Losing focus on what your brand stands for can do irreversible damage. One of the most common reasons for a brand losing focus comes from trying to stretch themselves into too many directions. This waters down the brand and often causes consumer confusion. Brand confusion is a nightmare for both consumers and businesses and should be avoided at all costs.
We can look at Gap’s stumble into brand confusion and consumer backlash for a prime example of this.
A one time, Gap was widely known as a popular and trendy place for American teens to get their clothes. More than that, it was a place to get stylish clothes from a store that wasn’t too terrible expensive. And because teenagers adopted Gap as their style resource, Gap became widely known as the number one retailer for teen clothing.
Some may say that this success went to Gap’s head. This success convinced them that they had the wherewithal to venture into other styles of clothing, thus creating Baby Gap and Gap Maternity.
To most business-minded folks, this may seem like a good idea…initially. But you have to step into the shoes of teenagers that have shown loyalty to Gap for so long. Suddenly in the mid-to-late 90s, they were walking into malls and seeing their clothing retailer of choice in a light that they didn’t understand and, if we’re being honest, were slightly embarrassed by.
Almost overnight, teenagers—the consumer base that made Gap so popular—wanted nothing to do with the Gap brand. In this, Gap did more than just water down their brand; they also alienated the consumer base that made them what they were.
This separation started a severe decline in the Gap brand. And the distance between their original base and their current product is visible. The clothes are no longer cutting edge and popular. You won’t see many teens gracing Gap stores these days.
The result? More than 200 stores closed in 2011 and more are closing each year.
Let this be a lesson to you business owners out there. Stay focused on what you know and what your customers appreciate you for. Losing sight of what you are could lead to some pretty severe consequences.