How to Keep Your Brand and Your Business Relevant

Thu, Mar 15, 2012


Businesses operate in an ever-shifting landscape of public tastes and perceptions, changing laws, and technological advancements (amongst other factors), all of which can conspire to damage a company that is either unwilling or unable to change with the times. And yet, there are plenty of businesses out there that have weathered such storms and managed to both survive and grow despite the forces aligned against them. How do they do it? What turns small companies into highly recognizable global brands? When you consider companies like Apple, Sony, McDonald’s, and Coca Cola (just to name a few), you don’t think about the fact that they all started as an idea at someone’s kitchen table. The first things that come to mind are their logos, their advertising slogans, and the popular products they create and sell. So what can you learn from them about creating a sustainable brand?

The biggest takeaway should be the simple fact that they are recognizable. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name McDonald’s? Is it the golden arches, the big mac, or the bright red box their fries come in? What about Apple? You probably picture a piece of fruit with a bite out of it, the symbol that represents their company, or the milky white casing that sets their products apart from every other electronic device on the market. Nike has a swoosh (just do it), Disney uses a distinctive font, and Google’s lettering is presented in bold, primary colors. The point is, your brand begins with the symbols that represent it, so you need to start with images and words (logo and slogan) that are iconic, timeless, and universally appealing.

That said, you can’t be afraid of change. Things will change around you and if you want your business to remain relevant you can’t just let the world pass you buy. Brands that continue to be successful find ways to grow, expand, and incorporate the trends and technology that will keep their brand relevant and ensure future success. Let’s look at Coke, for example. They’ve basically been offering the same product for over a hundred years. The casual observer might be tempted to say that this is actually a counterpoint to the idea of changing with the times. And while their flagship cola has changed little over time, that doesn’t mean the brand hasn’t found ways to remain relevant, often in seemingly subtle (but nonetheless significant) ways.

They went from glass bottles to aluminum cans and plastics (bringing back glass when “retro” was popular). They’ve found ways to expand their product line, introducing not only other flavors of soda, but also merchandising with t-shirts, toys, and housewares (amongst other things) that bear their logo. They’ve teamed up for cross-promotion, making exclusive deals with restaurant chains so that other brands aren’t even offered. And they’ve pushed to expand into other markets so that they now operate in over 200 countries (and where they couldn’t sell their own products they bought out the companies that were successful in those markets).

The point is that they found ways to remain relevant even as they maintained the popularity of the product upon which their company was founded. You might think it’s impossible to compete in a cultural climate where a “click here”, instant gratification mentality pervades. But as long as you’re willing to adopt the tactics, techniques, trends, and technology of the day and use them to your advantage you can ensure that your business and your brand remain relevant as so many others have managed to do for decades.

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