Why Some Brands Fail and Others Succeed


Every year Inter brand publishes something like the Fortune 500 list of millionaires and billionaires for brands. In it the top most brands and their net worth are showcased.

Interestingly some brands have been regular features on the Inter brand list of global brands consecutively for the last ten years whereas others have just shown a meteoric appearance and disappeared.

The question therefore arises why are some brands so successful in their brand marketing whereas others have never lived up to their bidding while many others have also qualified as “also ran” brands.

The success and failure rate for brands become very interesting if new products or brands are included in the equation. According to Nielsen statistics more than 85% of new (Consumer Packaged Goods) products fail. 95% of new products introduced each year fail. Up to 80% of new product launches in the consumer packaged goods industry fail.

According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched and between 80 – 95% of them fail.

What a horrific statistics you will say. The extent of these product failures can only be imagined if the entire production and marketing cost of these 28,500 product failures are quantified in terms of the costs incurred, the man hours and labor invested in these product failures as well as the level of indebtedness in terms of bad loans that they create.

According to Joan Schnieder and Julie Hall, “The biggest problem or cause of these product failures is lack of preparation: Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.”

What then can be classified as this lack of preparation or preparations in the wrong areas that have been responsible for brand and product failures? For clarification purposes, product or brand failure in this context can be defined as; the inability of a product to realize the required market share to sustain its presence in the market; or, the ultimate failure of a product to achieve profitability.

In this article we will not delve into the Product – Brand continuum or definition but will stick basically to the Brand perspective. Brands fail due to so many reasons, which we will try to enumerate and elucidate on.

One of the major reasons why brands fail is as a result of a poor or ill-defined identity. Just like a man who does not know who he or she is, their capacities (strengths or weakness) or what their sense of purpose or direction in life is will most likely not make any huge success or mark in life so also will a brand that does not have a well defined identity, sense of purpose etc. The same can also be said of a man who is bedeviled with a sense of inferiority complex.

According to Jean Kapferer a prominent brand authority; a brand is not the name of a product. It is the vision that drives the creation of products and services under that name. That vision, the key belief of the brands and its core values is called identity.

The brand identity specifies the facets of brands’ uniqueness and value. In other words why and how different or unique is your brand within the galaxies of other brands that seek to provide the same services or achieve the same goal as your own brand? For example what is the unique thing or difference between Accenture Consulting and McKinsey, Deloitte or PWC or other global consulting firms? What do they stand for and why will you choose one of these consulting firms above the other? What are their value systems and how does that resonate with you or your firm or the services for which you seek them?

If a brand fails to present itself along these lines then the point of differentiation will be blurred and there will be no clearly remarkable lines or basis for choice between the two brands. For every brand that has made a success in the market there are very clear lines of demarcation between it and its competitors, which also serves as a basis of choice or preference. This can be said of Coca cola and Pepsi Cola which despite the fact that in over 60% of blind taste experiments people will prefer Pepsi Cola to Coca Cola but the reaction to the bottled or branded contents are completely different with Coca Cola leading the way.

In the vehicle category, Mercedes Benz cannot be mistaken or misconstrued for BMW and vice versa or Toyota for Lexus simply because each of these brands have been able to correctly identity itself and give value or life to all the products bearing their name. Hence in the Nigerian advertising parlance “If it is not Panadol it cannot be as good as Panadol” One who wants to buy a Mercedes Benz, BMW or other cars is very clear in his or her mind why he or she wants to buy the specific brand of the vehicle that he is purchasing. Especially as the brand these days accentuates the personality of the persons using them.

The clothing brands are also the same. A GUCCI brand is completely different from a Louis Vuitton brand same for a Raph Lauren, Lacoste or a Tom Hilfiger brand. To succeed therefore as a brand you must have a very clear definition of the identity of your brand else failure or an also ran or “a me too” brand is in the offing.

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