1. You’re less connected with your customers than you used to be, or than your competitors are.
2. Your distributors increasingly hold the relationships and the tables are turning. They’re treating you like the supplier rather than the other way around. Or they’re introducing house brands that undermine your margins.
3. You’re past your heyday. There’s a lot of talk about history and the “glory days” of the business and/or the sector.
4. You’re paying too much attention to the wrong metrics.
5. You don’t know as much about your buyers as you need to.
6. You’re increasingly focused on technical excellence at the expense of relationships. My term for this fascination is “redundant excellence”.
7. Your customer base is static. So is your market share. Everyone’s comfortable.
8. You’ve lost the spark that’s got you this far. You’ve run out of ideas.
9. You’re riding a wave (but that’s all you’re riding).
10. You’re fading. Your competitors are less intimidated by you (and less respectful of you) than they used to be. You’re being successfully copied and bettered by those you would once have never given a second thought.
11. You respond to customers on your terms not theirs, because you view customer service as a cost.
12. You price-gouge your current IP rather than innovating. But exclusivity is drawing to a close.
13. You don’t do any scenario planning. You have a Plan A…but no Plan B, Plan C or Plan D.
14. You copy the market leader and bank on undercutting them to win customers.
15. Your product, or a core component of your product/profitability, is one short regulatory step away from being outlawed or substantially restricted. That day’s coming. Everyone knows it. You don’t have a back-up plan. You’re depending on lobbying to stave off the inevitable.
16. Your reputation is now dominated by what you can’t do, haven’t done, won’t do or did badly.
17. You’re lying to try and win business. Everyone knows.
18. You lack focus. You’re easily distracted into side projects that detract from your brand.
19. There’s no consistency in your customer experiences nor your brand’s touchpoints across media or cultural borders.
20. Your brand strategy is a revolving door. It changes as new executives come and go.
21. You’re giving away IP or leaving money on the table because you haven’t licenced your brand for maximum effect.
22. You’re boring. You’d rather stick with the tried and true than reinvent.
23. You squabble internally or with your competitors or investors and those wars consume more and more of your time and energy.
24. Your brand or category has been disrupted by a competitor you never saw coming, from an angle or POV you never consider.
25. You lack zeitgeist. You can’t stay relevant – or at least you can’t stay as relevant as others seem to be.
26. You’re tied to a partner who is dragging you down and you can’t/won’t separate from them.
27. You’ve lost touch with what makes you special. You have 100 ideas looking for a home.
28. You keep confusing your current customers and yourselves with new strategies.
29. You’re caught in an identity crisis. You can’t decide who you want as customers. You keep holding onto the market you know, but that market has moved on, and you’re reluctant to chase a new tribe.
30. You’re inconsistent or unreliable. No-one knows where they are with you. Perhaps there are privacy or confidentiality concerns.
31. Your CEO cannot articulate what your brand stands for and is not capable of being the ultimate brand champion.
32. The media has lost interest in your brand.
You can run this list and its predecessor up against many of the brand fades in recent years and find perfect matches on one or several points.
Here’s the good news. Strong brands reflect the qualities of those who have steadfastly built equity. And that’s a great cause for hope. Because brands are people-based and people-built, failure is not intrinsic. It is not something that is often beyond anyone’s control. But it takes open and decisive minds to take back control, act to turn things around and shift consumers to a positive frame of mind.
Photo of “Autumn leaves”, taken by Vladimir Agafinkin, sourced from Flickr
Thanks to Derrick Daye and Hilton Barbour for their additions to my original list.