When their brands fail companies are always taken by surprise. This is because they have had faith in their brand from the start, otherwise it would never have been launched in the first place. However, this brand faith often stems from an obscured attitude towards branding, based around one or a combination of the following brand myths:
- If a product is good, it will succeed. This is blatantly untrue. In fact, good products are as likely to fail as bad products. Betamax, for instance, had better picture and audio quality than VHS video recorders. But it failed disastrously.
- Brands are more likely to succeed than fail. Wrong. Brands fail every single day. According to some estimates, 80 per cent of all new products fail upon introduction, and a further 10 per cent die within five years. By launching a product you are taking a one in ten chance of long-term success. As Robert McMath, a former Procter & Gamble marketing executive, once put it: ‘it’s easier for a product to fail than it is to survive.’
- Big companies will always have brand success. This myth can be dismantled with two words: New Coke. As this book will show, big companies have managed to have at least as much failure as success. No company is big enough to be immune to brand disaster. In fact, many of the examples in this book highlight one of the main paradoxes of branding – namely, that as brands get bigger and more successful, they also become more vulnerable and exposed.
- Strong brands are built on advertising. Advertising can support brands, but it can’t build them from scratch. Many of the world’s biggest brand failures accompanied extremely expensive advertising campaigns.
- If it’s something new, it’s going to sell. There may be a gap in the market, but it doesn’t mean it has to be filled. This lesson was learnt the hard way for RJR Nabisco Holdings when they decided to launch a ‘smokeless’ cigarette. ‘It took them a while to figure out that smokers actually like the smoke part of smoking,’ one commentator said at the time.
- Strong brands protect products. This may have once been the case, but now the situation is reversed. Strong products now help to protect brands. As the cases show, the product has become the ambassador of the brand and even the slightest decrease in quality or a hint of trouble will affect the brand identity as a whole. The consumer can cause the most elaborate brand strategy to end in failure.