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It Has Never Been More Important to Breathe Life Back in Zombie Brands

02/07/2014 13:46 BST | Updated 01/09/2014 10:59 BST

During our day to day lives we are surrounded by businesses and their brands, but what most people don't know is that there is an estimated 100,000 zombie brands operating around the world, according to the Adam Smith Institute.

So what is a zombie brand? Simply they are brands which have become irrelevant and have no real meaning to us. They are on life-support, their sales are probably flat lining and they aren't generating the profitability required to grow. They're dying and staff at all levels often bear the brunt of this.

In the past few weeks the press has been full of news regarding failing companies and brands, with Mothercare and Premier Foods recently in the firing line. Mothercare announced plans to cut 500 jobs after unveiling an annual profit warning, a plummeting share price, and the exit of CEO Simon Calver, and a number of Premier Foods' brands are suffering due to ongoing grocery pricing wars. The retail tectonic plates truly have shifted and the short-termism that the City demands is compounding the issue and driving short-term thinking.

So how do brands become zombies? The reason is simple; they have no brand heart to make them stand out and have lost their reason to exist.

In a world of increasingly demanding and savvy consumers it has never been more important for brands to stand for something genuinely meaningful. They have to understand why they exist in this new world we all live in and make this the very core of everything they do, rather than simply understanding what it is they do. We all know Mothercare make baby clothes but does anyone actually know what they stand for anymore? This may seem a small change in approach but it is pivotal to long-term success.

At 1HQ we were tasked with bringing Phileas Fogg crisps back to life. Consumers know them as a snack but we had to generate a sentimentality toward the brand to build loyalty and ultimately to guarantee their longevity. We established their why as being 'To bring exciting flavours from around the world into your living room.' The result, growth targets were met in the first six months, with a 361 per cent increase in sales.

So what can brands that have 'zombieitus' do to halt their half-dead march towards extinction? They must reinvigorate themselves by reinforcing their fundamental purpose, coming to terms with what their purpose in our lives, actually is. Mothercare is probably 'the' one brand that can find that purpose which will connect emotionally with us long-term, starting a relationship with us at a time when we need all the advice in the world, not just a new outfit for baby George.

Should they find their brand heart, their reason to exist (and I hope that they do), I would urge them to think long term, maximise the new digital channels of communication to become an absorptive part of our lives, think about their role and purpose and not chase the YOY sales figure death knell that is a zombie's staple diet.