The Balance of Branding
Every generation grows up with at least one memorable brand. Those brands become iconic as they are embraced and embedded in the culture, many surviving longer than the business itself. The framework of a brand is essential to its growth and survival.
Brand longevity relies on a connection to its roots and the ability to evolve with time and business growth. Without change, a brand will stagnate and die. With too much change, away from where it began, a brand gets stretched out of shape and falls away from its customer base.
Business growth is the easiest indicator to recognize when it’s time to refresh a brand. When you are ready to go after new markets or grow your product offerings in a new direction, your brand needs to flex with you. Evolution of the brand helps knit new parts of your business together so all aspects benefit from and contribute to the strength of your brand.
If you evolve your brand too far from its roots, it may go spinning out of control. Change is important, but so is change management. You may not realize the value of your brand legacy, but your customers will miss that connection when it’s gone.
Increasing pressure on business owners to expand their reach to new marketing platforms (Tik Tok, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram), and constantly changing advertising channels with new streaming formats, create an urgency to stay in front of the trends. The key is to maintain a connection to your brand’s history through all the changes.
Is your brand in good shape?
Pizza Hut is an excellent example of a brand twisted out of shape until it was no longer recognizable. If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably remember the sights and smells of the old Pizza Hut restaurant. Families sat in those wooden booths with big red plastic cups of soda waiting for a hot pan pizza to be delivered to the table while children amused themselves in the adjacent arcade. You can probably still smell the combination of simmering sauce and baking pizza coming out of the kitchen and remember those family dinners.
That’s the legacy that Pizza Hut had with its brand and how it connected to consumers. That was the essence, the connection with its audience, and the brand feel that ultimately rolled into other brands, setting a standard for franchise pizza concepts. Ironically, Pizza Hut could still be achieving that, if not for losing sight of who they were, how to translate that for new audiences, and understanding the importance of maintaining a legacy, versus changing everything about themselves in pursuit of a new audience.
Today, Pizza Hut is more of an option than a standout brand, one of many half-time choices among Papa Johns, Domino’s, Marcos, or any neighborhood place delivering a good pie. They are primarily a mobile app, with coupons and quick delivery, usually connected to a Taco Bell or a KFC, with no trace of the four walls or even the concept of a “hut.”
Certainly, today’s mobile audiences look for quick and efficient solutions, but that doesn’t mean the legacy of a brand can’t withstand changes while holding onto its roots – the framework it originally built. You don’t necessarily need those four walls, but you do need the vision to communicate what your brand stood for while translating those brand values for a new audience.
Will you take a balanced approach to brand evolution?
Darden Restaurants, owner of dining chains such as The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Olive Garden, is taking the long view in its marketing strategy instead of relying heavily on the shorter-term strategy of marketing promotions. They are focusing on the importance of their brand, its further growth with audiences, and most importantly the experience that customers both remember and will remember with each visit.
The concept is simple. Remain true to the core values of what built your brand at the start – your framework. The need to adapt will always be necessary, as promotions, technology, audiences, and communication platforms will undoubtedly continue to change. The essence of who your brand is should only evolve, not change completely.
Remaining true to your brand values should be the key for any brand looking for continued growth, not just sustainability. The relationship between consumers and companies is the core of success with any initiative or campaign; the creation of a bond that emotionally engages audiences is what makes your brand a choice, not just another option.
The bottom line is that if you aren’t connected to those consumers on a deeper level, you become just an option versus their choice. So while we may no longer have the days of freshly-baked pan pies, endless arcade tokens, organ music, or even those big red plastic red soda cups, we can still have the connection and loyalty to a brand that was built upon those pillars.
How will you evolve your brand without losing touch with its original framework? Let’s start with a brand audit to uncover your roots and sketch out a natural evolution for your brand.