Are you proposing new colors for Santa? Are you serious?
No, I am not proposing new colors for Santa. Consistency in the story, appearance and product has built the very powerful Santa brand. There will be very few people suggesting changes.
Yet, weirdly enough, when dealing with company brands everything seems possible and we seem to forget that consistency really matters. Logos, company slogans, even complete brand identities undergo changes, “updates” or get completely renewed.
While this sometimes makes sense, most of the time it does not. In fact, most changes are made for the wrong reasons.
These are the three top wrong reasons I have come across for making changes to brand identities:
1: The business is not going well
“Let’s refresh the brand to spark more interest” the thinking goes. However, when a company operates in a category that is in decline, refreshing a brand will not help to increase interest. Would it have saved Kodak in film or will it make Dell in computers more interesting?
2: New leadership
New leadership is a great tool to make changes in a company. But only when those changes become real to the outside world, a brand identity update makes sense. Only then there is a possibility for a real impact. The brand refresh at Yahoo was arguably done too early, because the real changes under Marissa Mayer are not yet all that visible.
Many times people inside the organisation and their supporting agencies get bored with the brand. They have worked on it for too long, the brand has become their daily reality and when constantly seeing and hearing the same things it is only natural for people to get bored. Yet, consumers only interact and think about your brand a fraction of the time you spend with it. And that valuable time is needed to keep reminding them about something they know! Unfortunately, most brands fall sooner or later in the boredom trap.
There are four reasons to rightfully make some changes to the brand identity:
1: There is a real change
The brand change can be tied to something that is real for consumers. For example, when a company enters new markets or categories or focuses only on few products or segments. This might have been the reason for Starbucks to remove the text “Starbucks coffee” from their logo as Starbucks is now about more than coffee. Unfortunately, a logo without any text leaves it meaningless for those who do not know Starbucks, but that is a different topic altogether.
2: Big changes inside your category
Sometimes there are big changes inside your category and you want to show to the external world that you are really gearing up to take on the new opportunity. The rebranding of Windows to mark the step to move beyond the PC is a good example.
3: Mergers and takeovers
There is no escape when brands get merged. As portfolios change there are likely going to be some real changes for consumers.
4: The times have changed
Your brand identity is simply outdated or competition has increased and your brand does not stand out anymore. You just need to make some updates. A good example is the logo of Shell. It started out in 1900 as a clamshell in black & white and turned to its current modern shape and form while remaining a clamshell.
Whenever you do update your brand, keep in mind that you need to build on the brand that you own in the mind of the consumer. It is not just about “trying something new”, “renewing the essence of the brand” or “exploring the cool edges of the brand”. After all, consumers are constantly learning about brands and learning is done best through repetition.