Monday, March 05, 2007

How to kill your brand

The LA Times has a great article on how once beloved brands expand too quickly, losing the very quirky uniqueness that attracted customers in the first place. First on the list companies that have overreached and lost their way is Starbucks. As most people know by now, an internal memo penned by CEO Howard Schultz went public after being anonymously posted to a Starbucks Gossip site. In the memo, Schultz admits that Starbucks has cut too many corners and become too sanitized, too corporate. It is in danger of losing its cultishly loyal devotees, in spite of their caffeine addition.

Of course, for every once-loved Krispy Kreme or Snapple, there are Chipotle and Trader Joe's, companies that have slavishly held tight to their brand personalities while expanding nationwide. How will other brands fare? Will Potbelly Sandwich Works still hire cheerful workers behind the line and tolerable singer-songwriters to serenade us from above the booths. Will their milkshakes get watered down into "shakes," a la Mickey D's?

In my experience, Cold Stone Creamery, Cosi, Jamba Juice and Maggiano's Little Italy/Corner Bakery seem to be doing a good job keeping their USP (unique selling proposition) in sight as they grow. Will Whole Foods Market?