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Big Brands, Big Trouble

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Big Brands, Big Trouble

Lessons Learned the Hard Way


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Jack Trout isn’t just fishing. He knows how to hook consumers by baiting your brand with the perfect lure.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Jack Trout, head of the marketing firm Trout & Partners, digs for details about the major reasons big brands run into trouble and just how enormous companies mess up by handling their signature standard-bearers badly. He runs down the litany: mistaken extensions of the brand name, failures to differentiate the brand’s qualities and loss of clarity about just what a brand represents. His failure sagas are mini-novels based inside Xerox, General Motors, AT&T, Digital Equipment, General Mills and Coca-Cola. Remember New Coke? Now that was a branding debacle. Trout highlights corporate shortcomings and lays the blame for branding woes right at the feet of people who should have known better: of out-of-touch CEOs, ineffective consultants and dysfunctional boards. Alert consumers who like insider business war stories will enjoy this clear, lively book, but if you own a company or market a brand, suspects you should read it twice.


The Biggest Mistakes Big Brands Make

Ironically, many of the biggest brands featured in a very successful, important book - In Search of Excellence - have run into trouble, including Digital Equipment, IBM, Data General, Kmart and Kodak. They made big company mistakes: losing touch with the customer and failing to stick to what they know best. If you inspect their failures, you can better understand what doesn’t work and what does. Today, product and service providers don’t have any wiggle room for making mistakes. Competition is cutthroat and consumers switch brands with lightening speed.

One of the biggest mistakes is thinking you can win in the marketplace just because you have a better product or service. If a successful, well-established competitor already dominates sales in your sector, you probably can’t make any progress as a "me-too" brand. You are fighting an uphill battle even if you have a successful company known for other well-established products. Pepsi failed to break into the market for lemon-lime flavored sodas with its new brands, Slice and Storm, since Sprite and 7Up already owned the category.

The brand that shows up first is usually perceived...

About the Author

Jack Trout is president of Trout & Partners, a U.S. marketing firm with offices in 12 countries. Its clients include AT&T, Merrill Lynch and Southwest Airlines. Trout was one of the first marketing experts to popularize positioning products and ideas in the mind of consumers. He is a well-known speaker and the author of numerous marketing classics, including Differentiate or Die and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

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