How do B2B brands get broken? (Chapter 3: Age)


Chapter 3: Age: The telltale signs your brand has grown old before its time – and what to do about it. 

This is the third and final installment of a series about issues that can “break” a brand.

When B2B brands break, it tends to happen over time due to one or more of these three factors: Inattention, Evolution and Age. Previous posts have focused on inattention and evolution. Where the Evolution in Chapter 2 addresses the challenge of the company changing ahead of the brand, Age is more about the changes that happen around the company - in the world or in the market.

In the extreme, picture the brand pulling a Rip Van Winkle and waking up unchanged from a long slumber.

Successful brands adapt quickly to external shifts - and may even be the ones leading the change. For other brands, the broken ones, they wait out the change – but can eventually get to a point where what they say and do no longer fits what the market has come to expect. 

Symptoms of Age

·     Tired language. Maybe the tagline has become dated, or the name is built on a term that has long lost its luster. People in the company likely say things like “I can’t believe it still says that on our website.” 

·     Visual identity constraints. The logo and identity system don't have the flexibility to translate into social or digital applications. While corporate brands should be loathe to follow every trend, needs, language and sensibilities do change - and communications have to keep pace.

·     Lost leadership. From yesterday’s leader to today’s laggard, perceptions around the company have shifted and the market no longer considers the company a leader. 

·     Undervaluation. The company is not getting the credit for the level of technology and innovation does exist – leading to lower valuation among investors and lower esteem in the market. 

Causes of an Aging Brand

·     Interestingly, one of the causes here could be phenomenal success. Perhaps growth has been spurred by a small number of tight relationships and strong sales teams. The brand never had to work too hard – and over time investment in the brand just slowed to a halt. 

·     Lack of centralized marketing leadership. This one bears some similarity to Inattention in Chapter 1. A nice brand with all the bells and whistles and resources was created some time ago – but then the central marketing function was dissolved and there is no longer anyone truly in charge of the brand. Thus, no budget lines to keep the brand fresh and relevant.

·     Business strategy and brand strategy not in sync. If Marketing does not have a seat at the table in the development of corporate goals and objectives, it is only a matter of time for “what we say” to diverge from “what we do.”

Cures for an Aging Brand

·     This is a brand crying to be refreshed. If they’ve succeeded with a weak brand, it is a good chance they’ve got a strong reputation to build upon. An overhaul to the brand can galvanize the work force and offer a new platform to reconnect with old clients. 

·     Bringing sales, marketing and product teams together in a room will help uncover the range of challenges (and work-arounds) that have emerged – and it can be a great way to drive consensus and energy around a brand initiative.

·     A simpler effort is always an option – maybe just an update of the visual assets and some tweaking of the tagline – but changing a bit here and a bit there can miss an opportunity to embrace the heritage while reaffirming a focus on the future.

Short of major meltdown or corporate crisis, most broken brands can be fixed. 

When I was a kid, my dentist had a sign in his office: “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away.”

The corporate brand is a living, breathing asset that needs investment in time, money and emotional energy to survive and thrive. Every market is shaped by constant change – and only the strongest brands will be able to navigate and/or lead this change. 

  • How effectively do you leverage your corporate brand in driving the success of your business?
  • If your brand were stronger and more succinctly communicated, what would that mean for your business?
  • How does your brand adapt, whether change comes from within or from the world around it?


photo credit: Nick Jio, Unsplash
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Jonathan Paisner