Why Some Brands Fail

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While I was watching television the other day, I wished (for the millionth time) that I was able to use my TiVo with my current cable setup. I love TiVo, and honestly, I prefer it to the DVR devices that are being offered by most cable companies. It offers an all-around better experience because not only does the device record the shows that I program into it, it stores my preference and looks for and even records other programs it thinks I might enjoy, storing them in a separate folder so that I can look through them when I want to watch something new. What's even better is that most of the time, TiVo is right. It's like having a friend whose sole job is to go through the television listings and find things you like. Added to that, TiVo uses an internet connection to allow me to watch Netflix movies, YouTube videos, and I can even download movies from Amazon to play on my television.


TiVo is a great product and when it was first introduced, everyone was talking about how great it was. Today, that doesn't happen and in fact, I don't know anyone (other than myself) who has and loves their TiVo. For some reason, the company lost customers and lost the market share to the cable companies. It's a shame, but I began to wonder why customer fallout happens. Why is it that some companies who are first on the scene and market leaders suddenly lose traction with customers and fade away? It's like the marketing version of a one-hit wonder.

I recently came across a great article about this very thing at FastCompany. They took an investigative look at why some companies fail after having a promising beginning and what marketing professionals can do to prevent this from happening to their products.

One of the products they mentioned was Listerine Pocket Packs. When they were first introduced, you could find them everywhere - from the counter at any convenience store to the gum and mint sections of larger stores. I couldn't go a day without having someone tell me about how great they were and insisting that I try them. Once you tried them and experienced the very unique sensation, you were sold. They were easy to carry and did a great job at freshening breath. Today, the little Listerine Pocket Packs are found in the toothpaste aisle. Just three years after they were introduced, the company had an almost 50% loss of market share. Did the Listerine pocket packs suddenly become bad?

What happened to Listerine, TiVo and many others is that although they created a buzz because they were first on the scene, they weren't able to create a strong brand identity and set themselves apart from the other products that came along after them. For example, instead of buying Listerine Pocket Packs, many people have moved on to try other mints and breath strips from other companies. Some of them include energy supplements or offer new and different flavors. Once there were other options, Listerine failed to make themselves stand out as the clear brand leader. They couldn't show why they were different or better than the other, newer, products on the market.

This doesn't happen to every company. In fact, some companies that seem destined to become nothing more than a flash in the pan end up having unexpected longevity. For example, UGG boots took the fashion world by storm a few years ago. Everyone from celebrities to people on the street were wearing the ugly, sheepskin boots. To many, they appeared to be an odd fashion trend and one that wouldn't last. After all, women's shoes have to be attractive, and these boots certainly weren't. In fact, their name was inspired by the creator's wife calling them "ugly boots."

Instead of becoming an irrelevant fashion trend, UGG has become the clear market leader in comfortable women's boots. The company has done a great job with keeping up with the changing trends and reported $1.2 billion in sales last year. Now, UGG is known for providing stylish boots that are an extremely comfortable alternative to heels. They have even branched out to other products, and now, you can buy UGG gloves and even hats.

So, what can a company do to prevent one-hit-wonder syndrome?

You have to continue to innovate. Just creating one great thing is only part of the equation. Just because you have a great product doesn't mean that your work is done. Once the product is established, companies have to continue to work in order to stay ahead of the competition. For those who were the first on the market, this risk is especially high. Other companies will be trying hard to use your success as a model for their own. Take Groupon for example. They introduced a new and exciting product, but within a year, there were hundreds of copycat deal companies popping up, trying hard to take some of their market share.

Keep your customers coming back. Building brand loyalty is important. Once your customers try your product, you have to give them a reason to keep coming back, and that takes a little more than just having a great product. They have to find a way to make sure that customers see some sort of value in choosing the leading product, otherwise the brand doesn't stand out much among their competitors.

Have a follow up. You have to have a second act. Having one great thing is a good start, but there has to be something else. Once you've impressed your customers and showed them the value of your product, it's important to make them want to trade up to your next new thing. Without a good follow up, a product can quickly become one of those things that people only think about when they're being nostalgic.

Making a brand stand out takes a lot of work and a strategic plan. In the world of marketing and sales, it isn't just the product that counts, it's how you interact with your customers. Even if that interaction is only what they see on the shelf.

Image Source: MorgueFile


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