Zombie Brands in the Crosshairs

By November 2, 2017October 16th, 2018Branding

On this Day of the Dead, we examine a foreboding phenomenon among small and medium-sized companies: the rise of the Zombie Brand. That’s a lifeless business brand that lurches along, oblivious to reality. Dead Brand Walking.

A Zombie Brand is not the same as a zombie company, which is the term for a heavily indebted business that can afford to pay only the interest on its debt. In contrast, a Zombie Brand often afflicts a company that is, at least at present, relatively stable financially.

Zombie Brands are often established companies that have developed a false confidence that their marketplace success is somehow guaranteed and not the result of good luck and timing. Other characteristics include a misplaced trust in customer loyalty, a disregard for the passage of time, an aversion to coherent marketing and brand planning, and a lack of urgency to make improvements.

The state of a Zombie Brand can range from disheveled to decayed, depending on where along the timeline of decline we encounter it. The symptoms of a Zombie Brand typically appear in external-facing places like brand image, marketing, advertising, website and even customer service. Dead giveaways include:

  • Fragmented brand identity system. That can include an outdated logo, inconsistent brand image (a variety of logo formats or visual styles in use), and unenforced or no brand standards. Zombie Brand companies look disorganized and unprofitable no matter their financials.
  • Obsolete website. Cluttered, bloated, poorly written, not mobile friendly. If there’s a blog, the most recent entry is a year or more old. Zombie Brand companies are procrastinators.
  • Scattershot marketing. Zombie Brand companies don’t like marketing or planning, so they do the minimum. The demise of print and the complexity of digital options have numbed them into a state of avoidance, and they point to their miniscule marketing budget as evidence of fiscal responsibility.
  • Knee-jerk social media. Zombie Brand companies think that the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn icons on their website footer are proof of tech savvy, but visit their social accounts and you’ll find incomplete descriptions, out of date posts, and a lack of engagement. Twitter is particularly absurd. Most customers don’t care about your tweets, even if they happen to see one float by on the churning river of crazy that is Twitter.
  • Inferior customer service. Subjecting customers to antiquated payment systems, limited access to important information, primitive online environments. Zombie Brand companies often crow about their reverence for the customer while not prioritizing the customer experience.

Sporting a Zombie Brand is a good way to run your company into the ground. That’s because aggressive competitors are drawn to a Zombie Brand company. On TV, zombies eat the healthy, but in business, the healthy eat the zombies. When you look weak and slow, you are competitor prey. A long-established Zombie Brand company is an especially tasty treat, with unprotected marketshare just waiting to be devoured.

The recommended treatment for a Zombie Brand is first, a big injection of FEAR. If you are not afraid, you are not alive (that’s how you know you’re a Zombie).

The resulting cold sweat should wake you up to:

  • New Reality Law #1: There is no customer loyalty. Jeff Bezos says, “Our customers are loyal right up until the second somebody offers them a better service.” Believe him.
  • New Reality Law #2: You are what your external appearance conveys. Internal improvements should never take priority over your brand image.
  • New Reality Law #3: You are never moving fast enough.

A Brand Samurai should be engaged to perform CCR: Cut out the rot, Clean up the brand, and Reanimate. The Brand Samurai should first conduct a holistic assessment of the Zombie Brand. Then, unsheathe the swords and let the Zombie Brand War begin. You will need warrior discipline to survive, so follow your Samurai’s instructions.

Too extreme for you? Then just keep wandering until a competitor finally puts you in their crosshairs, and out of your misery.