Brands are required to constantly evolve in order to keep up with the times. There can be many motivating factors that lead a brand to evolve such as social influences, current trends, adapting with technology, or simply just becoming too outdated over time. Great brands understand that it is important to balance the company’s core identity with the customers’ wants and needs. This is particularly difficult because a consumer is constantly having conscious and subconscious reactions when experiencing your brand. However, in terms of changes the brand needs to make, you don’t even always need a complete overhaul, but rather a modification or update. These are called brand-extensions, and this is what most large companies will do over time to preserve the essence of what they have represented in the past, while keeping up with the times.
For example, in 1994, Starbucks’ decided to begin selling their Frappuccinos in other stores such as convenient stores and grocery stores. This would quickly become a good example of a positive brand stretch because Starbucks began competing in a market outside of its own walls. They did this to reach a larger audience and prove to the market that it can create the best tasting product anywhere, not just in their physical locations. Typically when companies do something like this, they run the risk of diluting their brand. If you expand to a new market and aren’t the top dog there, it hurts your companies reputation in every market that it currently exists in. On the other hand, not growing at all is the negative outcome on the other side of the spectrum because you can never be too stagnant in an economy that’s constantly growing and evolving.
Whether you realize it or not, there are different preconceived standards for companies based on their size and niche in the market. In general, smaller companies are thought of as having more conscientious, environmentally friendly, and humanitarian brands. While this seems like a disadvantage to the big players, I can assure you there is no need to worry on their behalf. They have the advantage of more revenue, which allows you to do things that smaller companies cannot. For example, Starbucks had the resources to offer more benefits for its employees or run more advertisements than a local coffee shop could ever do. Let’s not forget that consumers aren’t the only ones to focus on when building a brand, because how employees are treated play a large role in the public perception of the company too. Starbucks gained a lot of positive reputation when they pivoted on this point and created a culture and environment that’s better for their employees.
The lesson to be learned from this is that we should strive to view brands more dynamically, as if it is a living part of the company; constantly evolving with the culture and growing with your values. While striving for this is important “Research suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize.” (Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking). In short, whether you actively think about brand or not, your brain is always creating preconceptions about what you view and hear about a brand regardless. Now let’s now go through some of the more recent rebrands to dissect why certain decisions were made and infer what it means for everybody moving forward.
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