Why a Brand Either Succeeds or Fails

So I was really excited to come across a recent study of 2,000 consumers that revealed 88% of people believe that brands are selfish. Eighty-eight percent!

What’s exciting to me is when you find high statistics like that, you basically find a perfect opportunity to do better than many of the other brands out there today!

When I see that 88% of consumers believe that brands are selfish, what that tells me, is that many brands out there haven’t learned that they need to listen more closely than ever before to their Ideal Individuals. It tells me that many brands are still milking archaic methods, that just aren’t working anymore. The curtain has not just been pulled back, it’s been completely torn away!

As digital consumers, we are too smart to fall for old methods, and we want to be treated that way. We have the ability to peer right into the heart of your brand, deep into its operation. If there is any scrutiny to be found, we will find it. In fact, we can sense it.

Take it down to a very basic example. When you’re speaking with someone, and maybe they aren’t telling you the whole story, or they are trying to convince you of something but the details just don’t quite match up, you can feel it in your gut! We have an innate sense within us, that will say, “Don’t trust this person right away.” “Something’s not quite right, here.” It’s the same when choosing which brands to trust. Being authentic and consistent are key to building trust with your ideal individuals.

A 2014 study on authentic brands, reviewed by FastCompany, revealed that the number one quality people demand of big brands is honesty, and I’d say that study is spot on.

When I talk about being an authentic brand, I always come back to Mr. Rogers. I just think that man is a national treasure. I don’t know if you’ve watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, the feature film starring another one of our country’s national treasures, Mr. Tom Hanks…it was based on the true story of a reporter for the Times who was known for writing bitingly critical articles. So as happenstance, he is given the assignment to interview Mr. Fred Rogers. It’s only supposed to be one meeting, and a few paragraphs, but during the interview Mr. Rogers was so authentically kind and generous in spirit and gentle and loving and every bit as wonderful in person as he is on the silver screen — And the reporter was knocked back on his heels. He didn’t want to buy it. He becomes fixated on unearthing the truth of the real Mr. Rogers, and what he uncovers is that Mr. Rogers is just a wonderfully loving, forgiving human being, who strives daily to overcome his own fears and flaws. Exactly as he tries to help millions of children to do for themselves every week. Authenticity is a phenomenon, and in the world of branding it can be a revolutionary act that can make true believers out of 88% of consumers who are just waiting for an authentic brand to make them want to lean in and believe that maybe your brand really is different from all the rest.

What is the most common reason for a brand to fail?

We discussed earlier, how keeping a promise that makes people’s lives better is what a brand is born to do, right? Well, when a brand stops keeping its promise, when it fails to fulfill the purpose of making people’s lives better, then that brand begins to die.

What can mainly account for the failure of most if not all brands, is a failure to listen. Remember all your income as a brand will be from listening. When you are really listening to the customers and employees who make up your brand community, they will let you know that your brand isn’t keeping it’s promise for a greater future with plenty of time to make amends and right the ship. Unfortunately brands who fail to listen, often don’t realize what’s missing from their branding strategy until it’s too late. That’s why I say it’s never too early to start listening to your community. Start getting to know them best now, because in the long run the brand that listens best is the brand that wins brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is your business plan.

Weight Watchers is a great example of a big brand that was successful for years, and almost went belly up after one tone-deaf marketing campaign made Weight Watchers realize that they had stopped listening.

Consider what Weight Watchers has stood for all these years: dieting, eating less, losing weight, getting points for sticking to the plan, and ultimately achieving some weight or dress size goal. Look at the brand story that it started out with some five decades ago: there was Jean Nidetch, “formerly fat housewife”, company founder and face of the brand back in the day. The message was if you’re overweight you’re unworthy, inadequate or flawed; to be whole and worthy you need to lose weight, get to a certain size. This type of fat shaming; we’re calling it sizeism now — is simply not a part of our collective psyche anymore. We are more about health, fitness, stamina, strength, wellness, not just size and weight. And we have been for a pretty long time, and Weight Watchers were OBVIOUSLY not listening. The straw that broke the camel’s back is when they offered a free summer membership for teens, that triggered a fierce wave of social media backlash that resulted in #wakeupweightwatchers to start trending. Go look for Weight Watchers today, and you’ll find they had to entirely rebrand just to stay alive. They even dropped the name Weight Watchers. They are now known as WW, “Wellness that Works.” The rebrand cost them millions of dollars, and they are now hoping their new branding image will help them recoup their losses. And it would have never gone down like that for them, if only they hadn’t stopped listening.

So yes, all your income will be from listening — AND failing to listen could cost you everything.

As always, the way to becoming an Inspiration to Millions starts with our motto: Love What You Do and Love How You Do It.

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