Winning Brands Know When to Strategically Quit

Every summer growing up, I attended a month-long basketball camp to prepare for the season. The gym would bake in the sun for hours, leaving your skin slick with sweat. To really make things uncomfortable, after drills, the coach would scream, “Alright, everyone on the line!”. It was time to run suicides. 

Midway through, lactic acid turning my legs into two-ton bricks, I’d have an existential crisis…What am I even doing this for?

In the creative world, Seth Godin calls this “the Dip”. A moment where something has gotten challenging and you have to decide if it’s worth pushing through. For brands, it can be as simple as deciding on reinvesting in your marketing automation tool. Or, the dip may be more complex, like the launch of a new logo your key stakeholders don’t love right away.

Regardless, to succeed as a brand, you’ll have to learn to recognize a dip and decide if it’s worth persevering through or strategically quitting.

The first step is recognizing if you’re actually in a dip. As Godin describes in his book The Dip, your obstacle usually falls into one of three categories:

  1. Cul-du-sac: This is a dead end. There’s no breaking through. Cut your losses and strategically quit. This happened in the early nineties when Pepsi had the…interesting idea to launch “Crystal Pepsi,” a caffeine-free alternative to regular cola. Many consumers were left angry, confused, and disappointed, claiming the new flavor was gross. Thankfully, PepsiCo killed Crystal Pepsi after only a year. Had they tried to electrocute a dead horse with marketing dollars, it could have cost them millions in advertising. Worse, their consumers may have bolted to competitors. Quitting isn’t weak––it allows you to pursue something more fruitful.
  2. Cliff: Situations that appear great, but will collapse eventually. Take publications that resisted the shift to digital magazines. By the time the pandemic hit, accelerating the drop in print magazine retention, many brands were left scrambling to get their audience online. 
  3. Dip: Let’s say your team set out to build a hulking email list that would drive member engagement and spark community engagement. After a year of unsubscribes and mediocre open rates, the time and effort you’re putting in feels questionable. This type of situation is a dip. You know the long-term commitment to email will pay off. So, pushing through, refining your approach, and doubling down is more logical than quitting.

What’s the priceless takeaway?

Winning brands quit at the right time. They recognize when they’ve reached a dead-end and have the guts to stick through the right stuff when a dip occurs.

P.S. We can help you decide if it’s time to reinvent yourself or refresh what you’re already doing.

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Jonah Malin

Jonah Malin is a creative marketing professional, crafting story-driven content to execute a diverse range of digital, print, and social deliverables.

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