Brands don’t usually die because of some apocalyptic event/mistake (though it can happen), rather they suffer death by a thousand cuts, each of which seem innocuos enough, even sensible. But they chip away at the magic and by the time sales have suffered enough for someone to notice, the negative brand equity momentum has long become unstoppable.
This post by Seth Godin today summarises this point terrifically, where he explains the magical, intangible elements that make for great marketing, and how easy it is to kill them. Referring to a great little restaurant, he says:
…it’s the hand-fitted gestalt of thousands of little decisions made by caring management out to make a difference. Usually, when a business like this gets bigger or turns into a chain, marketers make what feel like smart compromises. The MBAs collide with the mystical, and the place gets boring. “Why do we need 14 free salsas when we can get away with six?”