7 Deadly Sins of Branding

Pioneered by companies such as Heinz and Quaker Oats, the process of branding emerged as a way to enhance consumer perception of mass-produced goods. Brands added a human element to the product – people could put their trust in the brand itself. Today, brands have transformed the process of marketing into one of perception building. Image is everything. Consumers make purchase decisions based on the brand rather than the reality of the product. Perfectly good products can fail as a result of bad branding. While this means brands can become more valuable than their physical assets, it also means they can lose this value overnight. Perception is an ephemeral concept. Failing brands usually commit one or more of the mistakes that have come to be known as the 7 deadly sins of branding.

Brand amnesia – For old brands, memory becomes an increasing issue. When a brand forgets what it is supposed to stand for, it runs into trouble. The most obvious case of brand amnesia occurs when a venerable, long-standing brand tries to create a radical new identity.

Starbucks started with brewing 3 flavors of coffee: bold, mild and decaffeinated. In 2008, they started focusing on milder version of the coffee and introduced new flavors under the name of Pike Roast Coffee. Customers voiced their displeasure over this shift. This is a perfect example of brand amnesia.

Brand ego – Brands sometimes develop a tendency for over-estimating their own importance, and their own capability. This is evident when a brand believes it can support a market single-handedly or tries to enter a new market for which it is ill-suited.

Kashi was purchased by Kellogg. But, the brand never associates it with Kellogg’s except in financial statements. This might be the reason for drop in sales of Kashi. The brand is still adamant on its view.


Brand megalomania – Egotism can lead to megalomania. When this happens, brands want to take over the world by expanding into every product category imaginable. Some, such as Virgin, get away with it. However, that is the exception and not the rule.

A slight extension sometimes costs a brand a lot. For example, Heinz, a cleaning liquid ventured into selling vinegar. The result was unimaginable. Customers couldn’t think of using Vinegar which is manufactured under the same brand name as a cleaning liquid.


Brand deception – Some brands see the whole marketing process as an act of covering up the reality of their product. For example, in an attempt to promote the film A Knight’s Tale, a marketing executive invented a critic and a quote to put onto the promotional poster. No one was deceived.

Brand fatigue – Some companies get bored with their own brands. You can see this happening to products which have been on the shelves for many years, collecting dust. When brand fatigue sets in, creativity suffers and so do sales. Brand fatigue can arise out of too much communication as well.

The Body Shop’s #selfesteem campaign was an attempt to revive the brand affiliation between teen agers.

Brand paranoia – This is the opposite of brand ego and is most likely to occur when a brand faces increased competition. Filing lawsuits against rival companies, reinventing the brand every six months, and imitating competitors are typical symptoms of brand paranoia.

A famous lawsuit between Porshe and Crocs displays paranoia Porshe has displayed. Porshe sued Crocs for introducing a rubber shoe brand named Cayman which Porshe fills infringes their brand of twin seat sports car.

Another example could be the lawsuit between Tata and makemytrip.com. Tata filed lawsuit against makemytrip.com for wrongful use of domain name oktatabyebye.com.


Brand irrelevance – When a market radically evolves, the brands associated with it risk becoming irrelevant and obsolete. Brand managers must maintain relevance by staying ahead of the category.

These 7 deadly sins will hamper the growth of the brand. Thus, brands should avoid getting trapped in the situations which destroy brand’s health.

Sayali Patil


Sayali Patil –  A PGP2 at IIM A, Sayali is currently pursuing her hobby of writing. She is an avid reader and likes to read fiction, non – fiction and anything other than course material. 😛 Passionate about social causes, she has taught under-privileged children and worked on education sector.  You can follow her on InsideIIM at sayali13.insideiim.com