Look at your typical middle aged person and you will notice a few things:
- Their physical condition is showing signs of ageing. They weigh more than they did in their 20s and they are less flexible.
- Their hairstyle and dress sense gets stuck and they start to experiment a lot less. They’ve developed a look that they like (or can at least tolerate) and then they stay with it… for a very long time.
- Their values were created at a certain point in their development and getting them to change their POV is almost impossible. They have strong beliefs and they’re tough to change.
- They are more cautious. They buy safer cars, stop doing things that are more risky etc.
I can say this because I’m middle aged. I don’t think of myself as being middle aged but whenever I spend time with younger people I realize just how middle aged I am. I have a theory that brands are the same. Brands can get tired and a bit flabby. They are not as exciting and or as interesting as they were. The logo and general way the brand is presented has, in too many instances, changed little in the last decade. The values of the business are great but they’ve lost their punch and they’re not making any real contribution to the bottom line. How does this happen? Why does it happen? Is it a good thing? I’m afraid the answers to these questions are not great for most brands. Brands start to atrophy because the people driving these brands are themselves, often, middle aged. They are reluctant to ‘risk’ the brand. They are also less likely to see that the brand is starting to ‘get stuck’ with a certain ‘haircut or dress sense.’ Brands need to adapt to their customers. This means they need to reflect where their customers are, not where they are.
How can brands stay fresh? Here are some suggestions:
- Spend time with people who should become your customers in five years from now and make sure that senior executives witness these sessions. Listen to the their stories about brands and the ways they interact with them. You’ll learn something. After all, tomorrow’s customers will be today’s customers before you know it.
- Do good brand analysis that truly establishes a baseline that marketers can use and share it with all your marketing partners so they are all on the same page. Make sure this analysis is centered on where your next wave of customers coming from, not where your old customer base is.
- Get all your marketing partners contributing to the ‘state of the brand’ analysis. By this I means that your agencies often have a great perspective on where the brand is but they don’t always share that with all the right people. You need a forum where some pretty bad and good things can be shared about a brand. This forum must be accessible to all your partners so they can also take the insights
- Take some risks. Brands need to learn to be willing to fail in their marketing. Safe marketing doesn’t change the status quo. Safe may be fine if you are the market leader but for brands that are challenging they have to be ready to take risks, just as teenagers do every day. These risks won’t kill the brand and could lead you towards a whole new paradigm.
- Experiment with new technologies – the amount of technology now available to help marketers is incredible. Your brand is a core business asset; you should be looking at investing in it. Businesses invest in technologies for the workforce, why not the brand?
We can all spot brands that are stuck in the past, or are struggling to keep up. We need to all look in the mirror and make sure our brand isn’t one of them. If it is then it’s time to get to work. We live in an era where the willingness to take risks is reducing because of the state of the global economy but the ‘do more of the same’ strategy is rarely a good one and in these ultra competitive times, potentially suicidal. The state of the brand defines its life expectancy. If your brand is entering middle or even old age, then you need to try and reverse the course of nature. Fortunately for all of us, you can do that with brands, provided you have the nerve…