Brands Need To Be Adaptable
What should your brand stand for? And how much control do you really have over it?
Let’s take an example. A high street bank starts up. It needs a name, it comes up with one, let’s say Lloyds Bank. It opens a branch and sticks the name on the front. It’s very successful and it grows opening lots of other branches. People come to associate the name with banking, they even say things like “they’re a good bank”. As time goes by the bank decides to get into stuff that isn’t just borrowing and lending but insurance, investments and pensions. And people are comfortable because it’s all about money and bankers know all about money? Don’t they.
This a classic story of a business building itself and dragging the brand with it. And as long as banks stay relevant and popular all is well.
But you could take the same story with a record shop let’s call it HMV. “They run great record shops” people say, and so they are very comfortable buying CD’s and DVD’s from them, it’s what the brand stands for. But what happens when people don’t want record shops anymore. It’s the equivalent of everyone going off banks and then what do Lloyds do?
The point is that brands that are very adaptable are more likely to survive. So Virgin for example is a brand that stand for much more than any of its products: for Richard Branson, for Customer Championing and a David vs Goliath approach. When record shops were no longer wanted Virgin Megastores disapeared but the Virgin brand had no problem because it was much more than a record shop.
Amazon is another interesting example. It started in books but it never spent too much time and money building it’s brand based on books. The brand really stood for ‘online efficiency’ and look what a stroke of genius that was. It can now sell pretty much anything on the basis of it’s efficiency. It’s invested very little in brand building and has been careful not to be too tightly positioned.
I think there is an interesting debate hear. Could it be better for brands to stand for big generic positionings like “Customer champions” “efficiency” “victory” “rebellion”.
These type of brand positionings are much harder to achieve than those anchored in product propositions or even in emotional differentiation. And in the short term they may pay a price, being a bit more vague and a bit less differentiated. In the long term though they are more likely to survive because they are more flexible and adaptable.
At Libertine, our brand stands for Freethinking and that’s a much more flexible positioning than most creative agencies who are defined by either their discipline or their approach to marketing. Whatever happens to the media environment, wherever marketing services end up there will always be a need for Freethinking. And that makes for a very adaptable brand. Like the cockroach we may not be the biggest or the prettiest but in a nuclear holocaust, environmental catastraphe or a digital revolution who would your money be on?