Why do brands die?
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After the pandemic, businesses of all kinds and sizes have suffered. Some perished and some thrived. Shashwat Das, Foun...

Why do brands die?

After the pandemic, businesses of all kinds and sizes have suffered. Some perished and some thrived. Shashwat Das, Foun...
  • Like Humans, do brands also straddle between Mrityu and Moksha? Find out in this 2 part article series by Shashwat Das, Founder, Almond Branding.
  • He shares how a few preachings of the Bhagavad Gita are applicable to brands as well.
The other day, I came across an interesting insight from the Bhagavad Gita. In its Chapter 2, the Gita says that unlike a human body, the soul is immortal. While the human body may die of death or disease, the soul inside never dies. It simply gets in to new clothes (body) and continues its journey.

This made me think whether this preaching of the Gita is applicable to brands as well? I started looking around for examples where brands have either died completely or have risen from the dead or the brink of death to emerge stronger in a new avatar.

I did find a number of brands which have died their natural death, but more than that, I found that the number of brands that have reinvigorated themselves is far higher. Also, most of these re-born brands are even doing much better than before!

So, just like the mighty Arjun who went to Lord Krishna for answers, I too went to Lord Google and started searching for answers to my questions. I had just two questions:

  1. Why do brands die and
  2. How should a dying or a dead brand revive itself?
In this article let us answer the first question first? Why do brands die?

After much research and my interaction with many practicing experts I found the answers to these crucial questions.

So, why do brands die in the first place?

There are many reasons for this. But the main ones are:

  • Being stagnant
They say that rolling stones gather no moss. This is true for brands too. Brands that do not keep them updated to conditions around them become stagnated start to lose their charisma. Customers always like to connect with brands who are their own personality. If brands do not make an effort to emulate the customer’s personality or atleast lead a customer towards achieving one, then death is certain. There are many examples in India where brands remained stagnated and died without even realising what hit them. Remember brands like HMT, Campa Cola or Ambassador cars? These brands did not anticipate the changes happening around them and more importantly, even after knowing it refused to change thus leading to their death. Avoiding stagnation becomes more critical when we realise that most of them were market leaders once upon a time!

  • Being disconnected with its customers
Every brand has to evolve with its customers. Brands that realise the changes occurring in customer sensibilities in time and adapt themselves to these changes not only survive, but often thrive. Take the brand Lifebuoy. From being a mere bathing soap that had a very rustic look, Lifebuoy is today positioned as a health soap. There were times when Lifebuoy was used by people only to clean themselves after toiling in fields and dirt. But not anymore, Lifebuoy is much more than that today. It is a health-cum-beauty soap. Another brand that has remained connected with its customers is Pepsi. Pepsi keeps reinventing its brand identity every few years. Being a global brand, Pepsi looks for universally common themes and incorporates them into its visual identity elements.

  • Misplaced value equation
Customers buy a particular brand because that brand balances their value equation completely. To some, value is in terms of money while to some it is functional benefit and to some it is emotional benefit. But the moment a brand fails to balance this equation, things start going bad for a brand. Look at what happened to brands like shopclues.com. Once considered as a unicorn material, shopclues.com does not even appear in the customer’s consideration set today. Or for that matter MTNL. Once considered as the lifeline of Mumbai & Delhi, the Millennials or the Gen-Z customers don’t even know about MTNL.

  • Deliberate Decision
While some deaths are a part of their own doing, sometimes it is forced on them. There was a time in India when GoldSpot, Limca and Citra ruled the carbonated fizzy drinks market. When Coca Cola wanted to re-enter India with its own set of brands that competed head-on with these three, it simply bought the out and quietly killed them. While some old-timers still remember these brands, the feeling is only nostalgic. To kill them was a deliberate decision of the brand owner. The same happened with Uncle Chips, once a leader in the potato chips market. Lays took over the brand and quietly killed it replacing it with its flagship. Today, Uncle Chips is half-dead. Half dead because, Lays uses Uncle Chips to kill competition in areas where Lays is weaker or absent. Once the field is clear, Lays takes over the market. Uncle Chips is now a mercenary!

  • Failed resurrection
There have been instances in the past when a brand was taken over with an intention to make it even bigger instead of killing it. Binaca and Hamam were once popular brands in the toothpaste and bathing soap category before they were sold. The intention of the new owner was to make them even bigger. But for reasons unknown, these brands collapsed even after multiple attempts to revive & resuscitate them.

  • Premature Death
Death does not differentiate between infants, young adults or adults. It just happens! Remember Tata Nano, the great Indian car? The Nano is a classic example of a great brand died which died as an infant. While the product was flawless and perfectly placed on the value equation, its positioning proved to be its undoing! Nobody wanted to buy a car that shouted out loud “you couldn’t afford to buy a bigger car” every time one used it! Here was a car which had everything going right for it, but just failed in managing the perceptions right. Another example is of the soap brand LeSancy. It probably had the best value equation – the longest lasting soap! But then this strongest point proved to be its nemesis. Beyond a point, its long-lasting nature proved too much for the customers who were habituated to change/replace their soaps much frequently.

Just like in life, there are exceptions to each of the situations mentioned, but this is by and large the case. The reasons can be many, but the fact remains that brand health is very fragile. Even minor accident may lead to their untimely death. Hence it is important to conduct regular health-checks, get vaccinated and keep the brand’s immunity at high to avoid any sudden surprises.

But just like death is certain in our world, resurrection/revival is just round the corner for every brand, provided they make it to that corner! For every dying brand there are 100’s other who undergo a transformation and make a comeback with a bang. While some brands like Coca-Cola don’t disturb their visual identity but keep doing contemporary things, there are brands like Pepsi which revamp almost everything. We will see about such forever young brands in the next article.

Hence, the route to achieving brand moksha is to avoid getting trapped in any of the above mentioned situations. And more importantly, if unfortunately your brand is caught in one, then the faster it gets out of it the better.

Or else death is certain!