Brand longevity is undoubtedly a key ambition for any business.
It’s achieved, in large part, by consistently remaining at the forefront of consumers’ minds when they think of your specific industry, product, service or cause.
One way to enhance this is by delivering exceptional experiences upon every interaction with the brand. The brands that have stood the test of time have managed to do this without losing sight of their long-term mission. But does this experience always remain the same?
Over time, most people change; as do their interests, needs and values. Brands change too, for a multitude of reasons – from brand equity, to evolving markets and competitiveness. Brand evolution may be required, whether to satisfy changing consumer behaviours, or because change is the only way to survive.
Satisfying consumer needs has always been the golden ticket to long-term success – coupled with transparent values that align with those of the consumer. With over 86% of UK consumers likely to be more loyal to a brand that shares their values, it’s clear that knowing your audience is of paramount importance.
The question is, how does a brand adapt to an ever-changing audience and environment whilst remaining true to its identity? When does a brand need to evolve to stay relevant, and to what extent?
Navigating a changing audience
Brands that have stood the test of time, positively affecting their audience, could be called ‘timeless’. This means that they have been able to create genuine impact throughout the years, whilst staying true to their values. There is one constant to consider here, somewhat paradoxically, in that your audience can continually change.
As trends emerge and fade, your audience’s interests change. With the increased consumption and ease of access to information, their values change too. Even as some companies sell the exact same product they sold over a hundred years ago, effective marketing is that which adapts to an ever-changing audience.
One key example of a brand that has been able to do this is Coca-Cola. The soft drink manufacturer sold its first bottle in 1886, going on to become one of the most iconic brands ever. Coca-Cola has taken its brand identity to the next level, making it an instantly recognisable brand, as showcased perfectly in their recent OOH campaign. Multi-sensory marketing at its best.
Coca-Cola have navigated a changing audience by having a complex understanding of its target audience. The product is portrayed as more than a drink – it’s an emotion. For a product that has barely changed in over 100 years, marketing communications from the brand have always sought to appeal to a consumer’s emotions, needs and aspirations. Crucially, they’ve done this as consumer needs and aspirations have evolved across generations. The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign championed the power of personalisation and collaboration, proving Coca-Cola’s ability to understand and engage their audience.
A time for ‘anti-marketing’
In some cases, your brand values may not resonate directly with your audience… yet. Instead of adapting to your audience, it’s almost the opposite, as consumers grow increasingly conscious of a certain topic through the consumption of information. However, this is a multifaceted principle. A proactive approach involves educating your audience towards your product or service, enabling them to understand why it matters. Of course, it’s worth noting that waiting for the market to catch up with you is a risky approach, your product or service must be truly great to use this technique.
The topic of sustainability is one that particularly is prevalent at the moment. As 40% of UK consumers have recently chosen brands that have environmentally sustainable practices and values, it’s a highly scrutinised make-or-break selling point. Since 1973, outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia lives by its two non-negotiable brand values: sustainability and transparency. Patagonia’s insistence on remaining true to its core values has spearheaded it becoming a pioneer for sustainability. Their bold environmental activism and ‘anti-marketing’ campaigns have paid dividends through the years.
It has successfully connected with its audience through transparency and trust. Consumers have confidence in both the company and the product, thanks to Patagonia’s honest approach to its customers. The genuine connection that Patagonia has created with its audience is shown in their anti-marketing campaign ‘Don’t buy this jacket‘ which saw an impressive 30% growth in sales – Patagonia can’t have been best pleased about that.
Change born from necessity
Of course, in some cases, evolving a brand simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, a transformation is required. This could be due to diminishing public trust, or simply survival. It’s much easier to lose consumer trust than it is to gain it. To draw a comparison back to brand longevity, most established brands have had to change something drastic at some point to get to where they are today.
There are notable examples of brands attempting to change their ethos and identity to mend a tarnished brand reputation. A recent example is Evri – formerly Hermes – the parcel delivery company, as continued allegations of poor customer service and parcel mishandling overshadowed the brand. Public perception of Hermes is summed up in this video.
A below-average user experience damages the brand image in the eyes of a consumer, and this is incredibly difficult to recover from. Of course, it’s understandable that your audience will change over time, but providing a top-class user experience avoids the need for a drastic change of identity.
Sometimes a wholesale change may be necessary to survive. One of the most remarkable examples of this is Nike – formerly known as Blue Ribbon. Phil Knight, the founder of the sportswear giant, explains the conceptualisation of Nike in his memoir Shoe Dog.
Blue Ribbon was originally an importer of Japanese shoes supplied by Onitsuka, until the day that this relationship had reached a point beyond repair. The supplier offered to buy 51% of Blue Ribbon – a hostile takeover – but there was no way Knight was running away without a fight. He sought to find a new supplier in Mexico, but a rebrand was needed for production to commence soon. Once that day had arrived, one of his colleagues phoned. A name had come to him in a dream the night prior: Nike – the goddess of victory. Quite fitting for a brand sported by athletes.
Fast forward to today, and Nike has revolutionised marketing – bringing a rarely matched flair for inspiration and innovation. This showcases a brand that remained true to its identity from day one. Nike ads seek to evoke emotion from their audience, shifting the focus away from the product. The first ad they ever released, ‘There Is No Finish Line‘, depicts this perfectly.
Creating a legacy
“Customers are the backbone of your business”. It’s a widely accepted school of thought for a reason. The best brands show a deep understanding of their target audience and roll out their marketing campaigns directly for their audience. It’s a particularly impressive feat to have consistently delivered this through decades and even centuries, striking a perfect balance of never losing sight of their audience, whilst remaining true to their values.
Brand building marketing campaigns are an essential component of the wider marketing strategy; they lay the foundation for brand longevity. The marketing strategies we’ve implemented for clients incorporate both short-term sales activation and long-term brand building – as well as helping brands highlight, remain true to, and in some cases get back to, their core values. You can learn more about this here, or alternatively, get in touch with our team to discuss building a futureproof marketing strategy for your business.