There's been a list or two circulating for months now of brands that are not likely to make it into 2011. With the recession and rapidly changing consumer behavior, it really should be no surprise that brands unable to keep up will find it harder and harder to survive.
It's actually pretty easy to spot brands that haven't kept up with consumer needs and wants, or have competitors that are just so much better. Many brands lose sight of what business they are ultimately in, and they honestly lose sight of their consumer. One economic downturn or a sharp competitive move and these brands quickly become dinosaurs.
The key is to make sure it doesn't happen to your brand. So what's a brand that is struggling to survive these tough competitive times to do?
First of all, define your business and your brand broadly so that you can evolve over time. If you think too narrowly, you are likely to box yourself into a corner, particularly with the speed of technology. Look at Blockbuster. If Blockbuster had defined its brand more broadly than just video tape rental, perhaps it would still be thriving in this age of digital download and on-demand.
Part and parcel to defining your brand is really choosing your consumers and understanding them. It's a fundamental of successful marketing, so get to know your consumers and how they live their lives, better than your competition. Even more importantly, follow them as their lives change and evolve, so that you can evolve along with them. Although Palm was one of the first in the hand-held computing category, the brand just didn't keep up with rapidly changing consumer needs. It got outshined by brands that better knew what consumers want, and adapted technologies for them.
Thriving brands also do not sit content with their current consumers so they are constantly looking to add consumers to their franchise. To avoid becoming a dinosaur, you have to keep your brand fresh by attracting new devotees as some consumers naturally evolve away from your brand. Reader's Digest is a good example of a brand that had a loyal consumer following, but didn't do enough to attract newer, younger consumers. As the older generation stopped reading, the brand started shrinking.
Marketing is all about keeping your consumers satisfied with a dynamic brand that adds value to their lives. Keep on top of their changing needs and continually evolve how your brand fits into their lives, and you will avoid becoming a brand dinosaur.
Best of luck.
Jim Joseph is president of Lippe Taylor Brand Communications and author of The Experience Effect (AMACOM Books, 2010)