5 Reasons Brand Initiatives Fail

Since the Covid-era, the topic of brand has suddenly come back to the forefront. Organizations have increasingly realized that creating real affinity for their business – and an efficient way to communicate what makes them unique – is mission-critical as attention spans have shortened, and the importance of word of mouth has increased.

We frequently hear from clients, “We have to figure out our brand” – but that’s often followed by, “We embarked on a past initiative, and it just didn’t work.” Here are the reasons we most frequently see brand initiatives fail – so that you, dear marketer, can avoid them in the future.

(Shortcut for all of those who don’t have time to read: Just don’t do what Elon Musk did with Twitter/X/We Don’t Know What To Call It.)

Mistake #1: You Don’t Stick With It

Short attention spans aren’t just an issue with consumers. They’re an issue with businesspeople as well. Many organizations launch a brand with a lot of fanfare and acclaim. They spend 6 months to a year promoting it in the marketplace. And then they move on.

Internally, brands are a change management exercise –getting everyone to speak differently, think differently, and behave differently. The average change management exercise takes over 7 years. So, just moving the internal needle takes time. Not to mention letting that brand seep into the marketplace, getting people to experience the brand, and then getting them to share that experience with others – at scale. 

Branding pays huge dividends over time in terms of internal employee motivation and external brand affinity and trust. But to get there, businesses need to have the courage and conviction to stick with it.

Mistake #2: The Branding Initiative Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Brands don’t win because of logos and colors. They win because of a clear, consistent positioning, message and experience they deliver across their business to the marketplace. And yet, more often than not, businesses chase after the easier exercise of a surface-level visual update and then claim they’ve rebranded. After all, colors and visuals are something everyone can understand. A complete and holistic brand experience threaded through every facet of your business is far more difficult to convey.

Businesses need to go further in their branding efforts. They need to discuss the new messaging and strategy with sales to help them activate it in mission-critical customer conversations. They need to work with product development to think about products and services that will help support and bring the brand to life. Leadership needs to set a strategic direction that’s supportive of the brand in the future.

Surface-level branding simply isn’t enough.

Mistake #3: Missing the Internal Component

Building on the prior theme: It should be evident that great brands are built from the inside out. If everyone throughout an organization has a role in building that brand, they are going to need to be excited about it and to understand it so they can begin advocating for it internally and externally.

This puts a true onus on internal communications during a brand rollout and support. There needs to be a channelized plan for reaching employees, not just with a powerful “launch moment,” but with ongoing communications, updates, and training. 

Here are some ideas (for free!):

  • Create a teaser campaign to get everyone excited ahead of launch
  • Go big and bold with messages from leadership at brand launch
  • Set aside time for quarterly “brand days” to keep everyone excited about and invigorated by the brand
  • Make sure you have a cadence planned for regular storytelling and updates related to the brand
  • Make room for opportunistic communications related to key business moments and celebrations that make the brand real
  • Embed brand training into onboarding to make sure new employees understand the message

Mistake #4: Not Staying Consistent

“We keep saying the same thing over and over!” 

This phrase should be a compliment, not a complaint. And yet, more often than not, people want to say different things everywhere so that their marketing doesn’t get tired out. Organizations forget that while your employees might know every single message at every single touchpoint, your customers don’t. 

In reality, your customers are experiencing your brand through a single webpage, an interaction with your customer service team, a brief glance at an advertisement while browsing the news, and maybe a headline they spot somewhere in the press. Having a consistent message makes sure your brand can break through over time and your message sticks. Jumping around and deviating from your strategy is a surefire way to lose momentum in the marketplace.

Mistake #5:  The Brand Isn’t Tangible Enough

As this article has shown, brands are built in many ways over time. But they need to be backed by proof. The single most dangerous thing a brand can do is make promises in the marketplace but not have truly clear proof to back it up. When brands do that, they don’t just fall flat – they open the door to backlash. In today’s social media-driven world, the ability to get called out for false promises and claims is all too real.

Pressure testing a brand message to really ensure it’s ownable is a critical step. Companies should challenge themselves to consider all the ways a message will play in the marketplace – the good and the bad. It also puts real value on testing – not just for optimizing a message but for catching any unintended consequences that come with the territory.

Make sure you have tangible, rational proof that makes your brand message an objective fact – not your company’s opinion.

In Summary

Brands are complex, multifaceted things that take time to build. It’s a true, multi-year challenge, but one that can cement your positioning in the marketplace, enhance the value of your business, and create lasting relationships with customers. It’s worth it – trust us!

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