As the New Year is a time for new resolutions, new beginnings — an opportunity to do things differently — one mantra I will be encouraging clients to work by for 2013 is that keeping brands fresh is a necessity not a luxury.
We live in a world fanatical about change, constantly replacing our perfectly functioning phones and gadgets with the latest super-snazzy versions, all geared towards making communications easier and faster as we strive to be ubiquitous. This is a perfect illustration of the mindset of the world we live in. Change is good!
And so, whether it is product design, visual identity, communications, personality —any part of what makes a brand staying one step ahead of the competition is essential. We admire brands that lead the way —Apple, Microsoft, First Direct and Facebook are a few that are front of mind — 2013 needs to be about acting differently in order not just to stay in the game but to be a brand that others want to follow.
From tech products and devices to supermarket staples, whether B2B or B2C, all brands have to remain relevant and fresh to be the first choice. Even the most established brands embrace change. Take Heinz Baked Beans for example — different pack sizes and types have been introduced to appeal to different sectors, and no doubt subtle reviews of the emblematic design itself have taken place. Although design reviews are not always obvious to the consumer unless an old label and a new one are set next to each other, small changes are essential as brand changes that are too radical can too be a risk to market share.
Pic. Heinz Beans, different pack sizes and formats
So, as much as we all know we need to embrace change —how do we get the balance right? If a product is being sold brilliantly, a brand that everybody wants to be associated with, why change it? Whether it’s a brand relaunch – BP, RAC, and British Gas, or a product range refresh — Porsche Cayenne, Apple Mini tablet for example — for these brands, although at the time they were performing brilliantly, making the change was decided to be the right thing to do. Brave yes, essential, time will tell, but indications are that all have been successful moves.
To me, the principle of ‘refresh’ is utterly necessary. Still not convinced? The cost of doing nothing could be the demise of a successful brand. Your brand may not be changing, but everything else around you is. Customers are continuously updating their views and opinions on everything — driven by the constant flow of communication. Similarly competitors are likely to be reviewing and updating their own brand and products. If you are not doing this yourself, how can you ensure that you are retaining relevance to your target audience and that you are not going to be overtaken by a newer, ‘shinier’ brand?
Whilst we live in a world of unprecedented change, it is human nature not to change unless there is a problem. It’s a funny contradiction…. Do we love or hate change? The ‘problem’ is that not to change or perhaps I should say develop, is in itself a problem. Regular health checks are essential, but many brands forget to do them until things start to go wrong. So 2013 is about a change of mindset. Don’t let change be something that has to be foisted on us, be the visionary. Brand managers need to create change in order to succeed.
It is getting it right that is the challenge. Refreshing a brand, a design, a message has to be handled with care. Too much change and you can alienate your loyal audiences, too little and you may lose them. Then there is the matter of timing, getting this right can be the difference between success and failure. A brand evaluation needs to be built into strategy and budget, not something that is seen as a luxury if there is time. There is no one answer that fits all brands. It’s about instinct and it’s about adding a little bit of science to art.
His expertise spans a wide range of disciplines across various design and marketing channels.