They must have sent a new sales team down to Rio to fire up the team and get the sales going through the roof, but when your brand name PINTO means “Tiny genitals” in the local lingua franca, there’s not much firing will do to help. Luckily they learnt this and changed the name of the car to CORCEL, which means “Horse” in Portuguese.
Lesson: Don’t mess with local culture.
THE CUSTOMER NEEDS TO BE SAVED
Nothing kills your brand better than when it is seen as a presumptuous and opinionated brand. Why would anyone judge your brand based on these human qualities? Because that is the one thing that draws people to your brand as I have touched on here. When you go into the marketplace with the presumption that your brand is the much needed elixir to all of a consumer’s needs without giving any thought to what the consumer wants, then you can rest certain that your brand will have a befitting funeral.
True, there is that quote attributed to Henry Ford when asked about the Ford T Model “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Yes, you might have to show the consumer what they don’t know they need sometimes as APPLE has done quite successfully, but this does not in anyway mean that you should preempt your consumer and give them what YOU think they want. When a brand assumes the savior complex, believes it is the only thing that the consumer needs, and takes the liberty to insult the intelligence of the consumers by trying to shove their brand down their throat, then certain death.
This reminds me a lot of how the two major political brands in Nigeria and their followers play out the brand PDP/APC war on Social Media. Join us or die!
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
So many brand managers take persistence too far. When you have tried to introduce a new product or brand and it fails time after time in the marketplace for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong in throwing in the towel and thinking up a new product or service to sell. If however you choose to continue on the part of “If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again” then don’t be surprised if while trying to save one untested sub-brand, you damage what years of brand-building has helped the parent brand to achieve.
Take this case about PEPSI; (Yes, Pepsi again) in the early 90s, the marketing guys at PEPSI were of the opinion that they had found a gap in the market and moved quickly to fill it. As far as they were concerned, what the world needed was clear cola. Since varieties of cola such as diet, cherry flavored, sugar-free, caffeine-enhanced had all been introduced with a degree of success, why not a clear cola?
After months of tests and experiments the company arrived at its new, clear formula and decided to call it Crystal Pepsi. They also produced a diet version – Diet Crystal Pepsi. Both products, Pepsi believed, answered the ‘new consumer demand for purity.’ After all, it was a time when consumers were starting to opt for a bottle of Evian or Perrier just as often as they were picking up a bottle of Coke or Pepsi.
This one you will agree with easily: TECHNO can copy all that SAMSUNG has done all it wants, but it will never be SAMSUNG. Android phones have become ubiquitous and cheaper, but there is still only a clear leader in that market- SAMSUNG. Why? Innovation.
The only problem was that a product with the word ‘Pepsi’ in its name was expected to taste like, well, Pepsi. But it didn’t. In fact, nobody seemed to know what it tasted of. (Reminds me of that abomination called Coca Cola Zero) It wasn’t long before Pepsi realized its mistake and halted the production of Crystal Pepsi and started work on a new clear formula. In 1994, the reworked product appeared on the shelves, branded simply as Crystal, and available only in regular. However, the negative associations persisted and Crystal did even worse than its unpopular predecessor. Pepsi eventually admitted that the idea of “Clear Cola” was an epic fail and scrapped the whole project. SEE MORE HERE
There you have it in five easy steps, stick to this and you can invite me to your brand’s funeral. I promise you I will wear black. You are welcome.
EDWARD ISRAEL-AYIDE is fascinated by individual and corporate brands. He tweets from @wildeyeq
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija