Healthy Brands Require Continuous Effort
Successful brands are not the product of a one-time effort but are living, breathing entities that require maintenance in order to stay relevant.
How Healthy Brands Gain Awareness, Attention, and Favor
Healthy brands are built upon strong brand platforms.
- They have meaningful core values that resonate with the target audience.
- They have a clear, focused mission and vision that can easily be articulated.
- They have strong internal branding.
- They consistently deliver on their brand promise.
- They own a distinguished position in the market.
- They provide exceptional products and services.
- They make meaningful connections and create authentic relationships.
Healthy Brands Monitor and Anticipate Change
Complacency can kill even the most beloved brands. Brand managers must continually evaluate the brand and external environment to anticipate change and preempt failure.
Monitor and analyze changes in:
- Customer base
- Demographics – race, gender, the culture of those you serve
- Sociocultural – consumer attitudes, beliefs, norms, customs, and lifestyles
- Technological advances
- Government and politics
- Population age
- Economic conditions
- Markets – growth, fragmentation, etc.
- Channels of distribution
There are also brand factors that you should be monitoring and evaluating.
Is your brand being perceived the way you want it to?
Is your messaging resonating and effective? Is messaging on-brand?
Threats to Relevancy
According to brand strategist David Aaker, brands can lose relevance due to a variety of factors, including:
- Category or sub-category declining, replaced, or redefined.
- Failing to produce what consumers want.
- Losing momentum and visibility.
- Emergence of a ‘reason-not-to-buy’.
How Healthy Brands Stay Relevant
Brands must consistently evaluate whether or not changes need to be made to maintain relevancy. It’s not enough to react. Brands must be proactive and anticipate change before it happens.
- Stay close to your audience.
It’s important to always focus on what your customers want by adapting to changes in consumer preferences, demographics, sociocultural factors, etc.
- Be true to your core values.
Your brand should have established core values as part of the brand platform to align with the organization’s vision and mission. Core values should also resonate with the target audience.
- Keep your brand looking fresh.
Don’t let your brand look and feel get dull. This doesn’t mean you have to change it all the time. In fact, you shouldn’t change it too often, and change should always be after thorough research and analysis. Your brand look and feel, packaging, collateral, advertising, etc. should look modern and fresh.
- Provide the right combination of value.
This is related to understanding what consumers want. This might include providing the right combination of benefits that satisfies customers. It could also be packaging the product/service as a systems solution. Also, be mindful of the impact of design. The right product design can give your company a competitive advantage if it provides value in terms of comfort, cost-effectiveness, ease-of-use, etc.
- Focus on experience over functionality.
Functional features are usually relatively easy to replicate. Experience as a result of people, processes, and passion is harder to imitate. Companies like Zappos.com and Nordstrom are well known for their exceptional customer experience. Internal brand culture can help contribute to unique brand experiences as well.
- Look for new market opportunities.
What market opportunities currently exist in your space? This could be underserved markets, niche markets that can be scaled, or new markets that can be created.
- Look for new applications.
Social listening and other consumer research might reveal possible unintended applications for your product/service that could be catered to further create a bigger base of customers or a new segment. It’s important to keep your eyes and ears out for potential applications that might serve as lucrative opportunities.
- Have a unique personality.
There are many different airlines to choose from with competitive pricing, but Southwest’s unique, memorable personality is something that helps it stand out from the rest. A unique personality can equate to brand preferences, memorability, recognition, and loyalty.
- Create a community.
By creating a community around the activity or use of your products, people feel welcomed and a part of something they are less likely to leave. For example, Lululemon created a community around yoga and fitness enthusiasts, Harley Davidson created a community around motorcycles, and Medtronic Diabetes has created a community around managing diabetes (which won the Gold Award for Best Use of Social Media by Medical Marketing and Media).
- Have a higher purpose.
Be selfless and serving of your community and the better good of people around you. Consumers appreciate brands that contribute to, promote, and actively take part in social causes. When a brand believes in something bigger than itself, people who align with the brand’s values are more likely to support the brand.
Brands must be constantly aware of their surroundings and have a realistic view of brand performance and perception. To stay around forever, brands must find ways to stay true to their legacy and core values while reinventing and rejuvenating the brand to give it new life.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.