"My name's Ralph, and no one knows my brand..."

Unfortunately for us, there are quite a few Ralphs in the world. The problem is that they don't have a Brand Managers Anonymous support group to attend - many are left to fend for themselves. In a market as harsh as today's, that can be a death sentence for your brand, not to mention your career. Like the better known Alcoholics Anonymous, any B.M.A. would give its members a list of steps to follow to build strength for themselves and their brand:

Step 1: Admit we are powerless over our brand

The brand is the property of the entire company. No one man or woman is responsible for its success or downfall. The brand manager is merely the figurehead of brand development campaigns (and, too often, the scapegoat of brand failures).

Step 2: Believe a higher power can restore the brand

The market and, consequently, the consumer are ultimately more powerful in building your brand than any one, two, or twenty people inside your organization. Faith in your brand champions will lead you back to success.

Step 3: Make a decision to turn the brand over to the hands of the customer

Mis-managed brands tend to be built from the outside-in. Rebuilding such a brand from the inside-out would be impossible, so don't try.

Step 4: Make a fearless inventory of your brand and its assets

Chances are good that, if you're in this predicament, you don't have a thorough list of what your brand does well or what your customers value about it. Take some time to figure these out, even if what you find goes in a different direction than you expected or want.

Step 5: Admit the nature of your wrongs

Fact: The company has done something wrong to get the brand in the situation it's in. The sooner the managers admit this, the sooner they can work together to fix it.

Step 6: Prepare internally for the customer to provide input on the brand

No one likes to give up control, but your customer is ultimately responsible for your company's success. Everyone in the organization must be prepared to accept feedback from their customers if they want to rebuild a positive relationship.

Step 7: Ask the customer to help repair the brand

Your best customers will say yes before you can finish the question. Accept their help - they know more about what your brand should be than you do.

Step 8: Make a list of all disenfranchised stakeholders

Who exactly have you turned away by neglecting your brand? Is it just a large customer, or has your employee turnover rate risen in the past few months?

Step 9: Apologize to these stakeholders for damaging their brand

Remember, you don't own the brand, you just maintain it. Now that you've admitted what you did wrong, take a few minutes to reconnect with the real owners of your brand.

Step 10: Re-examine your brand asset inventory

Brand assets change over time as the brand begins to reassert itself throughout the organization. Keep going back to re-examine it so you don't miss the more subtle changes.

Step 11: Continue to nurture and grow your rekindled relationship with the customer

Once the first stone is laid, keep working on rebuilding the foundation. Make your contact regular and keep yourself open to new ideas and feedback from your customer.

Step 12: Pass on the message to other brand managers

Bring a friend to B.M.A. and share what you've learned through practice so they can avoid the pitfalls you've already taken. If they're already in desperate straits make sure you help bail them out by telling your story.

If you can follow these steps, even loosely, then your brand will be well on its way to recovery. Remember, even the best brands can fall apart at times, and it's NOT YOUR FAULT. Any successful brand is built through a constant and consistent collaboration between you (the brand manager), the rest of the company, and your customer.