Take a position: Brands cannot be expected to last forever versus there is no reason for a brand to ever become obsolete. Often, after a brand begins to slip in the marketplace or disappears altogether, commentators observe, “all brands have their day.” Their rationale is that all brands, in some sense, have a finite life and cannot be expected to be leaders forever. Other experts contend, however, that brands can live forever, and long-term success depends as much on the skill and insight of the marketers involved.

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While the term “forever” seems to used here to mean “a very long time,” arguments can be made both for the continued viability of a given brand and for its extinction. The underlying concept that is being applied is “brand life cycle” or “product life cycle.” Because very few brands last more than a few decades, there is far more evidence to support an argument against longevity. In addition, while it may seem that many brands enjoy considerable longevity, the vast proportion of businesses fail in their first few years, so many consumers never had an opportunity to develop loyalty to them.

The longest-lasting brands are in the food and beverage industries, with several European brands lasting more than a century. However, a brand name may also continue but require changing over time to fit the needs of new, often younger consumers. Furthermore, while a given brand may remain popular or even become iconic, the cost of supporting the brand may ultimately make it unprofitable to continue.

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"Forever" is a relative term here. People have been buying and selling things for a relatively short period of time compared to the age of the universe, so for the sake of argument, I will look at a brand's longevity.

Many brands change due to changes in technology. Whale oil is no longer in demand as a light source, but in the mid-1800s, it was the leader in providing light for upper-class homes. Steamships no longer offer vacation packages to Europe, as they have been replaced by airplanes for people seeking to travel abroad. Brands can adjust to meet current times—some examples are brick-and-mortar stores such as Wal-Mart offering online offerings and Ford getting into the driverless car market. Brands increase their longevity when they are adaptable. This all depends on having forward-thinking management with an available talent pool of employees. Another factor is government regulation of an industry and the overall economic health of the host country, as some brands go bankrupt due to the overall poverty of a region. Without available markets, no brand can survive, no matter its ability to adapt its product.

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First, I think you may need to define your time scale. For example, in terms of geological or astronomical time, humanity as we know it is a relatively short-lived phenomenon, and brands an even shorter one. On the scale of the universe at large, the answer is that no brand can be expected to last even as long as a short-lived star, much less the universe as a whole.

On a human time scale, again it`s important to ask what your time scale is.

The best way to answer a question about the future is to study the past. One starting point to answering the question of how long brands can last is to ask what are the longest enduring brands in existence. Many brands vanish because technology changes -- the most successful horse-drawn buggies, hand looms, etc. no longer exist as brands. While major world religions have endured for thousands of years, for commercial enterprises, 200-300 years is an exception.

If your timescale is a human lifetime, and you are asking about whether you can start out at Company X selling brands Y and Z fresh out of university and still be working with those brands until you retire, it`s possible but not probable, and varies by country and industry. You might want to research statistics on the average longevity of companies in different countries and industries to see what the chances are for a given one.

 

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