7 signs your brand is broken

(and how to mend it)

How do you know when it’s time to press reset?

There isn’t one single measure, but in our decades of experience of helping brands navigate transformation, there are signs that a brand may be broken. No business will demonstrate all of these – but neither are they mutually exclusive. They are day-to-day symptoms that you may not immediately realise can be traced back to your brand.

Because whether there’s a disconnect between your values and your culture, your brand identity isn’t resonating with your audience or your content is simply not meeting any of your success measures, you can be sure it will have a ripple effect, impacting areas of the business that don’t sit under the marketing umbrella.

The good news? The signs are easy to spot – once you know what they are. And then it’s a simple matter of having the bravery to press reset. The even better news? We can help with that too.

1. You’re jealous of the competition

We all know how important it is to keep one eye on the competition – every brand repositioning exercise we do begins with a deep dive into the competitive landscape. It’s when one eye turns into two green eyes seething with jealousy that we get a little uncomfortable. Because while knowing the competitive landscape is an imperative, making every decision based upon what your competitors are doing, not what is right for your business, is downright dangerous.

The impact

1. You stop being brave 

It’s hard to make bold, industry defining decisions when you’re waiting for someone else to do it first. Brands that are too focused on the competition will never be able to truly stand out from their competitive set. It takes bravery to be a disrupter.

2. You rush into ill-advised choices

Obsessing over your competitors leads to panic-driven decisions (Why aren’t we doing that? Should we be on TikTok?) rather than measured decision-making (is it the right time for us to launch a campaign? Do we have a need for a new channel?)

3. You neglect your customers

It’s true that competition forces us to do our best. But by whom? Our aim should always be to do the best by our clients and customers. And your customers are unique. They aren’t the same as your competitors. They’re attracted by what you uniquely offer. Don’t neglect them by chasing after someone else’s custom. Give them more of what they want.

The solution

1. Get in touch with your audience

Put your competitors to one side for a moment – we bet you know them inside out already. Instead, investigate every touchpoint in your brand experience and ask, are we delivering for our audience? Are we promising them what they need?

2. Remember why you started

Every business began because someone identified a need in the market that they could uniquely satisfy. Reconnect with what that was for your business. Put it at the heart of everything you do. Make sure people in your business know what it is – make it the reason they come to work every day. Make it the reason your customers come back again and again.

3. Dare to be different

What can you offer that your competition never could? It may be a service, brand promise, experience, tone of voice or visual style that will set you apart. Use your difference as an armour and dare to stand out. Next thing you know, your competition will be the ones who are jealous of you.

2. You don’t like what people say about you

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously said: “A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” and he isn’t wrong. Yet it’s increasingly easy, through social listening, reviews and NPS tracking to know exactly what people think of your brand. Struggle to recognise your business in what they’re saying? Then there’s a broken connection between what you stand for and the service and experience you are delivering on the ground.

The impact

1. People aren’t buying what you are selling

If you truly believe your product or service is great, but your sales are suffering, the likelihood is the market has the wrong impression about your business. Whatever it is you stand for is not translating into your actions, communication or brand experience. It’s a sticky problem, but not uncommon.

2. Energy on content and messaging is wasted

We assume that while the wrong messages have been circulating about your business, you haven’t been sitting on your hands. Time, effort and resource has been going in to marketing that has failed to either hit its target, or effectively counteract any of the negative noise.

3. You lose control of the conversation

One of the biggest challenges brands face is changing perceptions. But left unaddressed, negative or inaccurate brand perceptions escalate, making it ever harder to get back on track. Are you brave enough to recognise the truth in what people are saying, and address it head on, from the inside out?

The solution

1. Be your own mystery shopper

It’s time to listen up, and listen hard. Find every piece of feedback your customers old, new and prospective have offered about your business. Try to understand how they could believe what they say about you, and where, ultimately, you’ve failed them.

2. Recognise the disconnect

Where did it all go wrong? Usually there’s a point in the brand journey where the hard work you put in at the start was lost in translation. When the values you believe represent your business weren’t put in to practice. Find the broken link and fix it.

3. Reclaim the narrative

The bad news? Changing perceptions doesn’t happen overnight. The good news? It’s a relatively simple process. It comes from continued, consistent, clear communications that engage your audience with a new, true, shared set of values rooted in your business. The hard part is committing to it.

3. No one wants to come to your party

The invitations are sent (and the email reminder and Whatsapp chase). Then the big day comes, your party hat is in place and no one is ringing the doorbell. If your brand is failing to attract the people you want through the door, whether to work with you or work for you, you’ve failed to prove what’s in it for them. Consumers buy on the basis of their beliefs. Product or service is no longer enough. And more than three quarters of millennials want to know your purpose before deciding whether to work for you. Purpose is the heart of your brand offer. If your dance card is empty, it’s the first place to troubleshoot.

The impact

1. You fight for every lead 

If it feels as though you’re having to drag every prospect through the door, your brand isn’t working hard enough to sell a shared set of values, on top of your product or service. 

2. You’re not converting

Sales that consistently fall at the final hurdle – without a hard reason (for example, price or desire to purchase) often signify a need to communicate more strongly what kind of brand you are to do business with. What purpose do you and your audience share that will forge a stronger bond, and push you over the line? 

3. You struggle to hire or keep good people

Passionate workforces need a shared purpose – it makes long days easier to stomach and challenges easier to overcome. If employees, prospective or existing, don’t know what you stand for, what reason do they have to stick around? 

The solution

1. Know, live and sell your purpose

Don’t just write it on the wall, sell it as hard as you flog your services. Put it at the heart of everything you do, from strategy to annual reviews. 

2. Don’t try to be all things to all people

Be aware your purpose may divide opinion as well as engage. But where it engages, it will resonate on a deeper level than a product ever can. 

3. Add values through your values

If you value creativity, help people unlock theirs. If you value efficiency, share best practice. Look for ways you can surprise, entertain, or help your audiences with your values. 

4. You keep getting ghosted

Everything’s going great – a lead looks hot, customers are happy… until they’re not. Poof, they’ve disappeared. You understandably ask yourself what you did wrong… but it’s not you, it’s your brand. We can’t just rely on customers or clients to stick around, particularly if they’re weathering changes in service, price increases or your competitors are knocking on their door. 

The impact

1. Customers get their head turned 

We’d love it if customers were for life. But the reality is we need to keep things interesting to keep them coming back for more. If you can’t always compete on price, location or convenience, you can still win the battle against competition if your brand storytelling gives customers something extra to stick around for. 

2. You get dropped at the first sign of trouble 

Every brand will slip up from time to time, or simply have to communicate something we know our customers won’t like (price hikes, for example). If your brand is strong, this shouldn’t fill your marketing team with fear. Because price isn’t your only benefit. 

3. You’re constantly in acquisition mode

Acquisition costs up to five times more than retention. If you’re leads are only coming through the door with serious hands-on grappling, you’re needlessly wasting sales resource. Funnel some of that investment back in to your brand and let it lighten the load for you. 

The solution

1. Look for patterns

It’s time for some soul-searching. When and where is your audience disappearing? This is the point in the customer journey you need to mitigate the risk with strong content that amplifies your unique benefits. 

2. Give yourself a role in customers’ lives

Great content takes your brand out of the shop floor and into the lives of customers and clients. It is as valuable to your audience as it is to your business. It must have a unique content purpose and obvious benefit, making you a valuable part of customers lives. 

3. Go beyound product and service

How often have you parted with money based on the product or service alone? Almost never. It’s the way it makes you feel, what it says about you, how it changes your day or your life, that drives you to transaction. Sell that too.

5. People say you’re too expensive

There’s nothing wrong with being expensive. A high price point can stand for quality, excellence or expertise. But if you’re constantly losing out to cheaper brands, having to haggle or offer sales or discounts, it means you haven’t convinced your audience of your value. 

The impact

1. Sales fall at the final hurdle

Customers should be 100% convinced of the value of working with you, or of your product, before they ever hear the price. Then it’s their job to justify it to the bank manager. 

2. You spend too much time having to justify value 

This happens when value messaging – the benefits you uniquely offer your consumers – isn’t baked into all of your communication at every stage of the customer journey. By failing to do this, you set your sales force up for a mammoth closing effort. 

3. Customers are in a constant cycle of reappraisal 

Your positioning should be strong enough that you make yourself the obvious choice. Everyone else should have to compete with you. If you find customers are always looking for a better offer, they don’t understand the value you alone provide. 

The solution

1. Build a world people want to be a part of 

Consider the world your product is part of. What does it look like? Who lives there? If the only image you have of your brand is a logo and a product shot, build out your world into a fully rounded brand identity. 

2. Generosity of brand and offering 

If you’re charging a premium, it’s likely you have expertise beyond your service you could, and should, be sharing with your audience. Be generous with your experience as a brand. It’s a benefit money can’t buy. 

3. Share a passion with your audience 

Whether it’s a lifestyle passion, such as adventure, magic, sport or music, or a sector passion, such as health, time efficiency or technology, sharing a passion with your audience helps demonstrate that you understand them. That you are passionate experts. 

6. You betray your brand too often

So your new brand is signed off, printed up and delivered to your team with fanfare. But after roll out you notice a little tweak here, a tiny addition there. Some pretty wild diversions by that freelancer who didn’t read it at all. 

Your brand book gathers dust while you break the rules more than you follow them (and the agency who helped you develop it loses all of their hair). 

The impact

1. Time wasted reinventing the wheel 

Do you find every time you need to produce anything you’re starting from scratch? What a waste. Great branding should take all of the guesswork out of creating comms and content. If you don’t trust your branding, it isn’t right. 

2. You lose effectiveness when the brand is diluted at every turn

Strong branding should be reinforced every time you communicate with your audience. When you break your brand too often, you lose impact. Water down your brand at your peril. 

3. Inconsistensy and lack of clarity 

Brand architecture offers consistency and a clarity of thought across your entire organisation (don’t make us use the words ‘same hymn sheet’). If you or members of your team are betraying your brand – ignoring or misusing the guidelines or bending the rules before you’ve established them, you appear inconsistent and untrustworthy. 

The solution

1. Develop your brand and content hand in hand 

Any branding worth the investment will be developed with content executions in mind. Brand should be the truest expression of your business. Content should be the strongest expression of your brand. One cannot exist without the other. 

2. Stress test every execution before roll-out 

Ask to see your beautiful new brand work executed in multiple formats – from online content to mugs and t-shirts (if that’s what your business needs) before signing it off. Brand is a living breathing thing that has to work hard, and can’t break as you use it. 

3. Be your brand guardian – this is non-negotiable 

No one will protect your brand as well as you. Be the bad guy – call out misuse every time you see it. Demand to know why brand guidelines haven’t been followed. See exceptions as an exceptional circumstance. Protect your brand, and your brand will protect your business. 

7. Something doesn’t feel right

Ever been in one of those meetings that just isn’t working? No one’s on the same page, everyone’s pulling in a different direction. Up feels down and you can’t quite remember what it is you’re all trying to achieve. You’ve lost your North Star. That’s what your brand should represent – a guiding light that everyone can follow to navigate your business in the right direction. 

The impact

1. Big and small decisions feel risky 

Everything feels harder than it should. The right answer isn’t obvious. You’re not just scared to fail but scared to do anything at all. 

2. No one is aligned 

Perhaps those beliefs you thought everyone signed up to no longer ring true. Or maybe your brand has evolved and it’s time to pause and check in. Realign on what you are all working towards. 

3. You are stuck

If discussions are going around in circles, or decisions are being delayed until the answer becomes clear, your brand is broken. Combined, your proposition, purpose and beliefs should offer answers and a gut check moment to help drive you forward in times of uncertainty or transition. 

The solution

1. Ask the tough questions

If people can’t or won’t make your brand work, take a step back and ask yourself if it’s really fit for purpose and right for your business. 

2. Tell people why, not just what to do

A lot of decisions go into building a brand, and you probably know why you made all of them. Share that thinking with your teams so they understand what you’re trying to achieve with each element of your brand, and why these are the right tools to get there. 

3. Give people the tools they need 

First, ask what they need. Workshopping how to get there together is the fastest way to ensure everyone will help activate your brand work once it’s finalised. Because without your workforce buying in, your brand will be nigh on impossible to roll out effectively.

Sound familiar?

If you see any of these signs in your business, rest assured, you are not alone. The signs were developed after our brand and engagement experts noticed the same symptoms occuring in businesses across the globe, from sectors as diverse as beauty, motoring and tech. 

Brand leaders today are at a tipping point. Faced with a series of challenges that can swallow a brand whole. We work with brands to give them the confidence and clarity they need to succeed​. At Keel, we call this conviction.

If you’d like to find out more about how a boost in conviction could help your brand, we’d love to hear from you.