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3 Signs Your Brand Is On A Downward Spiral


Branding is a long-term investment. That means you don’t see the results right away, but “suddenly” one day the benefits start happening.

When you ignore your brand or mess it up, the bad effects are not immediately apparent. In other words the negative effect is “lagging.”

But brands work exactly like human relationships. Screw the brand up for a long enough time, and you wake up one day and find that your partner is gone.

Here are three major indicators that your brand is headed for the clearance rack.

#1. You turn “corporate.”

What you used to do for fun has become dry and boring. You’re milking it for the cash.

Exhibit A: What hath Google done to their logo?

They’ve murdered it, that’s what.

At around the same time as they’ve reorganized – away from experiments and towards money.

Old Google Logo
New Google Logo

#2. You treat your people like s**t.

There’s really no other way to put this. Why are you doing this? You don’t know?

Here are some examples of treating people badly that you may be overlooking. Notice that none of them are extreme:

  • You “don’t have time” to talk to them, or you don’t tell them what’s going on.
  • You don’t include them in decision-making or explain your decisions.
  • You don’t give them careful feedback on their work, or you take credit for it, or you overwork them.
  • You waste their time, make them feel disposable and dispensable, or make them work long hours for no reason.
  • You don’t set aside at least half your day to manage the team or you don’t pay someone to do this.

You can pay lip service to the importance of people all you want, but if you don’t actually take care of your people your brand is dead, eventually – no matter how smart your business model.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon responds (in actions, not words) to the recent expose about their workplace practices.

#3. You hire for paper skills, not for brand.

Most people know that it’s very hard to get a job nowadays. You practically have to be perfect.

But technical qualifications are not enough. Or they aren’t needed at all. Or, believe it or not, your resume can even get in the way.

Because the most important factor in any successful firm is culture: the quality of the social glue that holds its employees together.

Performance follows culture, which is measured by employee engagement.

Without social capital based on trust, understanding and mutual loyalty, the brand is doomed to fall apart.

Many try to delegate hiring to HR. But there are certain things that cannot, in the end be delegated.

That’s why, as Harvard Business Review points out, it’s smart to hire people based on cultural fit. As brand success or failure is felt most prominently in the pocketbook.

HBR cites the Society for Human Resources Management:

“Research suggests that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary.”

Note that hiring for brand is not the same as hiring people “just like you” – e.g. tilting toward homogeneity.

In fact it’s just the opposite. Hiring for brand means being inclusive and looking beyond the superficial categories.

Photo via the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The smart thing to do is hire explicitly for brand-aligned talent. (Did I mention this is something I can help you do?)

But if you have made a mistake, it’s intelligent to follow the examples of other leading brands, like Amazon and Zappos.

Both companies offer a financial reward to people who recognize they don’t fit in – and quit.


Photo by Jimmy Hilario via Flickr (Creative Commons). All opinions my own.


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