It’s often not hard to see why other brands have died – especially after the fact. There’s also one interesting and abiding constant in all the casualties. What kills a brand, more often than not, is what it lacks rather than what it does: conviction; energy; value; humility; cash; discipline; imagination; focus … Here are 30 signs of trouble that I would look for.
1. Your new product or service tanked. If that’s a continuation of a recent pattern and not just a one-off, then you’ve either disconnected with your audience, failed to hold their attention or been superceded.
2. Customers are leaving. You haven’t noticed, or you don’t care.
3. You’re getting more and more questions about the value you add.
4. You’re being asked to sharpen the pencil on just about every deal, and you feel you have no option but to do so.
5. You don’t feel you’re in a position to take a position (on anything).
6. You keep diversifying in the hope of attracting more business, but all you’re really doing is piling on more cost.
7. You don’t have a story.
8. You keep telling yourselves you have a story but it keeps changing to fit your latest campaign.
9. You can’t diversify. You’re a one trick, one price pony. You stand for one thing at one price point. Or you did diversify, but you haven’t done anything with the acquisition that’s at all meaningful.
10. You keep expanding, with the expectation that sales will catch up at some point with capacity. But it hasn’t.
11. Your product’s a dog – but everyone at your place thinks it’s the customers who don’t “get it”.
12. You’ve backed the wrong product – falling sales remind you every quarter.
13. You’ve been overtaken, or usurped, by someone else’s technology/service/idea.
14. You don’t have a growth plan. You just have an existence plan. (Perhaps you don’t even have that.)
15. External costs are killing you. You can’t live with them and you can’t survive without them.
16. You have a growth plan but you don’t have a business model (or at least one that people are prepared to stick with).
17. You’re too slow.
18. You act without thinking.
19. You think without acting.
20. The hiss has gone out of your roar. You’re steadily losing momentum and velocity. You’ve run out of energy. Everyone feels too tired to fight.
21. You dismiss every new development as a “trend”.
22. You’re in love with trends – you’re always looking for the next wave.
23. There’s increasing dissonance between what you communicate, where you’re telling yourselves you’re going and what your research shows your customers want.
24. Your architecture’s a mess – too many product names, sub-brands, logos, taglines, etc, all fighting for attention and market share.
25. Your ethics worry people. You behave badly, or desperately, but even when you’re caught out, you fail to absorb blame or to acknowledge any level of irresponsibility.
26. You’re missing budget – consistently – but no-one’s alarmed because your strategy is focused on building “long term potential”.
27. Everyone’s focused on hitting budget. It’s the only thing people care about.
28. You cut corners – on health and safety, on supply chain, wherever you think you can get away with it.
29. There’s no reason to prefer you. Nothing that you have secures you any level of consistent or distinctive advantage.
30. You can’t align supply with demand or you can’t keep pace with demand. Either way, you’re starving your market share.
Image of “Tricycle ambulance militaire”, taken by Frederic Bisson, sourced from Flickr
Thanks to Derrick Daye and Hilton Barbour for their additions to my original list.