How to Kill Your Brand – 40 Easy Ways!

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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.

Since so many companies seem determined to destroy their brands through boneheaded moves and bad decisions, I thought I’d lend them a hand.

If you’re serious about killing your brand, I’m pleased to offer 40 tips and tricks – guaranteed to set your brand on the path to miserable, abject failure!

  1. 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.
  2. Don’t waste time telling your own people about your brand. They already should know what it stands for.
  3. Treat branding like a coat of paint. If you have a bright, shiny exterior, maybe no one will notice the cracks in the walls.
  4. Do it fast. Doing it well is hard.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. Ignore your values. Or better yet, don’t define them at all. That soft stuff doesn’t sell anyways.
  8. Never, ever admit a mistake. That’s a sign of weakness.
  9. 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.
  10. Chase every trend. You want to stay hip, don’t you? Authenticity is so two years ago.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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!”
  14. Do whatever your larger competitors do. If they’re doing it, it must be working.
  15. Ignore design. Great design is overrated.
  16. Make all brand decisions based on financial analysis alone.
  17. 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?
  18. 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.”
  19. Focus on short-term sales, not meaningful long-term growth. Long-term growth never got anybody a year-end bonus.
  20. It’s not how many lives you improve. It’s how many units you move.
  21. Focus on awareness as your primary marketing objective. Heck, Charles Manson has great awareness, and he… okay, bad example.
  22. Assume that if you build it, they will come. Your technologies, production processes and other features are so compelling that you need no other brand story.
  23. Cut brand investments. Business is good? You clearly don’t need to spend more. Business is bad? Gotta make cuts somewhere.
  24. Alienate your loyal customers by offering new customers a better deal.
  25. Play to the stockholders first. Because they’ve got your brand’s best interests at heart, right? They’re certainly not motivated by self-interest and short-term gains.
  26. Adopt a “no innovation” policy. Simply wait for your competitors to bring new ideas to the market. Then produce your own cheap knockoffs.
  27. Fly by the seat of your pants. There’s no point in defining your objectives, whether numerical or perceptual, and thus no point in defining strategies to achieve them. You’ll know success when you inevitably get there.
  28. If forced to define an objective, use sales and sales only. Branding is like competitive bodybuilding: He who is biggest clearly wins.
  29. Water down your Brand Character. Describe your brand the same way you’d describe a Boy Scout: Honest. Approachable. Reliable. Authentic. You get the picture. Eighty per cent of brands do this, so you know it’s a safe choice.
  30. Ignore the needs and preferences of your distribution channels. Your product is so amazing that they should be begging for it.
  31. Make sure your vendors know they’re vendors, not partners. Squeeze them on price, then ask them for free work or goods as a means of “investing in the relationship.” Insult their efforts and otherwise set them up for failure. When they do fail, remember to adopt a tone of righteous indignation.
  32. Discount, discount, discount!
  33. Assume, don’t investigate. You know in your gut what your customers love. Ignore the input of the sales team, other employees and your customers and partners. (Oops! I meant vendors.) If you like it, why research it?
  34. If you must engage in research, don’t use it to gather insights. Use it to confirm your opinions. Should it fail to do so, claim a flaw in the research design.
  35. Treat strategic and marketing planning as the once-a-year exercise in futility that everybody knows it is.
  36. Ignore the lessons of the past. There is nothing to be learned from other brands or your own history. Forward march!
  37. Consistency in your brand presentation is difficult to maintain. So don’t bother. It doesn’t matter if you put out five conflicting messages at once, as long as one of them makes the sale.
  38. Don’t have a core brand idea? Don’t worry! You just need a steady stream of clever promotional ideas. Given enough attempts, something is bound to stick.
  39. Learn only a little, and apply even less. Don’t do branding so much as you do a few things that branding is rumored to consist of.
  40. Honesty is relative. If your legal department says you can say it, you can say it.

And there you have it – forty ways to put your brand on the road to ruin. Meet you at the brand graveyard!

A version of this post appeared in the 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 helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2008 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

One Reply to “How to Kill Your Brand – 40 Easy Ways!”

  1. Wow, what a list. I think I’ve seen a half dozen brands do at least half of those. There are some really good points made here and hopefully brand managers around the web read this and think about it for a moment. A brand is only as good as the talent it has on staff and the processes & management team it uses to ensure quality and vision. Although I’ve met several brand managers who simply rely on a good agency to make them look good.

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