That is, it never fails to amaze me. It always fails to work. Marketers walk away from winning positions in order to “grow their brands.” You think they would’ve learned by now.

I see two examples in the news just this week…

Jeep is about to launch a vehicle that does not have the off-road capabilities that make a Jeep…a Jeep! The new Jeep Compass is based on the Dodge Caliber hatchback. Jeep marketing honcho John Plecha says Compass will “appeal to people who didn’t consider Jeep before.” But one automotive analyst calls it “a sad little car.” And an officer of a Midwest Jeep club says: “They’re diluting the brand with soccer mom grocery getters.”

Here is one of the strongest brands in automotive history…legendary for its toughness and off-road prowess. Every Jeep has to conquer the Rubicon Trail in California — considered the most demanding 22 miles of off-highway driving in America. That is, every Jeep…until Compass.

What a bad idea. And bad ideas are contagious…

It seems Wal-Mart is opening a new store this week with an expanded selection of high-end electronics, more fine jewelry, hundreds of types of wine ranging up to $500 a bottle, and even a sushi bar! This new Wal-Mart won’t sell guns. It has far less space devoted to lawn and garden, fishing, camping and automotive products. And McDonald’s has been replaced by an espresso bar with a sandwich menu and free wireless Internet service.

Why the new approach? Because, according to retail experts, Wal-Mart “has nearly tapped out its middle-class base and must attract consumers who love Target and Costco but not Wal-Mart.”

Good luck trying to attract the sushi and latte crowd, Wal-Mart! Whatsamatter? You’re not big enough? Not profitable enough? You’re not all things to all people??? That’s because you can’t be!

Two of the most successful brands in history — Jeep and Wal-Mart — walking away from what made them successful in the first place! Trying to be something different. Bigger. Better.

It all comes from greed. The mentality that however successful you are, it isn’t good enough. You’re not big enough. Everyone doesn’t like or want you.

Fine. The quest for growth is the way of most business. Except that trying to be something you’re not and diluting the essence of your brand simply does not work! The Jeep Compass is not a good move for Jeep….it is an opportunity for Hummer.

Most radio guys understand this very well. They understand the crucial importance of maintaining focus on the essence of their brands and consistently delivering on the promise.

Maybe it’s time for manufacturers and retailers to hire P.D.’s as their marketing gurus!