There are many things you can do with a brand: You can create it. You can establish it. You can promote it. You can position it to earn the trust of its constituents. You can evolve it. You can add sub-brands, attributes, and value propositions to it. You can even expand it into other markets and industries.
There’s just one thing you can’t do with or to a brand: Take it for granted.
Exhibit A: “State Farm to displace 4,200 workers, exit 11 locations“:
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home and auto insurer, plans to shut 11 U.S. facilities, displacing about 4,200 workers, after a $7 billion annual underwriting loss last year on auto policies … Net income dropped to $400 million last year from $6.2 billion in 2015, hurt by the auto insurance results.
I know claims expenses are up. I know car crashes are up. I know driver-distraction is up. I know miles driven are up. I know, therefore, profits are down. I know the estimation of claims reserves is an inexact science. I know carrying reserves as an accounting liability because you can’t know this year’s cost of doing business until you assess last year’s claims experience must be a bitch. I know labor is a commodity, space is overhead, the market is ruthlessly unpredictable, and survival is never guaranteed.
That’s why God invented vigilance right after he invented brands. He intended vigilance to be used on brands.
When you take your eye off the brand-ball, lots of things happen. None of them is good:
- You lose your competitive edge.
- You start to flirt with complacency.
- Your laurels look and feel so good you entertain thoughts of resting on them.
- That first $6.2 billion seems so secure, you imagine the next $6.2 billion is in the bag.
- You start to think if you built it and they came, they’ll just keep on coming.
- You start to read your own press releases and to contemplate the possibility that, compared to you, old Midas was a piker.
And then … fuhgeddaboudit.
It’s not my intent to single out State Farm. Nor do I intend to suggest anyone or any one company is invulnerable to disaster. If actuaries were psychic and business founders had crystal balls, none of this would matter.
If you create or become responsible for a brand, be careful. Your vigilance just might save your asset.
Image courtesy of clipartfest.com.