Toyota, Home Depot, Motorola, BP, Wal-Mart--Brand Erosion Hits The Biggest And Best Brands. What's Going On?

Bruce Nussbaum

There appears to be an epidemic of brand erosion going on, with some of the best and brightest companies with years of doing things right stumbling and hurting themselves in eyes of their consumers. I think part of the reason is that companies forget their core competencies in the drive for growth.

So Toyota has quality problems. Think of that. Toyota built its rep on quality and then looses it by growing too fast. Motorola shapes a beautiful new thin form factor with the RAZR and builds 50 million of them, but neglects the user interface, driving people nuts who can't hear their phones or access what they need. The original StarTac phone was easy to use. Home Depot had a great reputation for customer service, literally helping people build their own products (kitchens, bathrooms). Then it guts its service and angers loyal consumers. Ditto for Wal-Mart. Have you seen those comments on my Wal-Mart post? Amazing feelings of letdown and betrayal by Wal-Mart people. BP was going green, until a chemical plant blew up and oil was spilled over half of Alaska because of poor maintenance and penny-pinching. How disappointing is that? What were the leaders of BP thinking? I used to love Gap but just walk by these days because there is nothing new in the stores for me. Gap used to be connected to its customer culture. Now it isn't. How could that happen? If the lines at Starbucks get any longer, I'll start walking by those places too.

What are the lessons here? You can grow too fast. You can get dfisconnected from your consumer base. You can forget your roots and DNA. You can lie and cheat and betray consumer trust. What else? Let me know what you think.

Oh, and then there is Apple.