Think it can’t happen to you? Think again.

With all the time, money and effort it takes to build a brand that consumers trust and value, it’s disheartening to understand how quickly your brand can lose its place in the consumer’s mind and become, what we call, “mature.”

Fifteen years ago, if you wanted a pair of brown suede shoes in a size 7, you had to go from store to store, comparing price, style and availability. All too often, finding the precise color and style you needed, in your size AND within your budget, was an exercise in futility.

Nick Swinmurn wanted a new model for shoe-shopping. He approached Tony Hsieh and Alfred Lin about selling shoes online. It was risky – would people really buy shoes that they couldn’t try on and walk around in first?

They pre-empted these concerns with superior customer service. Namely, a 24/7 call center and free shipping on returns. “If they don’t fit, just ship them back. We’ll include a shipping label to make it just that much easier for you.”

Now that’s a brand promise that gets attention, especially in the early days of e-commerce. Hsieh and Lin bought into the deal, and Zappos was born.

Word of mouth spread like wildfire. Shoe lovers around the world shouted a collective “Hallelujah!” Within one year, this start-up company brought in $1.6 Billion in revenue. And Payless Shoe Source, Bakers and the other brick and mortar shoe store brands faced a new market reality practically overnight.

Change Happens

They didn’t change. Their brand promises didn’t change. They didn’t have to do anything to trigger this huge disruption. But the market changed dramatically, leaving them scrambling to stay competitive.

Zappos forced the traditional shoe stores to up their game. They had to create an online presence. They had to create loyalty programs to reward shoppers for coming into their stores. They had to rethink their return policies. They had to improve their service.

Today, Zappos is the largest online retailer of shoes. They’ve also branched out into clothing and accessories, continuing to leave the Payless and Bakers of the world in their dust.

With today’s technology—and today’s rate of change—it could happen to any company in any industry, including yours.

You see, maturity is more a “state of mind” than a “state of time.” Your brand might be a year old, but someone else could come along tomorrow who does it better, faster, cheaper (or, heaven forbid, all of the above) and just like that, your brand promise is null and void.

So what can you do to stay ahead of the curve?

Open the Gates

Research shows there are 60 possible gates that can hold back your brand. In particular, there are five that we believe make the difference between a brand that’s competitive and relevant, and one that has “matured.”

Discover the 5 Gates


Take the opportunity now to view your brand and your business in a different light, before a competitor forces you to do it.


Wilson Archives: This article was originally posted on April 26, 2013 by Gretchen Steward

All brand, brand names and logos are the property of their respective companies.