Brands are alive. They grow, adapt and change with their environments. And when they stop evolving, they die.
Markets are moving too fast for a brand to remain static. Social media wasn’t on our radar 10 years ago, but look at it today. LinkedIn just crossed 100 million users! Now most brands are jumping on the bandwagon, and working to implement social media strategies. Look back a little further, say 20 years ago, websites were not an integral part of a brand. Today, they are essential.
The forces impacting your brand are far and sweeping. Technology is one force, but your brand is also influenced by competitors, customers, fashion, culture and market expectations. The relationships we have with companies today are different from the ones consumers had in the past.
Brands have an itch cycle
You often see branding projects triggered when the corporate website is overhauled. A website tends to have a 3 to 5 year shelf life. A 5 year old website looks stale. The graphics are no longer fashionable, the menu system demonstrates old technology, and the content doesn’t reflect the current business.
A dated website is often a symptom of a dated brand. As a company digs into the website project they often realize other aspects of the brand need work too. A few tweaks are made to the logo, which means new business cards and letter head have to be ordered. Then they work on the content, and see the value proposition and the company story need to be overhauled too. What started as a $20,000 project can quickly spiral into a $200,000 project.
Brands have predictable itch cycles. The identity, value proposition and persona typically need updating every 3 to 7 years. These cycles are influenced by your market. Your competitors aren’t staying still, and they are constantly working to improve their value propositions. As you evolve your value proposition to stay relevant and competitive, other key elements of your brand will have to evolve too.
Branding is a process not an event
There’s no reason for a website project to turn into a complete brand overhaul. That’s a symptom of poor brand management.
Take a look at the forces at play in your industry. What’s happening? What are your competitors doing? What are your customers’ expectations? Where is your industry headed? The more you are aware of what’s influencing your brand, the easier it is to make small adjustments on an ongoing basis.
Another key source of information is your sales reps. They are speaking with customers every day. They hear your customers’ desires and objections, and they are able to pick up key pieces of competitive intelligence. Develop a process to gather market intelligence from your sales team.
Get your reps to fill out a little customer survey on a weekly basis. Something that is simple, relevant and fast. For example you could ask, “What questions did the prospect ask you in the meeting?” This information becomes very interesting when you compile and review it on a quarterly basis. It provides incredible insights into how your customers are interacting and reacting to your brand.
The key is to stay on top of your brand. If you make branding an event and update it every 5 years, then you’re always playing a game of catch up. But if you’re on top of the forces and applying continuous improvements, you will be on track to being the leader in your industry.