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Why Good Brands Go Bad

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We have all seen them at one time or the other. Brands-corporate or personal, that were once doing so well at a time and then the next minute they were flat on their faces. While a lot entrepreneurs desire brand success and are willing to go any length to make it happen, they often do not pay adequate attention to the silent brand killers. The symptoms might have been there all along, but they only tend to seek help when everything has gone totally bad - the cash register is no longer ringing, once faithful customers are no longer picking your calls or have actually gone ahead to give their businesses to someone else.

The simple truth is that the handwriting was on the wall, but we were either too busy 'doing business' to notice or we just couldn't be bothered. After all, we usually reason, money is coming in, so everything else can go to sleep...for now at least!

As entrepreneurs who are desirous of building truly successful and stable brands, we cannot afford to close our eyes when the warning signs of brand decline or failure begin to emerge. The only way to deal with anything is to confront and deal with it.

So what signs should you watch out for and what should you do?

Ignoring the customers: A brand exists for the key purpose of being the bridge that connects a product's or service's promise with the consumer's desire. Once a brand fails to carry out this major task, it is on its way to failure. You therefore need to constantly evaluate your brand and all it stands for, to ensure that it is still aligned with customers' needs. Make amendments where necessary. Attend promptly to complaints. Do all that is ethically possible to make customers feel like the king that they are. Don't forget that a great logo does not put money into anyone's pocket; It is customers who enrich us by buying into whatever it is we are selling. Do all you can to retain yours.

Defaulting on brand promise: As stated above, a brand is a promise to the customer and It is a promise which must be kept at all times.  In fact, until a brand does what it says it would and does it well, the branding cycle is not complete. Right from inception, identify what your brand promise is and more importantly, put a process in place to see to it that the promise is kept. A brand that fails to keep its promise does not stand the chance of survival, not with the stiff competition. Let the brand promise become the mantra for everyone in the organisation and let them realise that until it is delivered on, they cannot sign off. Make it the rallying point for all activities. It does not matter how fantastic an idea is, if it goes against the brand promise then don't buy it. You will have to make some sacrifices as there are certain things you might have to forgo, there might be times when you have to go the extra mile, but at the end of the day, you will reap the rewards by way of satisfied and loyal customers.

Brand inconsistency: I was in the car the other day with a friend who happens to be a cake freak. I listened as she made a comment about the decline in the quality of the products of a particular cake and confectionery outfit - which some years ago was her favourite. I have heard a number of people make the same comment about this company and its products. My point here is customers are more observant than we think. The only way to earn their trust and build brand loyalty is to ensure brand consistency. Whatever standards you have set for your brand, strive to maintain it. Educate ALL your employees and suppliers on these standards and the importance. This way, they get to understand the brand and how to deliver on it consistently. Consistency here applies to everything about the brand-the logo and the way it is used across different medium, the shades of corporate colours, quality of brand identity materials like business cards, letterhead, invoice, the appearance of employees and more importantly, the manner in which customers are served. Set the standards and keep to them.

Not paying attention to brand image: I have observed that unlike the big brands, some Small Growing Businesses (SGB) do not pay attention to brand image. Brand image is the overall impression in consumers’ mind that is formed from all sources - the logo, colours, performance of the brand, customer service, e.t.c. Consumers develop various associations with the brand. Based on these associations, they form brand image.

To keep your brand alive, DECIDE on the image you want customers to form about it and DELIBERATELY communicate same. If you want to be perceived as the expert in your field, then everything you do and HOW you do it, MUST communicate this. You can't label yourself as 'A' and then repeatedly act as 'B'.  This will only lead to brand distrust which can lead a brand to its early grave.

As tough as the economy is right now, there are brands in the SME sector that are standing tall. Pay attention to the issues discussed above and deal with anyone of them as soon as it surfaces. That way you save your brand and give it a chance to achieve its full potentials.

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