Can having a successful brand have its’ downside? It can, if it is focused on the wrong market solution, as was the case with Blockbuster.
As H. C. Lucas, Jr. points out in his fascinating book The Search For Survival: Lessons From Disruptive Technologies (Ref. 1)
“Blockbuster was associated with a physical store; a customer goes to the store to rent movies. Netflix’s name associated it with the Internet; the mailing of DVDs was something it had to do until it could negotiate the rights to enough movies to distribute them over the Net. Some of the failure of Blockbuster’s mail DVD program was simply because it had been so successful in building up a brand that said come to our conveniently located video store.”
What matters then is what a brand represents in the eyes of its’ consumers. Can these brand associations which customers develop, pass the test of time?
Should an organisation strive to create brand values and identities which are independent of a particular product or market channel?
Brand Life-Cycle Challenges
Some brands manage to pass this time test, and they endure over decades, even centuries. Whilst others bloom for a short time, before disappearing to the business history books.
Disruptive technologies are one factor which is having an immediate impact on many organisations.
A part of the challenge here is that there are several technology advancements happening at the same time. These technology changes include the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile technology advances, the diversity of digital marketing methods, cloud computing, artificial intelligence(AI) and the internet itself.
For some organisations these new technologies have created huge problems. For instance, the retail book industry had to transform itself due to the rise of online book vendors, and the subsequent changes in buyer behaviour.
For others, new technologies have effectively stopped their product line. Audio cassette tape manufacturers for example.
Other Change Factors
A brand isn’t a product or a service. It is a set of mental and emotional associations between the brand and its’ consumers. Together with the benefits or utility that they bring to the consumer.
As a consequence of this, technology isn’t the only change factor facing brand managers.
Consumers themselves change their tastes, values and beliefs through time. Even if a brand were able to continue to appeal to a given generation, sooner or later they die off.
9 Options In The Face Of Change
There are a number of options to try to increase the longevity and success of a brand.
At A Brand Level (Ref. 2)
Adding new lines to a brand to changes in the market
A new distribution channels, e.g. adding a Mobile App or online shop
Ongoing face-lifts and innovations to add value or strengthen it
Re-positioning the brand to move with trends
These may be enough, depending on the severity of the market change. However, there is a danger that tinkering with a brand just delays the need for a more root and branch organisational change.
At An Organisational Level (Ref. 1)
If the severity of the treat or the new opportunities created by a change are great enough, then more substantial organisational changes are needed if a brand is to survive. Some options include:
Morphing into a new business
Adding a new business division
Closing down obsolete business lines
Buying or merging with other companies
Closing the business down