wasted potential — a series on brand disappointments

What do Lindsay Lohan,

the universal remote,

and the Bush administration

have in common?

They are all examples of things that could have been great but have ended up not living up to their potential.

Many brands have also turned out to be phenomenal disappointments.  The list of brands that fall into the category of wasted potential is longer than the list of Lohan’s missteps — and the reasons behind brand disappointments are as confounding as why someone never developed a universal remote that people could actually use.

But, for this, the inaugural post in a series of brands that have failed to live up to their potential, I’ll offer up a single example — GNCYep, the brand of those 1500-square foot strip mall stores that sell vitamins, supplements, and sport nutrition products.

It’s no secret that demand for products that support a healthy lifestyle has skyrocketed in recent years — global nutrition is now a $228 billion industry.  And GNC Corporation, the company behind the GNC brand, says it’s “dedicated to helping consumers Live Well.”

But, what does GNC stand for?  I mean, I know the letters stand for General Nutrition Center, but what does the brand stand for?  The company has over 4800 retail locations in the U.S. alone, and yet the brand doesn’t seem to offer anything differentiating or compelling.  The shopping experience is unmemorable, the little advertising and promotion they do is generic, and other than a private label product line that offers common products at a discount, their product assortment lacks uniqueness.

It seems drugstores and warehouse clubs have taken over the mainstream vitamin market and Whole Foods has become the outlet of choice for specialty health and wellness products.  Even grocery stores now carry more power bars and protein drink mixes than my local GNC.

This has left GNC without a reason for being.  And it’s such a shame because the company has the history, focus, and distribution to be a great brand.

I’ve invited brand experts to contribute their thoughts on other brands that have failed to live up to their potential.  In the coming weeks, you’ll hear from luminaries like:

Jonathan Salem-Baskin (author of Branding Only Works on Cattle, the “dim bulb” blog, and Ad Age column),

John Moore (former Whole Foods and Starbucks marketer and now of Brand Autopsy fame),

Tom Fishburne (Brand Camp cartoonist and UK Managing Director for method products),

and others.

I’m so looking forward to learning from — and commiserating with — these folks about brands that could be really great.  I’m sure there will be lessons for all of us to learn.  Please check back next Monday for the next in this series on brand disappointments (I’ll still post other stuff during the week.)

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