Brand erosion often begins with something invisible to the human eye. A little change of feeling.
What is brand erosion?
Brand erosion occurs as brands shred attractiveness, then relevance, then preference and ultimately value because they have failed to stay likeable, attractive and competitive. The temptation is to see these shifts as the result of significant changes that rock a market and send customers packing in droves.
In point of fact, the shifts are often much more experiential, individually based and incapable of being seen at a granular level by brand owners. Small bang rather than big.
It’s tempting too to think that brand erosion is the gradual wearing away to nothing of everything that customers value.
What changes is how people feel
The reality is it doesn’t need to progress anywhere near that far for deterioration to set in. It can be as simple as a mood change.
The experiences quietly fade to the point where there’s less reasons to stay than to go. One day the food isn’t quite as good as it was, the movies on the flight haven’t been changed in a while, the person a customer spoke with just now was that little bit less warm, the changes in the insurance policy are more inflexible and the biscuits in the pack are smaller and taste different.
Brands make these changes with the best of intentions for the business. They do it to save money, to introduce a shortcut, to be more efficient. It’s just a little change right, a little reduction – think of it as portion control. No-one will notice. And most people don’t.
Unfortunately, the people who do notice are the people who have been loyal to the brand. They know where this is heading. Not today perhaps. Not tomorrow. But at some point, this is going to be yet another formulated cheap experience. They know because it’s happened to them before. Many times before.
So while the brands are congratulating themselves on what they’ve got away with, there’s a good chance that a sliver of their customers are mentally packing their bags.
In time, a drop becomes a trickle. And a trickle can become a river.
That could take years.
The importance of plussing
You can’t guess what customers are thinking or know what they have experienced. The only thing you can do, as a responsible brand manager, is to ingrain refreshment and renewal at the right pace into branding-as-usual.
Walt Disney used to talk about something called “plussing”. What can you do that will add just enough to what you’ve done to make it feel better and different than what you had?
In terms of combatting brand erosion, it can be interesting to think of this in 3% terms – 1% story, 1% product, 1% experience.
At a tempo that’s tuned to the dynamics of your sector.
Too fast, and everything feels fleeting. Too slow, and the rot may already have set in.
Three words to fight brand erosion
As brand lifetimes continue to reduce, the secret to combatting brand erosion sounds simple but has perhaps never been more challenging. Always be interesting. Please contact us if you’d like to talk this through.