Why Brands Fail (And How to Avoid It)

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What is on your heart?

You’d love if I just handed you the answer to why brands fail, wouldn’t you?

This is why your brand fails
This is why your brand fails!

It is of course a very complex questions. But after working with brands of all sizes for over 10 years, I believe I have some ways to clue you in.

The keyword in a lasting brand is coherence

And when we speak of coherence, I mean that all the parts play together — and you can’t ignore any of them.

The old adage says “you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

So a new brand might fail because you (as a new brand founder) see the outward expression of a big brand that inspires you — but you fail to understand the depth and complexity that lives beneath the surface.

An iceberg representing a brand.
The brand iceberg. What kills you lives beneath the surface.

What is a brand? And how does it fail?

To get a solid answer you have to define your question better. First of all what is a brand, and what defines a failure?

A brand literally springs from the idea of the old timey farmer bringing cattle to the market, and branding his cattle with a mark that denotes his name and reputation.

Here at Skylimit Productions, I’ve chosen to define a brand as all the parts of your company that faces the client. And to more easily assess the health of your brand, I’ve split it up into five pillars.

  • One for your Product.
  • One for your Brand Story.
  • One for your Visual Identity.
  • One for your Funnel.
  • One for your Customer Service.

If one of the pillars fall, your reputation declines, and your brand fails.

Let me take you through each of the pillars, so you can ponder your own brand in the process. And lastly, I’ll go through a few core principles that can keep your brand in the safe zone.

Keeping your brand safe.
Keep your brand safe out there!

How your brand’s Product fails

Early in your brand journey it might be tempting to speed the process of photographing and presenting your product — but a healthy brand grows out of true care for the product, and the problem which it solves.

Any brand will fail if you’ve failed to assess the market, and its need for what you have to offer. And you need an honest, open attitude, and a feedback loop as to how well you deliver to the clients’ need.

Ask your customers/clients for honest feedback, and act on it continuously.

And deeply care for your product. If you don’t care, and are only hoping for a quick buck, the likelihood of your brand’s failure is so much higher. But this of course, is hard to teach.

Find something you care about before you begin. Don’t begin by “wanting to build a brand.” Begin with solving a problem, or creating something you genuinely enjoy.

This sounds simple, but there are layers and layers to its simplicity.

Ponder it for a moment.

Don’t begin by “wanting to build a brand.” Begin with solving a problem, or creating something you genuinely enjoy.

Brands missing their mark
Does your brand miss the mark?

How your Brand Story fails

Your Brand Story is your reason for existing, put down in words — as well as the language and the style you want to convey your message. This has to be anchored, written down somewhere you and your co-workers can revisit time and time again — until your brand story comes out coherently to the public.

Language is immensely important. Don’t write something you don’t mean, but don’t fail to write the story you have to tell.

Your brand needs a story.
Don’t miss the importance of a strong identity put down in words.

Language is immensely important. Don’t write something you don’t mean, but don’t fail to write the story you have to tell.

How your Visual Identity fails

Of course you need a good designer on your team to make sure the way you present yourself is up to par with your product. But remembering coherence again: If your visual identity is strong, and your product is weak, you come across as dishonest.

Here’s a hot tip for starting out. The old adage is true: A picture speaks a thousand words. Take note of this next time you visit a website that sells a product: A very high percentage of webdesign, is 1) words, 2) pictures.

The graphics and embellishment that we often call design, is merely there to serve the message that’s given through words and images.

But upon entering your website, a visitor will assess your trustworthyness in less than a second. This comes down to following design principles (which you can do simply by using a ready-made theme) but also the quality of your language and your imagery.

Upon entering your website, a visitor will assess your trustworthyness in less than a second.

How your Funnel fails

Your funnel is whatever channel brings people from not knowing you, into converting customers.

Your funnel can be just about anything from excelling at Instagram or paying for Google ads. It doesn’t matter. “Free” marketing costs you your time. Paid marketing costs you your money (which cost you time to earn.)

Let me iterate again that all these parts play together. You can always pay for traffic to your site, but if it doesn’t convert, you will soon run out of funds. You need traffic, entering your brand through a clear story, convincing imagery, a trust-inspiring design.

Master a social media channel for your brand to grow.
Work hard. Master a social media channel.

But then if there is no traffic, your brand will fail. And solving this issue is often a major make-or-break-it part of your brand.

A quick tips for “free” traffic: Focus on mastering one channel that you like working with. Social media can give you free traffic, but it will take you time to get results, so select your medium and expression with care, and work hard to master that craft. It will not come easy!

Select your medium and expression with care, and work hard to master that craft.

How your Customer Service fails

You will never do anything perfectly. And working with follow up, is a great way to keep your brand growing and healthy.

And it’s also a great way to face harsh realities.

Customers will tell you like it is! And if you are wise, you let this go right back to your development of your brand and product.

Customers will tell you the truth of your brand.
Customers will tel you the truth.

We usually highlight a few items that is a great way to ensure good customer service in online retail.

  • A warranty: Your product should work, if not you should take responsibility.
  • Good shipping: People really really care about this.
  • A generous return policy: People are used to that these days. And it builds trust like crazy.

And then to build your own future, gather reviews — this builds trust.

It is 5 to 25 times more expensive to gain a new customer than to win an old one over again.

So treating your customer with respect. Being honest from the start. And doing what you can to comply with their post-purchase concerns like a decent human being, will save you cash, and potential brand failure down the road.

Other reasons a brand fails

Moving away from our five pillars, there are a few instant ways to kill your brand off.

Lack of trust

Building trust is one of the core principles in marketing. Reviews build trust. So does solid trust-inspiring design. Photos should be great quality, but not overly edited. Grammar must be correct. These all contribute to trust, and once trust is breached, a brand very easily fails.

Be honest. A great core principle to brand by.

Brands fail from lack of trust.
Your brand fails from lack of trust.

Be honest. A great core principle to brand by.

Loosing humanity in the digital world

Might sound stupid. But consider it.

Most of the concepts that ensure your brand’s survival goes back to the farmer in the market, who has to look his clients in the eye and tell them the truth, because he knows he will see them again next week.

Your reputation is on the line, and to build a brand that lasts, that reputation is everything.

I would say that reputation is your brand.

Imagine having to see your client in the eyes as you sell to them. And then treat them as you would in the real world. (P.S. They will also come back next week.)

Lack of care

Your process and brand should be in a constant loop of finding weak points and patching them up. And this comes from care. You can not win if you are complacent.

But I don’t think you’re one of them if you’ve read all the way here.

If you keep reading up, learning, trying things, failing repeatedly, there is a chance you may be one of the brands that don’t fail.

Good luck! Let me hear how it’s going.

No seriously. I’d love to hear about your journey building a brand!

This one was written by Benjamin Antoni

I am a Brand Strategist with 10+ years of broad design experience, where UX, web and logo design have been my main focuses. My most comprehensive experience is having built the Red Hat Factory brand from scratch, but I also work part time with helping other brands find their identity and grow from there.

Mail him


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