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Brand Management

9 Signs Of Brand Entropy

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 9 Signs Of Brand Entropy

The word ‘entropy’ refers to a lack of order or predictability, and often signifies a gradual decline into disorder. Brands suffer entropy and decline, more often than not from neglect as I explored in ‘Never Let Go of Your Brand Values’. It’s essential for brand managers and all marketers for that matter to pay attention constantly and vigilantly to ensure that entropy doesn’t occur.

Two astute observers of the history and evolution of civilizations have insights to share on the topic of entropy. German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler believed that each civilization lives by an “idea” that is a concept of its own unique identity, passion, feelings and a sense of its mission and destiny, and that what’s important in any civilization (or brand) is the inner passionate struggle to maintain the “idea” against the powers of chaos.

The “idea” consists of the organizing principles and schemes that marshal the collective energy of people to create an orderly social concept that endures over time.

British historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee saw the development of civilization as a series of challenges and responses. Societies (and brands) confront problems and marshal resources, harness energy, and face challenges. To do so requires creative responses, and in Toynbee’s view, “the collapse of great civilizations occurs because of a failure of ‘vitality,’…that is to say an inability to mobilize human energy sufficient to overcome the obstacles” that threaten to undermine the social institution or brand concept.

9 Signs Of Brand Entropy: Do You See Them In Your Brand?

So how does this concept of entropy governing larger social systems apply to the process of monitoring your brand for signs of decay? Brand guardians should study these nine signs to ensure that their brands retain their relevance and vibrancy, and to combat the forces of entropy.

1. Loss of brand differentiation as perceived by your prospects and consumers.
2. The use predictable or stale marketing communications. Over half of all advertising is wasted. Periodically studying consumers perceptions and feelings about all significant ad campaigns in your category can reveal weaknesses.
3. Do you understand how communicating well with one segment can narrow your voice in another? Nike learned this in comparing the brand gap it had between men vs. women.
4. Are you letting cultural shifts in marketplace or lifestyle behaviors pass you by? The factors that create brand value and social currency are very changeable with the times. Iconic brands, leaders, political ideas, business models, campaigns themes and urban culture…all of these changes along with the issues that people worry about, look up to and talk about. Similarly, the buzz in a culture, the influences in fashion, design, technology, food, beverages, education, entertainment, and all other areas of human interest in the culture industries also change. So periodically weighing in and pondering the ascent and decline of the ideas and associations connected to your brand is essential to sustain success.
5. Have you missed competitive shifts that affect your value proposition? The strategy of playing not to lose can be very costly.
6. Are your products growing irrelevant through a lack of change over time?
7. Is your brand irritating consumers through disruptive communications that rub people the wrong way?
8. Is your brand developing an internal management outlook that is insular, arrogant, or complacent?
9. Are you sending out mixed messages or in other ways diffusing your own positioning power?

Sometimes brand entropy is caused by a lack of goal congruence between functional units or marketing budgets that are divided up in a way that allows multiple product groups to drive disconnected product positioning initiatives. This is called brand schizophrenia, when a fragmented identity is projected into the market, yielding a much weaker positioning power.

This topic is explored in greater depth in the recently published book Soulful Branding – Unlock The Hidden Energy in Your Company & Brand, Jerome Conlon, Moses Ma & Langdon Morris, FutureLab Press 2015. This book presents a deep paradigm shift in what the art of marketing & branding can become at the highest level. Few companies have ventured this high up the brand pyramid.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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