Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is Your Brand Subject To " Phantom Relevancy Syndrome?"

In the medical world amputees are subject to phantom limb syndrome: The perception of sensations, usually including pain, in an arm or leg after the limb has been amputated. The brain still gets messages from the nerves that originally carried impulses from the missing limb. Phantom limb syndrome is relatively common in amputees, especially in the early months and years after limb loss.

So as your brand relevancy diminishes are you subjecting yourself to phantom brand relevancy: the perception that your brand is still relevant even though it is not? Now many businesses are facing diminished relevancy today and there isn't a lot of hope that they'll bounce back. So what is it that goes on in the mind of the people running these businesses that they refuse to admit their business is fading away? Is it the fact that the USPS still does over a trillion dollars a year even though it's relevancy can't compete with email and text messaging? Is it that newspapers still get away with charging people for subscriptions even when radio is free and the internet delivers the same news a day earlier? Why do these brands refuse to reengineer themselves socially even though they're following in the same steps of greatly diminished brands such as Polaroid or Kodak who became commodities in the age where we now capture and transmit our memories digitally? And what of Microsoft's Bing Search Engine or Zune MP3 player - also rans that are 10 years over the hill before they were even new. Like General Motors chasing that dying aging midwestern audience - only that audience still process images in a way that once gave these businesses the lion's share.

So is it that managers cling to their ideas more tenaciously than their most prized material possessions that prevents them from effecting change? Is that the syndicated knowledge from which they draw insights fails to accurately map the future...or continues to lead them down the path that if they just keep coming to work and doing their thing everything will be allright? Are they playing ostrich and just hoping for a sustained miracle turnaround? Or is it that a few hybrid vehicles, while still a brightspot at General Motors have not been enough to do the trick? Of course I've been preaching this is the flaw in GM's relevancy for years. Before people will respond to a cash for clunkers deal at GM, GM has to establish the bread and butter market currently dominated by Ford, Honda and others. In short, you have to build more quality into your product.

But now I drift from my purpose, to promote comment on phantom brand relevancy syndrom. K-Mart's on the cusp, as is Sears, as is Starbucks as was Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. One step in the grave and no one's willing to admit it. How do these managers console themselves for one more day that everything is all right?


Byrne said...

There's a lot of money in milking a dying brand. If I had the choice between, say, Kodak's 5-10% annual declines in sales, and some other company's potential 50% annual increase in sales, Kodak might end up being a good deal (especially at the right price).

Someone with a shrinking business can focus on keeping costs low and keeping a dwindling customer base happy. This is a lot easier than growing a business, converting new customers, and controlling costs.

H. Martin Calle said...

Byrne. I agree. You sound just like my brothers who's CFO of Kindle and books at Amazon. But your last sentence should have been the first. That's where the meet is. Fortunately, I possess just as easy a way to turn a mature earnings business back into a rapid growth brand.