The relationship between your brand and the customer is susceptible to change. Loyalty is short lived and customers are easily distracted. Unless you keep up with the market’s ever-changing needs and habits, something better will come along and your brand will, inevitably, get dumped.
Where once your brand inspired fond feelings and thrilled its customers, brand fatigue evokes the opposite. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if left unchecked it can damage your business beyond repair. Remember Kodak, Woolworths and Blockbuster? A decade or so ago these brands were the giants of their industries; until they lost relevance, became complacent and stopped innovating. If Kodak for example, had embraced the digital age rather than written it off as a fad, would they still be on top? We’ll never know for sure but they would definitely be in a much stronger position than they are in now.
Staying relevant is key to avoiding brand fatigue but that doesn’t mean constant brand overhauls. In fact, change too much and you may completely alienate your core group of loyal customers. It’s a delicate balancing act to get right but ultimately, you need to pay attention to your customers and innovate in line with their needs to stay fresh year on year.
If you spot it, you can stop it
Whilst avoiding brand fatigue can be tricky, identifying it is easier. It all comes down to assessing how positively (or negatively) your customers are engaging with your brand. The number one question is of course – are your customers actually buying your goods or services? But there are other important metrics to pay attention to. Do your customers and prospects respond to your personalised communications? How do they interact with your brand on social media? Are they willing and eager to accept product samples or free giveaways? What is their relationship like with your key competitors?
Once you’ve armed yourself with this knowledge you can strengthen your weak spots, leverage your strong points and reverse any brand fatigue that may be creeping in at the edges.
Bear in mind that 17% of consumers in the UK view brands as an enemy. It’s a tough crowd to please but rather than write them off, get to know them and think how you can slightly adjust your offer to enjoy greater appeal. Innovative thinking is paramount, but wild ideas that completely alter your brand should be shelved. Could Airbnb for example, include peer-to-peer car rentals in its holiday accommodation service to attract new business?
The Coca-Cola story
If one brand knows how to stay relevant it’s Coca-Cola. After 130 years, this carbonated brown sugar water owns 48.6% of the global soft drinks market and remains one of the most powerful brands on the planet.
While Classic Coke is the brand’s first-born product, new additions like Coke Zero and Coke Life have launched in response to a changing world. As customers have become more health conscious and environmentally aware, Coca-Cola has made sure it keeps up with their wants and needs. This doesn’t always mean adding a new recipe to the Coke family. Sometimes it’s a seemingly simple, yet perfectly timed, marketing tactic. When the age of personalised communications took off, Coca-Cola printed people’s names on its coke cans and created an emotive global campaign that went viral.
It’s maintained its popular position by knowing how and when to innovate – without tampering with its core offer. The result so far is a brand immune to fatigue.
If it ain’t broke
Generally speaking, you should only ever alter your product or service when you absolutely have to. If your brand is strong and doing well, don’t feel compelled to reinvent the wheel. That said, if your brand position is waning fast, fix it – even if it means leaving your comfort zone. Blockbuster had the option to buy Netflix in 2000 for only $50 million. The CEO chose not to as he deemed the then DVD mailing service as “far too niche”. This lack of foresight has cost Blockbuster dearly – although apparently you can still find stores in Texas and Alaska.
If you do need to alter your core product, make sure you know in which direction you’re taking it. Always let your customers guide your path, they know better than anyone else what they like to eat, where they enjoy going on holiday, how they like to shop and so on. If you haven’t done so already, put a system in place that allows you to hear their opinions. Use these insights to steer your brand into a leading market position – and keep it there.
Avoiding brand fatigue can be tricky. You don’t want to innovate so much that your product becomes unrecognisable, nor do you want to stagnate and become irrelevant. At the end of the day, it’s about listening to your customers and giving them what they want – again and again. For this strategy to work effectively, you need to have everyone in the company on-board and committed to your end-user, first and foremost.