The risks of brand complacency

Another bit of genius from marketoonist Tom Fishburne, this one about the potentially fatal effects of "brand complacency". This is especially relevant to brand leaders, who need to constantly work on renovating their core brand and business to stay ahead of the competition.

Below are a few tips on how to avoid becoming complacent and paying the price, as happened to brand leaders like Blockbuster and Kodak.

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1. Define your market in benefit terms

To identify possible threats to your business, ensure you are defining your market in benefits terms, not product terms. So, Kodak's market was not photo film, it was really "capturing memories". Defining the market this way could have helped draw more attention to the threat of digital cameras.

2. Respect the upstarts, don't dismiss them

Brand leaders can become arrogant and dismissive of start-up "challenger brands", or "poacher brands" as I call them. This is a risky and mis-guided reaction that reeks of brand ego tripping. And it can be costly, as Blockbuster found out, losing business to Netflix's DVD delivery service, and then online streaming. Brand arrogance can also happen in consumer goods markets. Ski was once UK brand leader in yoghurts, but lost out to Muller who came in with a superior product and distinctive "split-pot" packaging.

A better approach is to look at what new start-up brands are doing, and find ways to combat them. For example, you learn from what they are doing well and re-apply their ideas to your business, as Walkers did with Red Sky premium potato chips, that I posted on here.

3. Have an ongoing renovation pipeline

Most brand teams I meet have an innovation pipeline full of sexy new product development (NPD) projects. Far fewer have a renovation pipeline, with a 2-3 year plan on how to reinvigorate and refresh the core brand and business. In a recent post I used the example of James Bond as a brand who had refreshed and renovated itself with the movie Skyfall.

In conclusion, brand complacency is easy to creep in on a leader brand, but its a dangerous thing. To avoid it, you should follow Tom's advice, which is a phrase I've also used many times, including this post back in 2008: "To stay number 1, train like number 2".