12 Ways Brands Get Off Track

12 Sins of Branding

Companies, like people, can go off track. A simple error compounds. The wrong attitude takes root. A poorly designed strategy is implemented. Perhaps the focus is just a bit off, sending everything off course. It happens.

What do you do if you are off track? How do you recognize the signs?

There are two branding experts that I turn to when it comes to branding and revitalizing brands: Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They not only have the experience, but their advice is my favorite kind: practical and actionable. I’m not one for studying theories that I can’t immediately use.

I recently spoke with the authors about the troubling behaviors and attitudes that cause companies to mess up their brand. They have identified 12 ways that brands go awry. Their updated book on branding, Six Rules of Brand Revitalization, is a must-read on the subject.



The Arrogance of Success

How do you pull a culture out of arrogance, especially if they don’t realize it?

Often it takes a sense of urgency, a perception of an impending crisis. Change is difficult. An arrogant culture resists change until it seems that there is no option. Change or die. Dramatize the need for change. The most dangerous disease is complacency. Arrogance can lead to complacency. Complacency can keep your eyes closed to innovation and leave you out of date with your customers. The common expression, “Go back to basics,” is often used to defend resisting change. Going backwards will not guide marketers how to best go forward.



Culture change is led from the top. The leader sets the tone. Sometimes a leadership change is necessary. This is what happened at McDonald’s in 2002. The new leadership immediately dramatized the need for change. Jim Cantalupo, the new CEO, created a sense of urgency.

We recommend the four steps of Breaking the LOCK on Brand Troubles: Fix Leadership; then leadership can fix the Organization alignment. Cultural change is an imperative. Knowledge is a powerful force. Become a learning culture…


12 Branding Sins

1: The arrogance of success

2: The comfort of complacency

3: The building of organizational barriers and bureaucratic processes

4: The focus on analyst satisfaction rather than on customer satisfaction

5: The belief that what worked yesterday will work today

6: The failure to innovate

7: The lack of focus on the core customer

8: The backtracking to basics

9: The loss of relevance

10: The lack of a coherent Plan to Win

11: The lack of a balanced Brand-Business Scorecard

12: The disregard for the changing world



Is there one that is most often the culprit in brand failures?

As we say in the book, the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble are not independent of each other. These are all interconnected forces. A company that succumbs to one seems to succumb to more than one. There is no single culprit. Each of the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble must be avoided.



Encourage a Culture of Innovation

What encourages a culture of innovation?

Open-mindedness and willingness to support and disseminate creative thinking are essential for encouraging an innovative culture. The leader must help to create a culture that is conducive to creativity. Innovation is not only about new products; it can be a new service, a process, a technology, an organizational change, and so on. Good ideas can come from anyone, and from anywhere in the organization. Headquarters does not have a lock on good ideas. Great ideas bubble up throughout the system. So, it means having a means for harnessing ideas from each function and geography. It is not the size of the country or function that counts: it is the size of the idea.


Larry Light is the Chairman of Arcature. He was a senior executive and board member at BBDO and President of the international division of Ted Bates. He was Global CMO of McDonald’s and led their brand turnaround from 2002 to 2005. More recently, Light was the Global Chief Brands Officer of IHG.

Joan Kiddon is President & COO of Arcature. She consulted on the McDonald’s key strategic projects during its turnaround. She began her marketing career at BBDO.


Guard Your Brand’s Relevance

How do you guard against declining relevance?

Never lose touch with your customers, the customers’ needs, their occasions and their competitive sets. Never take your eye off the ways in which your category, industry and the world are changing. Be anticipatory. Be flexible. Relevance depends on news that is meaningful for the customer. Identify opportunities that customers don’t know how to articulate. If you want to know what customers want, don’t ask them what they want. Ask them to complain. People are much better at expressing their problems, concerns, and worries. Problem-solution remains the most effective way to stay relevant.



Number 12 is a disregard for a changing world. On the other hand, you could change too often. How do you find the right balance?

Six Rules of Brand RevitalizationThe leader must be the one to manage this balance. If leadership changes frequently, then changes happen frequently. If a leader is always chasing the next shiny object or the following the ideas in the latest business bestseller, then change will be too frequent. Change for the sake of change is problematic. That is why it is so important to apply discipline to change. Ask, “What are we changing? Why is it important? Why now? What is the size of the opportunity? What will we do differently?” The role of the leader and the leadership team must be to focus the enterprise and its people on meaningful change. The issue is not the frequency of change. It is the importance of the change. If it is important to the customer and important to the business, then make the change.



Six Rules of Brand Revitalization New Brand Leadership: Managing at the Intersection of Globalization, Localization and Personalization

Continue Reading

Learn the important power of prioritizing sleep

Learn the important power of prioritizing sleep

Subscribe today and receive a free e-book. Get Your Guide to a Solid Night of Sleep free when you sign up to receive blog updates via email.

Thank you! Please check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This