Brands Gone Wrong

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing when it comes to your brand. Fortunately, we can always learn from the mistakes of others, and we will do so here with these brands gone wrong.

Brands Gone Wrong - Branding Mistakes
Photo Courtesy of aussiegall 

The Geek Squad

The Geek Squad used to be a super-cool brand that changed the computer repair industry. Now, the Geek Squad is no longer a brand, it’s a booth at Best Buy. Where did the brand go wrong? When founder Robert Stephens sold Geek Squad to Best Buy in 2002 it was no longer an independent company with it’s own mission and brand promise. Best Buy viewed Geek Squad as a revenue source, not as a brand with a mission.

Just look at this interview Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens did for Fast Company magazine in June of 1999. In it Stephens describes Geek Squad:

This is my attempt at glamorizing the unglamorous.

The Geek Squad is comprised of the top minds in computers. We solve problems that other people can’t.

Stephens goes on to describe his team of Geeks as free agents and soldiers:

Our business is based on rapid response and adaptability. None of the people who work for me are certified by Microsoft or Apple, but they’re kind of like Marines.

Sounds like a pretty cool company, doesn’t it? That brand doesn’t exist any more.

Where did the brand go wrong? The Geek Squad lost its entrepreneurial spirit and abandoned it’s brand promise. It’s no longer the same company it was founded to be. If you build a business on a particular promise, keep that promise. When you sacrifice your promise and your mission, you sacrifice your business.

IHOP Express

Formerly known as International House of Pancakes, IHOP has been serving breakfast since 1958. But with flat revenues, IHOP began searching for new ideas to make more money. Late last year they launched that new idea with a old name: IHOP Express, a hip, unconventional restaurant aimed at millenials who prefer breakfast on-the-go. At IHOP you can get Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancakes. At IHOP Express you can get a “Cup O’ Pancakes.” Different concepts, different menus, different customers…same name.

Where did the brand go wrong? It’s called the Line Extension Trap. As explained in the classic marketing book Positioning: Taking the name of an established product and using it on a new one. IHOP Express is a new business, not a scaled down version of a real IHOP. To call two different businesses the same name is to cause brand confusion. Line extension also undercuts each brand’s position. IHOP should have called IHOP Express a different name.

Fat Ho Burgers

Fat Ho Burgers (yes, it was is a real business) took Waco, Texas by storm when it opened in March 2011. A dose of novelty, a dose of controversy, and soon people were lined out the front door waiting to order a “Supa Fly Ho” with cheese. Television stations lined up to do stories, and Fat Ho Burgers even gained national attention. Less than one year later the business is closed.

Where did the brand go wrong? It relied on a gimmick. It was a one-trick pony that depended on a clever name and the PR that followed it. But gimmicks do not make a good business. There is an old saying in the industry, “Good marketing cannot save a bad business.” Nor can a gimmick. Avoid gimmicks as a foundation of branding your business.

The common theme in all three of these brands is that they aren’t true brands, they are business ideas created to make money.

With these brands gone wrong, we know what not to do. But what to do instead? Let me give you a little nudge in the right direction with this free, recorded webinar: Branding U: Revive, Refresh, Revitalize Your Brand


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