It is 2008 and Valeria Maltoni poses an extraordinary question: What happens when brands die? Shocking enough. Where do brands go when they die? How does this happen? In the swirl of branding strategies, making brands great again and optimizing for the perfect communication, we (marketers) almost ten years later still forget that if we give brands human characteristics, we must bear in mind that no brand is immortal (OK, except Nokia 3310).
I’ll tell you how I have got here. It is 2017, almost ten years after Valeria’s question. My inspiration was the recent discussion with friends about personification (we don’t have deep intellectual discussions all the time, I promise). In languages, the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form is called personification (thank you Google!). If you think about it, we treat our brands like children, small human beings that marketing needs to raise, develop, present to the world and teach on the way how to be better. Now you either call me crazy or realize that I do have a point. That lead me to Brand Personification. The term is already known in marketing. Check out the 5 Successful Examples of Brand Personification.
So, if we give brands human characteristics than they must have the certain life cycle. Sadly, they may even die.
The question number one is why does this happen and the second is what to do. I collected some knowledge for your on these.
Even if some brands are successful now it does not mean it will survive in the future. An interesting article on this topic explains how some brands have started at the same point more than 30 years ago, and nowadays, one of them has completely vanished (e.g. Walmart and Ames Department Stores). What happened was that many did not think beyond what they did. The result is that they do not exist anymore. Constant changes in the environment, market, consumer needs are (or should be) motivators for companies to evolve. Sounds like a simple recipe, but we are emphasizing flexibility and adaptation.
Brian Solis, the author of The End of Business as Usual talks about the digitalization in his article for Washington Post. I must admit, I got the inspiration for the title from his lines. Brian advocates that the brands that survive the era of economic disruption, will be the ones that are best able to evolve because they recognize the need and opportunity to do so before their competitors. First come, first get principle. He relates this to so- called Digital Darwinism, explaining that what we will be facing is the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than some companies’ ability to adapt.
Every brand CAN be saved, but not every brand WILL be saved. This straightforward message by The Brand Builder sums up the idea of what might happen when the brand is dying. Like with humans, the company needs a correct diagnose and a proper care. Very often, both of these call for the professional help. There are ways to recognize when something is coming and getting help is not about admitting defeat, it is about getting results.
Some analytics predict the vanishing of brands. Sometimes it happens gradually. One of those stories is certainly the Yugoslavian chocolate story. The oldest chocolate factory in Bosnia and Herzegovina called Zora and later renamed to Sarabon was established in 1927. However, it started producing chocolate later in 1950. The factory relates to one of my favorite childhood memories- dad coming back from work and bringing the bag of chocolate bananas from Zora. It was a big thing, something like scenes from The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. Nevertheless, the factory and the brand ceased to exist in 2006. The combination of traditional production that could not fight the new moves, financial crisis, no strategic plan, and economic instability was stronger than the chocolate fairytale.
As Brian Solis said, everything begins with embracing a culture of innovation and adaptation — a culture that recognizes the impact of disruptive technology and how consumer preference and affinity is evolving. And I cannot agree more. Branding is getting more important than ever before. And a good marketing strategy is something that keeps the brands alive.
My final thought is occupied with words from the great Steve Jobs: “What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, (…) we believe people with passion can change the world…for the better. Those people, crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that actually do.…Here’s to the crazy ones.”
Dare to be crazy sometimes.