Remember when everyone carried a Blackberry? Remember when Nokia was the leader in cell phones? Or when everyone signed on to the Internet through America Online?
These giant brands, that seemed unstoppable at one time, are now on the ropes. Here’s the scary truth: Every brand, yours included, no matter how successful, has a built-in expiration date – unless you take the necessary action to keep your brand, fresh, up-to-date and alive.
Your brand is based on your CoreStoryTM, which is the written declaration about what you or your company are all about. What is your mission? Why are you in business? What are you trying to accomplish other than just to make a buck?
Your CoreStoryTM defines your brand. It doesn’t have to have an ending. But, to keep it alive in these fast-changing times, you often have to redefine and expand your CoreStoryTM so that it stays fresh and relevant as trends and market forces change. But first…how do you know if your brand is beginning to lose traction – and might be headed downhill?
When Your Personal Brand Stalls
The first step to fixing a problem, is to recognize that you have one: Your CoreStoryTM and personal brand are no different. These are the things you have to watch to see if your brand is still relevant or if a problem is developing.
Your Sales Are Down – This is probably THE most obvious sign of a branding problem (unless there are other external forces at work driving down your revenues). If less people are buying what you’re selling, less people are receptive to your messaging. Your brand story isn’t connecting like it should anymore – and you need to determine why that is.
Your Client List Is Shrinking or Segmenting – Fox News often boasts about how it’s the number one cable news channel – but one big red alert they should be paying attention to is that, even though their audience is the largest, it’s also the oldest, with a median viewer age of 65. That means that they might wake up one day to find that their audience is quickly vanishing.
They are also finding themselves faced with criticism that their news is biased and targeted to one group or the other. This is something they must pay close attention to or they may continue to lose more of their market.
Sometimes you can still be making the money you want and be blinded by the fact that you’re not getting enough new clients in through the door. You want to continue to serve whatever niche you’re succeeding with – but you also want to make sure you’re growing beyond that niche, adding additional vertical markets to expand your brand where possible. This is the fastest way to grow and to stabilize your business at the same time.
You’ve Forgotten Your Own CoreStoryTM – Success can sometimes disconnect you from your roots and cause you to dismiss or not recall why your clients were attracted to you in the first place. Unfortunately this is easy to let happen, and actually sneaks up on you, the more successful you get. Little things begin to change and one day you wake up and you are doing things entirely different than you did in the beginning of your business without having planned the change at all. This is why we encourage all our clients to develop their personal CoreStoryTM, put it in writing and follow it like a road map. As your CoreStoryTM changes you can make the changes to your roadmap to keep you and your brand relevant.
You’re Too Much About Yourself – Success can also cause you to be too wrapped up in yourself and ignore your potential customers’ needs. When that happens, you may have begun to focus too much on your success and what you want and not what your market or buyers want. Continue to remind yourself that it isn’t about you, it is about what your prospects and current clients think you bring to them to help them grow.
You’re Too Comfortable – In many cases, all of the above signs of brand fatigue come from this last red alert: Because your brand is doing very well, you grow extremely comfortable and you take your eye off the ball. That’s when the strikes start flying past you.
When you get locked into a certain way of running your business with no attempt to update your brand and shift with the times or the marketplace, decay is inevitable. As I said earlier, every brand has a built-in expiration date – unless you do something about it.
So – what is that something that you should do? Here are some suggestions…
How To Keep Your Brand Growing?
TIP #1: Keep Your Originality and Your Unique Selling Proposition
There is a reason a brand becomes successful in the first place. And the worst thing you can do is pretend that reason never existed. The biggest brands in the world have made the mistake of ignoring what made them big in the first place.
Ask Yourself: What brand elements do you absolutely need to keep in place? List them and make sure they aren’t removed by someone in your company who is tired of seeing them in your ads. There is nothing wrong with testing alternative strategies against each other, but don’t remove a core concept unless you have something else “proven” to work better before replacing it.
TIP #2: Expand Your Vertical Line up
Successful Brands should always have this kind of mindset and look for ways of expanding their customer list beyond their current crowd (but, again, without diluting their CoreStoryTM).
We see this vertical expansion of businesses occurring with greater frequency. Many of our favorite stars give us good examples as they add other product lines to their business in addition to their profession as a singer, movie star or playwright.
Ask Yourself: How can you tell your CoreStoryTM to a whole new group of potential leads in a way that will appeal to them? What current trends and economic situations might cause your brand to be appreciated in a new way?
TIP #3: Co-Branding
In the 2000’s, Danny Bennett took the Tony Bennett brand to a new level of popularity with a series of “Duets” albums, that featured the veteran singer in harmony with such top contemporary performers as Lady GaGa, Mariah Carey and Carrie Underwood. Of course, this wasn’t an original idea (Sinatra had actually pioneered the formula with his last two best-selling albums, Duets and Duets II in the 1990’s), but it was a smart idea – as Bennett gained exposure to the younger fans of those top performers.
You can do your own co-branding either on an individual project or a joint venture – but be careful when you pick who your partner is going to be. Make sure it’s not a brand that’s going to conflict with your narrative.
Ask Yourself: What company or which other type of personal brand might provide a powerful co-branding boost? Who has the type of audience you want to reach – and haven’t been able to up until now? Would they be a suitable fit for your brand story?
TIP #4: Change Without Changing
You want your brand to endure – but you’re aware that times change and your brand needs to change along with it. How do you stay contemporary without losing your identity? The answer is actually pretty simple – you focus on updating the things that make sense and keep the rest intact.
For instance, L.L. Bean is a durable brand that has lasted over a century – and one of its signature products over the past 100 years is their popular “Bean Boot.” It still looks like the same boot as it was in 1912… and yet it’s not. About 10 years ago, they completely redesigned, modernized and updated the boot. The material is now better, it’s more comfortable and it lasts longer. But what was important to them was that it look exactly the same as it always has.”
Ask Yourself: What aspects of your brand can you update without injuring your CoreStoryTM? What current technology or trend can you tap into in order to remain as competitive as possible?
TIP #5: Reframe or modernize your CoreStory™to reach additional markets or reenergize your existing one
Finally, a great way to rekindle interest in your brand is to simply retell your main CoreStoryTM narrative in a new and compelling way. Your point of difference from your competitors is something they can’t take away from you – so help your customers and clients rediscover what’s great about you.
Whatever your CoreStoryTM is about, if it worked once, chances are it will work again. Did anyone ever expect Polaroid cameras to come back? The company bottomed out in bankruptcy court twice since the year 2000 as the age of digital pictures seemed to render its main selling point, photos that instantly develop by themselves, moot. Everyone counted them out and most weren’t kind with their comments.
Now, however, the brand is resurging, simply because the company has found ways to work with other businesses in order to cash in on Polaroid nostalgia (which, ironically, seems to be most appealing to the millennial generation). I just bought Linda, my wife and our company’s Chief Photographer, a new Polaroid this Christmas and she loves producing the instant prints just like everyone did the first time it came around.
Ask Yourself: How does your Brand CoreStoryTM connect with your potential customers of today? How can you reframe your story in a compelling way for a new generation – or a totally new market?
When you put forward your real CoreStoryTM, you engage the public on a level that your competition can’t match, you position yourself in an unforgettable way, and you create the foundation for ongoing success. Don’t be afraid to update it as you grow and progress, but also don’t forget what makes you special and attracted your clients to you in the first place.