Branding is the cornerstone of successful product marketing. Having a brand name that rolls off the tongue is as important as how it looks on the shelf. Coke, Pepsi, Ford, McDonalds, Dempsters, Sealy – all of these brands conjure images that are meant to hook the customer so they get a feeling every time they see or hear their names spoken.
But what if your brand isn’t a household name? What if it has fallen by the wayside and isn’t in the public eye as much anymore? Some brands will panic and overhaul everything to try and fix the problem, while others simply adopt a “wait and see” approach. While these are technically 'solutions' to a problem, they fail to address the real issue that is plaguing the company.
That issue? The brand has become stale.
This is a product nightmare. Staleness in branding makes it exceedingly difficult to create new customers. Some companies use the overhauled image plan to try and assess the brand staleness but often that leads to a money pit and a brand that - at one time may have been recognizable - now being new and foreign to once loyal customers. The “wait and see” approach usually means a slower death for the brand.
How Do I Know if My Brand is Stale?
There are a 5 things to look for when assessing the freshness of your brand. If your brand expresses any of the following issues, you most likely have a brand that has gone stale and needs improvement.
1) Your Brand Looks “Tired”
Do you remember how the old cans of Campbell’s Soup used to look? The iconic red and white label with the calligraphic font has changed slightly over the years with the incorporation of blue tones and a slightly updated lettering. Campbell’s could, however, easily revert to the classic can packaging, and perhaps even see an uptick in sales. The homey vibe of the can and its distinctive look gives off an aura of comfort that transcends generations of soup lovers.
Campbell’s cans are classics; almost antiques. Their look can be considered as a throwback to a bygone era.
There is a massive difference between “classic” and “tired”.
Tired-looking products have a difficult time convincing customers that your product is the better option. Customers don’t buy things out of pity, and tired branding instills that pitiful feeling in potential buyers. Making sure that your brand is current and meaningful to your customer is important in ensuring your brand stays fresh. Stale brands tend not to understand this notion, and thus lose out to other brands.
2) Your Marketing is Failing
One of the first things that stagnant brands do to resurrect their fallen status is to launch a marketing campaign. This could mean a rebrand, with new elevision spots, new magazine ads, and everything in between. In these instances, sometimes a new marketing firm or head of advertising is hired. With a huge marketing push, and a new firm or executive looking after it, the company expects the brand to return to where it stood before it turned stale.
The unfortunate thing that happens with some marketing campaigns is that the brand can remain stale even after a marketing blitz. There could be a myriad of reasons for this to be occurring. Maybe the marketing isn’t targeting the right demographic. Or maybe it’s part of a national strategy that just doesn’t play in smaller cities and towns.
Regardless, the money being diverted towards marketing is rarely spent properly by companies whose brands have gone stale. Fresh brands understand where that money needs to be focused and to whom they need to be pushing their products.
3) Your Market has Grown, and Your Brand Hasn’t
Let’s say you are in the sporting goods market. Your company has been producing tensor bandages for a long while, and has been competitive for many years. In recent years, there has been an uptick in people who are into fitness and sports and they haven’t been active for many years. For this reason, they require tensor bandages to continue their new active lifestyles.
When your market grows, you should feel a rise in sales along with your competition. This is true unless your brand has become stale. This could mean that you haven’t narrowed your brand’s focus to encapsulate what the market has become. In order to keep your brand fresh in the market’s eyes, it will have to reflect the trends of the customer.
If your product is tensors and your target is an older population, branding your product to emphasize joint support and comfort is an excellent idea. It’s important to grow with your market in order to stay competitive.
4) The Competition Has a Fresh Angle
Having a product that has had a specific branding for a while can create a difficult situation to shift away from. Even in a competitive market, if people know your brand, they will be able to pick it out among the rest. However, there are times where the competition will see an opening that hadn’t been seen before and seize it.
If the competition does in fact start moving in a different direction, and yours doesn’t, your brand runs the risk of becoming stale in a hurry. These decisions can often be chalked up to poor marketing advice or simply “doing it how it’s always been done”. This lack of effort to adjust the brand in order to leap ahead of the competition can often cause your brand to fail at even keeping up.
This is another reason to follow your market closely. Your brand needs to speak to them and their experiences in order to stay fresh.
5) Your Targets Don’t Know You Exist
The reason companies create brands is to resonate with their target audience. All of the market research being done by marketing companies is meant to create a brand that sticks in the target audience’s mind. That’s the whole goal.
Imagine doing all of that research and branding only to have your target pass you by and not even acknowledge your existence. This is soul crushing for branding, and causes staleness to the point of rot. Companies that don’t click with their customers tend to be forgotten very quickly. Being invisible to your target audience is a difficult blow to come back from.
The biggest reason to listen to your audience is to remain in the back of their minds. One of the worst things that can happen with your brand is to not resonate at all with your targets. An unaware audience can kill a brand for good.
Collusion Against Your Brand
The above mentioned signs that your brand is stale usually don’t emerge one by one. They often work in conjunction with one another and hinder your brand further, only making it staler. The stagnation of a brand usually begins with the product being regarded as “old” or “tired” to its customer and the marketing not reflecting the shifting marketplace. Your market could be growing and not even be noticing the sizeable marketing campaign that has been running.
Your brand could be experiencing any of these 5 signs at different points during a dip in sales. Monitoring them and watching for them to arise could mean all of the difference in your brand pulling up from its nosedive.
A Case for Rebranding
There are instances where rebranding is the right course of action to take. There are certain brands that simply faded away due to poor branding. Atari is a good example. They had a very solid hold on the gaming system market during the late 70’s and through the 80’s. While rudimentary, their systems had the market cornered until Nintendo came around. Atari stayed the course and watched as Nintendo – and eventually Sega – took control of the market.
Atari tried to re-enter the scene with the Jaguar in the mid 90’s, but by then it looked like Joe Lo Truglio in Superbad trying to appease Jonah Hill and Michael Cera by taking them to an adult party. They were trying too hard to fit in with a market that had passed them by.
Atari’s logo is iconic but is a definite symbol of the 80’s, which clashed with 90’s culture. Their ads were abrasive even for an era where hair being blown back by video game systems was commonplace. Their over aggressive re-entry into the market didn’t correlate with sales, and eventually spelled the demise of Atari gaming systems.
Had Atari grown with their market – kids who wanted better graphics and exciting content – they may have survived into the 90’s. However, due to lack of market understanding and being late to the party, they now are a true throwback.
Should You Rebrand?
If you have been keeping a close eye on your brand and your market then you may not need to shift your brand very much in order to freshen it up. Rebranding your product – if it has had a successful following previously – can be very detrimental to your sales. Tropicana got rid of their “straw-in-orange” image and saw $33 million in sales disappear in a month and a half. Retaining a winning image and tweaking the marketing push may be all you need to get back on track.
If your product has exhibited any of the 5 signs that were mentioned earlier, then maybe a shift in branding is an option to consider.
The bottom line is simply to follow your customers’ wishes. They are the ultimate arbiters in all of this. If your brand is becoming stale, look to them for where you need to be. Direct your brand to them, keep them interested, and they will surely keep coming.