Every single one of us has gone through it. You meet someone – doesn’t matter if they’re a new friend, or love interest, or whatever – and they’re great. Until one day, when you notice them do or say something that’s not like them.
Then you notice another thing, then another thing. And eventually you say the fateful words, “It feels like I don’t even know them anymore.” And you never see them in the same way again.
This happens with brands too. It’s called brand dilution, and it gives customers the ick. But don’t despair – we’re here to help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a brand by talking you through brand dilution, some examples of diluted brands, and how to prevent it.
Brand dilution is when a brand overstretches itself, and loses sight of its original purpose, values, or mission, causing the brand to devalue overall. This usually happens when launching a new product that doesn’t align with the brand’s original purpose.
As you build your brand online and your online business enjoys success, it’s natural to want to expand as a business and launch new product lines.
When you want to expand your brand offering, it is important to keep one thing in mind. All your products and services should conform to your values, the quality your customers are accustomed to, and what your brand is known for.
As long as brands stick with these principles, they can surprise customers with something new and exciting. But when they ignore the principles, they risk damaging their brand by not meeting customer expectations.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: The US has the highest rate of customer loyalty, but 31% would switch brands if their favorite brand lied about “product performance or efficiency.”
There are many causes for brand dilution, but here are the most common:
Overcommitment and Unable to Fulfill
Businesses can be victims of their own success. Scaling up and adding new product lines put pressure on an ecommerce business that might not be ready to meet surging demand.
It can happen slowly until the brand gets caught out and they can’t keep up. It can happen really fast too – an influencer or celebrity can discover the brand, a piece of content goes viral, and bam! The business is slammed with thousands of orders. Either way, the brand needs to fulfill those orders and come up with money to get the products made fast because no one wants to disappoint new customers.
There’s a temptation to let the quality dip to source the products from a cheaper supplier. The supplier uses cheaper materials, just so that the order can be fulfilled, fast. This all means a noticeable difference in quality that makes customers doubt brand integrity and worse, tell others about it.
Mismatching and Confusion
Sometimes a brand will do something that makes absolutely no sense. A big decision or campaign or product line might have nothing to do with what customers expect. It could be downright confusing!
If luxury brand Rolls Royce decided to mass produce a rough and ready family minivan, you’d wonder what was going on. So would we.
When customers are confused, they question what the brand’s about. That’s when any competition with a solid brand sweeps in to get your customers. This is especially true for ecommerce customers – a new brand is only one Google search away.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: It’s not just your products, packaging, and logo that should match your brand. Make sure your social media content (and any influencers you collaborate with) compliments your brand too.
Acquisition and Franchising
When a brand is acquired by a larger company, everyone gets a little nervous. Will quality and brand offering remain the same? What about the brand’s values? An acquisition can completely change a brand’s offering, its vision, and even its target customers.
Licensing a brand for others to sell can raise similar questions. Will the quality be maintained? What happens if it doesn’t? And if franchisees still sell products under the same brand name, how much of a knock-on effect will a dip in quality have? Word travels fast in the ecommerce business.
Given that brand dilution can damage a brand irreparably, what should an ecommerce business do to not fall into the trap?
Have a Strategy for Scaling Up and Introducing New Lines
Keeping reliability and quality in the foreground will help combat brand dilution. There are things you can do to prepare for scaling and trying new products:
- Beta test them with existing customers
- Have a plan with your main manufacturer/supplier
- Find reliable, quality-led secondary manufacturing options
- Research what other brands who suffered from dilution did wrong
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Customers are more likely to be patient for a cool new product if they know the delay comes down to quality assurance.
Make Your Brand and Its Values Clear and Unmistakable
When it comes to your brand and products, there’s no room for confusion. Draw a line in the sand and commit to these things:
- Who you are
- What’s important to your brand
- The problems you want to solve for your customers
- The values you share
Keep them at the forefront of everything you do – your product development and choices, the decisions you make as an ecommerce business, and your customer-facing content. That way when you try new lines and products, or even rebrand your business later on, you surprise your customers, but you won’t confuse them.
Guard the Brand When Others Have Financial Interest In It
If you’re considering selling your brand (or getting business partners), don’t be afraid to make the brand and its values iron-clad. You can negotiate conformity to your brand in any way – of course, it extends throughout logos, signage, etc. But it should also cover location, price, offerings, how the business conducts itself, social media usage, who that business might eventually sell your brand to, etc.
Putting your brand into someone else’s hands always comes with a risk, no matter how strong any contract terms. Always have a specialized lawyer look over contracts before you sign anything. This is especially important if you keep the brand name or operate a new branch of the brand while the acquisition source runs the main share of the brand.
Find Out More
Check out our list of Brand Strategy Examples for more inspiration from brands such as Apple, Starbucks, and Amazon.
Here are two of our favorite examples of diluted brands.
McDonald’s sold McPizza. That’s right, pizza. Though the mini pizzas had a bit of success with children excited about something new, most customers were confused. Why on earth would a place famous for burgers and fries do this?
The family-size pizzas went against the fast food experience that customers expected. If a family wanted pizza, why wouldn’t they just go to a pizza place? McDonald’s soon ended the promotion and have no plans to ever bring it back. In fact, it poked fun at itself for the campaign.
It’s not often McDonald’s gets it wrong, but we can’t help but feel that if it had simply asked its customer families what would make them consider getting pizza at McDonalds’ versus an Italian place, that would have at least caused it to reconsider the campaign.
Google decided to release its own social media platform to rival Facebook. It didn’t take long before people signed up, curious about the service. But it also didn’t take long for 98% of signees to drop the service too.
Data leaks, bugs, and the way it was set up enabled people to sign up and make a page without even knowing it. No one could see the benefit of taking on yet another social media platform (especially a flawed one!), and it hurt the Google brand in general. It didn’t have the reliability of the Google search engine that users had grown accustomed to.
If Google had done more research, discovered the customer pain points that Facebook wasn’t addressing, and had figured out a strong way to differentiate itself from Facebook, it might have stood a better chance.
Brand dilution can be a difficult thing to recover from. The good news is that it’s relatively avoidable. The key is to know your customers, what they want and don’t want, and to use wisdom when introducing new products and trying new things.
We’re a big believer that a brand’s values and mission are its biggest strength. And this is absolutely true for you as an online business owner, no matter what the size or nature of your business.
Knowing who you are, what you want to do, and who you want to reach will help you move forward in all your business decisions. It will also help you avoid brand dilution.