Mar 8, 2012

Why Brands Need To Be Refreshed

Brands have a shelf life. They need to be refreshed every three to seven years depending on the industry to stay relevant and desirable. I wrote about this idea a couple weeks ago. 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 ad, logo, tagline and value proposition for fifty years doesn’t mean a brand is consistent.

Established brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds and Nike all go through regular updates. These updates don’t mean the brand has fundamentally changed. Rather the updates help the brand stay relevant. Since the 1950’s Coke and Pepsi have each had seven logo updates. McDonalds runs new slogans and campaigns every couple of years like “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 weren’t just a computer company any longer.

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.

What are you doing to keep your brand relevant?

(Image credit: Robert Mehlan)

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