The failure of brand names like Kodak, Schlitz, Atari, Woolworth, Pan-Am, Circuit City, and Blockbuster is enough to make any brand ask, “Why did they fail?” And maybe more importantly, “How can I keep my brand name from failing?”

Decades ago, the downfall of brand names could be blamed on their products. Schlitz, for instance, changed its formula in order to save money. Customers noticed and moved on. Atari published sub-par video games. Extenuating circumstances contributed, too – as in the case of Pan-Am, which went under following a terroristic strike and rising fuel prices.

In more recent times, the failure of brand names can be attributed to a different cause: Resistance to change.

Brand Names Must Adapt to Survive

Kodak didn’t jump on the digital bandwagon (even though the camera film company was largely responsible for inventing the digital camera). Blockbuster didn’t go online, but instead settled into the deteriorating video rental industry niche. Circuit City suffered from poor customer service and didn’t cater to gamers.

So how can you avoid the brand name cesspit? Here are some tips for keeping your brand name relevant:

  • Think for yourself. Mimicking all your competitors’ moves means that you’ll duplicate all their mistakes. Of course, How to Build a Brand suggest that you study your competition and learn from them, but remember to always uphold your own brand identity.
  • Take risks, but make sure you can afford them. Brands that survive are innovators and out-of-the-box thinkers – but they also have the funds to back up those cutting-edge ideas. Think “adding on” rather than “replacing,” especially if your current products are doing well. Just imagine if Coca-Cola had permanently replaced its traditional formula with New Coke.
  • An adaptable product is not as important as an adaptable brand. In the past, brand failure was blamed on products. Today, it’s blamed on branding. A brand’s fate is fully reliant on the public’s perception and the ideas and feelings a brand conjures in the minds of those consumers who really matter. Focus groups around the globe have proven that consumers don’t really believe that brand-name products are better than no-name products; however, the emotional ties created by brand names are responsible for better sales.
  • Stay true to your brand’s values. Adapt, but don’t change the core of your brand. If you feel that your brand name is growing stale, ask yourself how your values are relevant in today’s market – and then communicate that with a refreshed (not completely rewritten) brand strategy.


  • Respond to change in a timely manner. Of course, the best method for handling change in your industry is to stay abreast of change before it happens so you won’t risk being left behind. Don’t resist change. Instead, find creative ways to be a trusted industry leader.

There’s no telling what types of external circumstances might affect (or possibly tarnish) brand names. How you handle these circumstances will ultimately determine how (and if) your brand name survives.

For more information about how business owners can keep brand names afloat, email How to Build a Brand on +44 (0) 208 123 6776 or connect with me, Sammy Blindell, on Google+.

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