Pointless advertising. Unresponsive customer service departments. Convoluted buying processes. If I didn’t know better, I’d think some companies were actually trying to kill their brands.
Even revered brands like Starbucks and iPhone have recently made curious, clumsy missteps. But for my money, they’re not trying hard enough. Why do things halfway? If you’re serious about killing your brand, That Branding Thing is pleased to offer 20 tips and tricks – guaranteed to set your brand on the path to miserable, abject failure!
- Leave branding to the marketing department. No need for upper management to lead it, or for the entire company to be involved. Marketing’s job is to convince people to buy things, and it’s what you say, not what you do, that really matters.
- Don’t waste time telling your own people about your brand. They already should know what it stands for.
- Treat branding like a coat of paint. If you have a bright, shiny exterior, maybe no one will notice the cracks in the walls.
- Do it fast. Doing it well is hard.
- Be afraid. Of standing out. Of zigging where others zag. Of calculated risk. Of saying no. Of blazing a new trail. Of firing a customer. Be very afraid.
- Cultivate a healthy arrogance. Your customers are simpletons, easily led and fooled. Their trust and loyalty is a given. And in the age of the Internet, how could they ever learn your dirty secrets?
- Ignore your values. Or better yet, don’t define them at all. That soft stuff doesn’t sell anyways.
- Never, ever admit a mistake. That’s a sign of weakness.
- Punch the clock. There’s nothing to be gained from a genuine passion for your brand or curiosity about its consumers (they’re simpletons anyway, remember?). Just do the bare minimum to get yourself promoted. Keep your head down and count the days until vacation.
- Chase every trend. You want to stay hip, don’t you? Authenticity is so two years ago.
- A side benefit of chasing the trends: You’ll never have to define what you stand for! And if you absolutely must craft a statement of brand equity and vision, make it plenty vague. Remember: A nice, vague vision means no action you take can possibly be construed as wrong.
- Extend your brand up, down and sideways. Since you haven’t defined what you stand for, there’s nothing to stop you from dipping a toe into any category imaginable.
- Treat branding like a project to be completed, not something that unfolds every day. Check the box and move on. “Now that we’re done branding, we can focus on selling stuff!”
- Do whatever your larger competitors do. If they’re doing it, it must be working.
- Ignore design. Great design is overrated.
- Make all brand decisions based on financial analysis alone.
- Nothing to say in your ad? Don’t let that stop you from running it. Just make sure it’s, you know, funny and clever and irreverent. And how about a loveable animal mascot?
- Since you’re running pointless ads, why not change the message every few weeks? That way, you’ll have something for everybody. It’s not inconsistency, it’s “casting a wide net.”
- Focus on short-term sales, not meaningful long-term growth. Long-term growth never got anybody a year-end bonus.
- It’s not how many lives you improve. It’s how many units you move.
We’re not done. For twenty more time-honored ways to kill your brand, be sure to visit this space again on September 19.
A version of this post appeared in the Aug. 22, 2008, Business Courier of Cincinnati in the column “That Branding Thing.” Thanks to the many friends of Three Deuce who offered their ideas.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew founded Three Deuce Branding in 1997 with a simple mission: “To help good people build great brands.” He’s a former CMO who repeatedly led underdog brands to dramatically outpace the market, and now he does the same for the clients he serves. Businesses with revenues of seven to ten figures trust Matthew to help them achieve “brand clarity” through core brand strategy and positioning. Matthew is also a highly-rated speaker. Contact Matthew here. He’s based in Chicago.
Copyright 2008 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.