41 Causes Of Brand Failure

Derrick DayeOctober 21, 201015294 min

Why do brands fail? As one might expect, the cause is often one or many common brand problems combined.

Earlier on Branding Strategy Insider we identified and analyzed the most common (and most notorious) problems in brand management. We counted them down in detail in a series called the 40 Most Common Brand Problems. (Which grew to 41) Now, in hopes you will not make any mistakes in building your brand(s), here’s an an encore of the 41 problems that cause and or contribute to brand failure.

  1. Not delivering against the communicated brand promise.
  2. Not linking brand planning to the business’ strategic planning process.
  3. Decreased product or service quality, the cumulative result of gradual and incremental changes to reduce costs.
  4. Increased product or service prices inviting low-end market segments and competitors, the cumulative result of gradually raising prices at a rate greater than inflation.
  5. The brand is gradually undermined by quarter-over-quarter revenue and profit pressures.
  6. Limiting the brand to one channel of distribution or aligning the brand too closely with a declining channel of trade.
  7. Failure to extend the brand into new product categories when the core category is in decline.
  8. Completely blurring the brand’s meaning and points of distinction by over-extending your brand into different categories and markets.
  9. Not applying the latest product and service innovations to your flagship brand because it is getting too old and stodgy (a self-fulfilling prophecy)
  10. Creating brands or sub-brands for internal or trade reasons, rather than to address distinct consumer needs.
  11. Launching sub-brands that inadvertently reposition the parent brand in a negative light.
  12. Unsuccessfully extending the brand up to a premium segment or down to a value segment.
  13. For market leader: Following challengers because it’s easier and produces more immediate results, rather than creating new ways to meet consumer needs.
  14. Not keeping up with the industry on product or service innovation.
  15. Decisions that adversely affect the brand are made outside of the brand management context.
  16. Senior managers do not understand what the brand stands for.
  17. Viewing brand equity management as a communications exercise, but ignoring it in other business processes and points of contact with the consumer.
  18. Licensing the brand name out to whomever will pay for it.
  19. Applying branding decisions at the end of the product development process (“Now, what will we name this?”) versus treating brand management as the key driver of all of your enterprise’s activities.
  20. Confusing brand management with product management.
  21. No person or department has responsibility for the brand. It lacks internal mindshare, supervision, and management.
  22. Treating brand management primarily as logo cops.
  23. Well thought-out marketing decisions are second guessed by non-marketers who think marketing is a matter of opinion rather than an art and a science in which experience matters.
  24. Defining your target consumer too broadly (for instance, women ages 18-65)
  25. Not really understanding the consumer, his needs, and motivations.
  26. Defining your brand too narrowly, especially as a product category (for instance, greeting cards versus caring shared)
  27. Marketing is divided into functional silos (advertising, promotion, brand management, product development, publicity, etc.) with no integrating mechanism.
  28. No central control of the brand portfolio (so that each brand team is free to apply the best differentiating features of one brand to each of the others in the portfolio)
  29. Choosing generic (non-proprietary) brand names.
  30. No brand identity standards and systems means inconsistent presentation and customer confusion.
  31. Trying to be the best at something, especially core category benefits, rather than owning a differentiating quality.
  32. Trying to own cost-of-entry benefits and not owning any differentiating benefits.
  33. Focusing too much on product attributes and not enough on brand benefits in consumer communication.
  34. Trying to make too many points in your brand communication rather than focusing on the one or two most compelling points of difference.
  35. Frequently changing your brands positioning and message.
  36. Loss of brand equity because of reduced or eliminated brand advertising.
  37. Overexposing the brand to the point that it becomes uncool.
  38. Spending too much money on trade deals and sales promotion at the expense of brand building.
  39. Being attacked by special interest groups who want to make a public statement.
  40. Branding decisions are ego- versus analysis-driven.
  41. Criteria for selecting the right brand manager for the job is weak or flawed.

Once again, you can find the 41 Most Common Brand Problems in detail here.

Did we miss any?

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  • Simon Gornick

    October 21, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Derrick – All these are superb insights into branding failures, but they apply to large and mid-size companies with resources, infrastructure, established market position. In fact, the list is so thorough that it convinces me more and more that there is no such thing as a small or personal brand. What are your views on whether and how the 41 apply to smaller companies?

  • Derrick Daye

    October 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm


    Thanks for your thoughts. The fundamentals of brand management apply to every brand, large or small. Granted, a smaller brand may not be concerned with launching a sub-brand today…tomorrow maybe.

    Best wishes,


  • Brad VanAuken

    October 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm


    Smaller brands can and do exist. Here are the primary problems of smaller brands: (1) complete lack of awareness, (2) little to no customer targeting, (3) little to no customer insight and (4) inadequate resources to build or market the brand or its products or services. Problems number 2 and 3 typically exist when an entrepreneur (often an engineer or scientist) creates a product seeking a market. The product seems cool and innovative, but the entrepreneur has no idea to whom it might appeal or why, or what the key marketing messages should be. Problem number 1 is related to problem number 4. If the company is undercapitalized, there will be little to no money to build the brand, which starts with building awareness.

  • Dave Champness

    October 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

    You may have covered it in point 12 but another cause for brand failure is trying to make the brand mean everything to everyone instead of everything or at least something to someone. I’ve seen this happen where product managers were responsible not only for their products but also for the marketing and communication budgets.

  • Denise Lee Yohn

    October 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Derrick — this is a great list — I plan to spend some more time with it, but one point jumped out at me right away — i would amend or add to “16. Senior managers do not understand what the brand stands for” and include:
    – all stakeholders (not just senior managers)
    – not only may they not understand what the brand stands for but also they may not equipped or empowered to adjust their decisions and actions to interpret and reinforce the brand appropriately
    – Denise Lee Yohn

  • Jeremy Waite

    October 25, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Great article. Some people are suggesting that your list is only relevant for larger corporations, but surely if you don’t start thinking like a big company you’re never going to be one? I think it’s a very interesting recent trend that big companies are going out of their way to act like small ones, and SME’s are all trying to build their brands by learning from the big boys.

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