Is Your Brand a Roach Motel? (Brand Failures Explained)

“Money goes in but it never comes out….”

That was uttered by Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary from Shark Tank speaking about a pitch which had brand failure written all over it. I’ve got to say, when he’s not eschewing his “tough love” negotiations, Kevin has some very good one-liners.

Is Your Brand Infested?

Brand strategies can make or break a brand. The right strategy will get rid of the pests while the wrong strategy will suck money in an endless overnight stay… resulting in brand failures that you would only wish on your enemies.

I know this because I deal with business owners and CEOs that need a rebrand or some other way to fix an ailing brand only to find their brands infested with “old ineffective ideas” that they are more willing to die for than change. As Seth Godin brilliantly observed:

“Not changing your strategy merely because you’re used to the one you have now is a lousy strategy.”

What’s the Power of The Right Brand Strategy?

Let’s see… it works. Here are some examples:

  • The right strategy overhauled an artisanal chocolatier’s brand to see sales increase 300% in the first month of the relaunch (with NO other changes: no pricing changes, no new flavors, no new hours, no new promotions, no new sales personnel, no new distribution channels. Nothing.) The answer was in a key touchpoint they overlooked.
  • The right strategy took a small town that blended into every other small town and got lost into a destination site increasing their walk-in tourists 500% over the next 12 months. The right answer was in ket points of contact and having the right branding and message at those points of contact.
  • The right strategy took an online startup and increased their sales over 400% in 3 years simply by evaluating their name (awful), their presentation (more awful) and their overlooked opportunities since customers only knew them by their online presence (the most awful of all).
  • The right strategy intervened to eradicate fundamental branding errors that catapulted this Napa Valley startup into two consecutive years of 300% growth. The right strategy in this case involved brand intervention consisting of a total rebrand: a new brand identity and logo, new package design, and a radical departure that gave the voice of this brand true meaning and fun. The starting point was that the previous package design did not pas the 4-foot test for package legibility.

The question becomes: Why spend time and money to come close to the market only to experience brand failure when you could be nailing it with the right mix of the right ingredients?

How Do You Avoid Brand Failures?

The right tools. The right insight. The right talent and the right intelligence to know what to attack and why.

Lastly, the right strategy has this element: The right amount of humility to know you need to surround yourself with other great talent whose skill set complements your own. In other words, the right strategy has the element of knowing when (and whom) to ask.

In short, the right strategy will:

  • Allow you stand apart from the competition
  • Make you memorable
  • Present you as a category leader
  • Give the buyer something new to consider (especially important in overcrowded categories)
  • Exceed expectations and push up value.

How One Entrepreneur Slayed Some Sacred Branding Cows That The Fast Food Gatekeepers Would Never Touch

This launch resulted in a grand opening that rivaled an Apple store with lines going into the street. In a couple of months, they had about 2,000 customers.

So how did they do it?

This video tells some of the back story:

In a few months, we did things no fast food company would (or could) do. We were nimble, fluid, and nothing held us back.

Some of the sacred cows we slayed included:

  • The sacred cow of making takeout containers as cheap as possible (and ignore their potential for being brand ambassadors
  • The sacred cow of making initial promotions focus solely on predictable price promotions with no other differentiator
  • The sacred cow of treating your commodity like a commodity, not like anything more
  • The sacred cow of treating the customer like a moron with the IQ of a Chiclet (the brand of candy-coated chewing gum made by Cadbury Adams—for those too young to know, here’s a visual)

Chiclet gumThe outcome of violating all of these sacred cows was a community and region that went nuts awaiting the Grand Opening because we ignored all conventions and replaced them with something better and unexpected.

The Elements Of A Winning Brand Strategy

First, we established a memorable image with an impossibly simple headline that organically married burgers and trains:

Branding a burger -- Breaking rules in Fast Food CategoryThe ad campaign built this message in full glory leading up the grand opening:

The array of concurrent direct mail campaign and other promotional components leading up to the grand opening:

Brand promotion by David BrierThe brand components (custom vintage luggage labels we designed and illustrated) for each burger were part of the brand voice of “burgers and trains”:

The “takeout luggage” for the burgers and meals (utilizing the little-known 3rd phase of branding covered here):

Don, the owner dressed up as the Conductor, for grand opening day:

Don, the Conductor, turned into a direct mail piece that had kids dragging their parents to the Bridge Street Station (here he’s doing the YMCA dance):

Photos from the grand opening with interior photos:

Bridge Street Station from the outside:

Don and I pose (after seeing the tsunami of people that came out) to celebrate this new burger joint.

So that’s how we de-infested this new startup to make its grand opening a terrific success.

Do you know the steps to make sure your brand doesn’t become a Roach Motel where “money goes in but never comes out”?

Can you do the same for your company and its brand?

If you can, congratulations. I’d love to hear of your success. If you can’t, I invite you to contact us to see how we can help.