Never Rest on Your Brand’s Laurels


Imagine Tiger Woods announcing that, because he won the US Open in 2008 and is ranked #1, he would win again in 2009. Tiger’s too smart for that (by the way, he didn’t win in 2009). He knows that presumption — resting on his laurels — would kill his brand and ultimately backfire.

Now, envision a sales VP telling his CEO that, because their company is ranked #1 and a big customer purchased their products last year, that customer will buy again this year. The CEO would fire him. Resting on one’s laurels in sales also backfires!

When a rising, aggressive company begins to achieve critical mass and buzz, customers and prospects flock to its new brand. There’s an electricity in the air, as business flows over the transom. Often, though, presumption of success sets in like rigor mortis.

Recently, I told a marketing exec at Cisco Systems that I no longer understand the Cisco brand. In fact, there is no Cisco brand. The company has become a giant purveyor of many networking products for a wide span of customers. With all that diversity and complexity, it needs to have a simple, compelling, unique brand that ties it all together. It doesn’t.

Instead, Cisco’s homepage contains messaging about “the human-network effect” and “one million acts of green.” Sorry, I don’t get that and certainly can’t fathom it in 15 seconds. Said this marketing exec: “Our Website has nothing to do with our go-to-market strategy. Besides, everyone in the industry already knows what we do.”

  1. The Website is fundamental to a company’s go-to-market strategy. To say otherwise indicates a paucity of marketing expertise, savvy, and priority in the company
  2. Presuming that people know what your company does epitomizes resting on your brand’s laurels. Cisco is a fine company, but CEO John Chambers must end this attitude of presumption: it weakens the brand and needlessly raises Cisco’s cost of sales. Ultimately, it will backfire.

A Gasping Patient

Have you ever noticed that, in any economic downturn, CEOs cut marketing dollars first? It’s true. This is akin to a doctor cutting oxygen to a gasping patient. Ludicrous.

In general, CEOs have difficulty quantifying the value of a brand — they think it’s nebulous gobbledygook. Is this true in your case? If so, cut the gobbledygook, and its authors. Invest more dollars to create a strong, unique brand that will attract customers, like moths to a lightbulb, and lower the cost of sales.
Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor

A company must keep its brand strong to remain unique through the constantly evolving industry, marketplace, and market forces. What your company achieved last week, last year, or last decade is nice, but it’s history. Today is what matters.

Next time you catch yourself thinking, everyone in the industry already knows what we do, stop. You are resting on your brand’s laurels. Now, visit your largest customer to deliver that message, with that attitude. I dare you.

If you wouldn’t communicate with presumption to one customer, don’t let your Website do it to thousands or millions of them.

Never rest on your brand’s laurels — or, eventually, you’ll be sleeping on them.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Cisco’s Chambers: ‘We Have Lost Some of the Credibility’

POSTSCRIPT #2: Cisco to Exit Consumer Business, Fire 550 Employees

POSTSCRIPT #3: Killing Flip Was Just the Beginning

POSTSCRIPT #4: Cisco Ditches Sales Target Amid Strategy Shift

POSTSCRIPT #5: Cisco to Cut 10K Jobs — 14% of Workforce


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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