Branding can produce massive value. But every now and then a story about a conspicuous failed branding initiative goes viral.
CocaCola’s been there. Gap’s done that. HSBC has too. Then there are branding projects that for one reason or another are completed but never launched. Or are launched but don’t achieve their objectives. Or sort of meet their objectives but no one is super happy with the results.
Highly visible brand building failures occur despite the resources allocated to them. Bungled branding can embarrass the smartest people, the wealthiest organisations, and even powerful nations.
So what can be done to significantly reduce the risk of a branding project so it delivers on its potential?
It begins with understanding the possible failure points. Those who know the risks are better equipped to address them.
Why projects fail to reach their full potential
The root cause of all brand building failures appears to be human error. This can be broken down into several risk areas, and serve as a derisking checklist (presented in no particular order):
“Brand building decision-making is biased by ego rather than analysis”
Great branding looks deceptively effortless
Businesses built on branding make it look easy. Think fashion, luxury, hospitality, food.... It’s hard to overstate the danger of this illusion. Often the most simple-looking branding is the one that took the most sweat.
And despite focusing almost all their resources on their brands, even the most talented, experienced and successful brand builders can make a mistake that wipes out years of success – as we saw with Dolce & Gabbana’s 2018 China misstep.
Checklist for derisking your branding project
In our experience, successful branding projects will have most of the following characteristics:
Follow the plan and expect the unexpected
The essence of all brand building is to create positive change. Embracing change, managing change, communicating change, learning from change.
Whether introducing a new product, attracting new customers (investors, colleagues), or pivoting a business strategy, changing people’s perceptions is integral to the process.
The nature of changing people’s thinking means you can never anticipate every complication. However there is much you can do to derisk your brand building initiatives.
Apply a proven process most appropriate for your project, invest sufficient time, money and effort, work with the right people, and when practical, test assumptions – you’ll have done your due diligence to minimise risk and maximise success.