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Evolve or die, why brands need to be refreshed

Digitalisation has significantly increased the pace of change and forced brands to evaluate their strategies for meeting the ever-evolving expectations of their customers. In today’s market, standing still is no longer an option; businesses must be prepared to keep moving with technology developments and their customers, or risk losing the long-term relationships and financial rewards they generate.

beyond inception with TIRIVASHE MUNDONDO

There is conventional wisdom that brands are something to be protected and that the safest thing to do with a brand is nothing. This wisdom holds that brands are like porcelain vases, delicate and if protected, are capable of maintaining their value over decades, if not centuries. This is no longer the case.

I am of the idea that brands have a shelf life. They need to be refreshed every now and then depending on the industry, to stay relevant and desirable. I believe evolution is the only way brands ensure they continue to meet the evolving needs of the customer today and into the future. Yet it begs the question, why must a brand be refreshed?

Brands are updated for two reasons: relevance and reflection.

Relevance: stay current

Wisdom suggests a consistent brand is a strong brand. I agree, but this needs to be put in context. Using the same advert, logo, tagline and value proposition for 50 years doesn’t mean a brand is consistent.

Established brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds and Nike all go through regular updates.
These updates do not mean the brand has fundamentally changed. Rather, the updates help the brand stay relevant. Since the 1950s Coke and Pepsi have each had seven logo updates. McDonalds runs new slogans and campaigns every couple of years, from “put a smile on” to “every time a good time” to “I’m lovin’ it”.

These updates are not created in a vacuum. They build on the brand’s heritage, rejuvenate it and keep it going. There are key aspects of the brand that are held onto like the McDonalds’ Golden Arches, but other components like the core messaging, themes, imagery and presentation all require regular maintenance.

Reflection: businesses aren’t static

The second major reason to update a brand is to reflect changes in the business model.
Businesses don’t stand still, because they evolve, change and grow. As the services and capabilities of a firm evolve, so too must the brand.

You can see big brands like Apple and Oracle updating their brands to reflect changes in their business models. Apple started out as Apple Computer, but in 2007 they dropped “computer” from their name. They updated their brand, because they were no longer just a computer company.

Oracle has gone through similar changes over the years. They’ve changed their name four times:
Software Development Laboratories (SDL) to Relational Software Inc. (RSI) to Oracle Systems Corporation to Oracle Corporation. Each name change reflected a change in their business, their products and services, and their go-to-market strategy.

Reflection is probably the most important reason to update and refresh a brand. Businesses are evolving at an incredible pace today, and their brands have to keep pace, otherwise the brand loses its meaning and impact.

Everyone evolves

It’s easy to think brands don’t and shouldn’t change when you look at well-established brands like Apple, McDonalds and Nike. If you aren’t looking carefully it seems like they’ve always been this way, but that’s an illusion. They’re always changing.

All brands evolve, because businesses evolve, customer relationships evolve, experiences evolve and expectations evolve.

Tirivashe Mundondo is an author and Brand Strategist. He is passionate about innovative marketing techniques and creative solutions. Email: tirivashe@thebrandguy.co.zw

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