New Coke, MySpace, Blackberry, Blockbuster— the road to success is littered with the corpses of thousands of brands that just couldn’t hack it.

For every brand that redefines its industry, there are hundreds more that fall victim to branding’s myriad pitfalls. For every Instagram there is an Ello, for every Uber a Sidecar.

The reason? Simple…

Branding Ain’t Easy

If branding were easy, the world’s most valuable companies wouldn’t have to allocate billions of dollars every year to ensure their brands remain relevant.

The fact is, even despite big spending and the best intentions, 96% of businesses fail within 10 years. Safeguarding your company against these odds begins with branding.

Branding, however, is a complex and nuanced science centered on in-depth research and strategy.

The mistaken belief that an internal marketing team can manage the far-reaching efforts necessitated by a comprehensive rebrand is one of the first reasons many brands fail.

But there are many others.

So, Why Do Brands Fail?

A comprehensive list of all the reasons why brands fail would make the Panama Papers look like CliffsNotes. But there are a handful of issues that bring down even the most promising brands, time and time again.

To avoid being branding’s next fail, steer clear of the following 8 surefire missteps:

The Ultimate Guide to Rebranding

Everything you need to know about rebranding your business-and avoiding costly mistakes.

1. Being Inauthentic

Arguably the number one, most fundamental reason brands fail is a lack of authenticity.

As we always say, it’s a madhouse out there. The marketplace is crowded with millions of potential customers and as many competing solutions.

Know who you are, know what you do best, and know who you serve. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

2. Breaking Your Brand Promise

If there is one rule in the branding game that stands above all others, it’s probably this: make a promise to your customers and keep it.

Brands who don’t make good on their word are the first ones to fail. Those who foster trust by keeping their promise are those with cult-like followings.

3. Losing Touch With Customer Perception

Your brand exists in the minds of your customers. That means that in order to properly manage your brand, you must have your finger continually on the pulse of customer perception, understanding your customer’s ever-changing needs and motivations.

The minute a brand becomes disconnected from or unconcerned with customer perception is the moment it has failed.

4. Lacking Competitive Differentiation

The fact is most brands don’t fail in a catastrophic collapse. Most are quietly defeated by sameness, as safe positioning and bland messaging relegates them to the ever-growing heap of irrelevant has-beens.

If you want to avoid failing, you have to identify areas for radical differentiation in the competitive landscape, and boldly exploit them.

Remember, your brand will always be your ultimate competitive advantage.

5. Being Internally Misaligned

Just as important as the perceptions and behavior of your customers are those of your employees. Brand misalignment begins from within.

It’s critical to build a strong company culture inspired by core values, so that your internal stakeholders, from frontline staff to senior leadership, inspired to live the brand as enthusiastic ambassadors. That’s the mark of true internal alignment.

6. Telling Ineffectual Brand Stories

Your customers spend their days in a cloud of relentless marketing messages coming at them from all directions. If you hope to get your story heard, it had better be meaningful, compelling and unique.

Brands that fail are often those that fail to tell a relevant and memorable story to their audiences.

7. Having Chaotic Brand Architecture

The existence of parent brands and sub-brands isn’t in and of itself a cause for concern. Failure comes when a brand’s architecture becomes so convoluted and diffuse that the hierarchy no longer makes sense.

Brand architecture should maximize your marketing efforts by providing the infrastructure for powerful cross-promotion between your sub-brands.

8. Remaining Stagnant

One of the best qualities of a strong brand is consistency. But too often consistency meets with complacency, which leads to one of the worst qualities a brand can embody: stagnation.

Now, more than ever, the marketplace waits for no one. Your brand must be nimble, dynamic, and relentlessly abreast of current trends. Avoiding failure means avoiding irrelevancy.

Failure Doesn’t Have to Be An Option

Knowing what to watch out for is the best first measure in guarding against brand failure. But proper branding goes deeper than just avoiding the 8 pitfalls listed above.

This is where the experts come in.

By partnering with a branding firm who is skilled at the science of brand development you can make certain that your company isn’t just the next in a long list of branding casualties.


The Ultimate Guide to Rebranding

Everything you need to know about rebranding your business-and avoiding costly mistakes.


A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has two decades of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, HuffPost, and Brand Quarterly.