The One Constant—Do We Really Have to Say It? Change.

The fact is that a brand audience can change. Like the people they are comprised of, they age, their tastes evolve, and their needs change with them. In short, they grow up, sometimes old. Does your brand move with them—or can it meet the next generation in a similar space as the previous audience? Can it keep both?

One thing for sure is that audiences have the ability to move and adapt much, much faster than ever before. However long your previous audience cycle was, you can almost assuredly expect the next one to last half as long.

It’s Not About the Years

“A brand can be very aged, but still be young and modern in its consumers’ mind.” Jean-Marc Lehu, Communication and Media PhD Management, Université de Paris

Time and age don’t define a legacy or mature brand. The brand audience does. Many of the world’s most beloved brands are seemingly ageless. Even if they are decades or sometimes centuries old, and by any measure mature, they are not in decline. When consumers begin to neglect a brand is when the drop begins. This is when the audience begins to shrink and the trouble to start.

Your audience still loves your brand. That’s the good news. The bad news? They don’t think about you anymore.

Research shows that most of these declining brands are still appreciated by their audience. The audience still likes them, but they don’t purchase or engage with them anymore. It is not necessarily a reflection of the brand’s quality. It could be because the brand seems too familiar to an audience looking for something new, or just appears dated compared to competitors. When that happens, market share drops, sales slip, and eventually those brands disappear from the audiences’ memory.

Switch ABC to ABL—Always Be Listening

When was the last time you really had a conversation with your audience and listened? Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to discover what is on your customers’ minds and what they are saying about your brand. But you have to participate in an authentic and respectful manner. Have the discipline to create the most meaningful types of engagement versus just adding to the chatter. Deep within every audience are influencers, opinion drivers and trusted authorities—dressed as everyday people living in a very social world.


Five Potential Indicators of a Declining Brand Audience

A vibrant and active brand audience is one sign of a healthy brand. But not every brand is fortunate enough have an extremely vocal audience. How else can you tell if your brand audience is healthy? Here are some key indicators of a declining brand audience. Any one of them could indicate trouble ahead.

1. Decreasing Consumer Population

Is the total number of people in your audience shrinking? If your brand operates through bricks and mortar locations in areas where the population is not growing, that’s one concern. If you manufactured typewriters towards the end of the last century, you would have experienced a shrinking audience for a completely different reason. But both face the challenge of smaller available audiences that must be addressed.

2. Non-renewals

If you offer a service or subscription, are your customers continuing to return or renew? It’s generally accepted that it’s much more expensive and difficult to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. A drop here can be an indicator that your audience is drifting away. You could even lump in a reduction in customer complaints here. Unless you’ve made dramatic improvements, a lack of complaints might mean your customers are moving on. They’re disinvested and not telling you.

3. Increasing Consumer Average Age

When the average age of your consumer continuously increases each year, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to plot the end date for your brand. It also likely means that you are not bringing in an adequate population of new customers. People don’t live forever and your pool of available customers will gradually evaporate every year.

4. Unsuccessful Product Launches and Updates

Fawning press attention is one thing. Lack of customer acceptance is another. If your product changes and advancement aren’t gaining acceptance in the marketplace, your brand won’t be able to move forward. Brands that don’t move forward are in trouble. A cautionary note here: brand evolutions that are too dramatic can risk alienating your audience as much as moves that aren’t seen as significant.

5. Absent Younger Consumer Segments

It’s true: children are our future, certainly our future customers in many cases. But even products designed for older adults need to ensure that they continue to reach out and connect with those in the age demographic younger than their core audience. If your audience is missing these segments, your growth potential, and long-term brand health are in jeopardy.

Next Steps

If you recognize any of these patterns, it’s time to take action. You have essentially two courses of action; modify your existing audiences, or enlarge them. That’s a subject that merits its own discussion.

Learn more about how mature brands can discover renewed growth in our ebook, Five Gates of Branding.

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