“Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.” Samuel Johnson
With each passing year there seems to be a growing, even troubling trend towards brands feeling compelled to reinvent themselves from one campaign to another. They start speaking with a new tone of voice, they adopt a new look and feel, they even try and up their cool factor by using music that is in sharp contrast to their valuable equity and before you know it, they become Frankenbrand; a horrific combination of all the things they think people want them to be, instead of just being themselves.
With too many messages delivered to too many consumers too many times a day, we run the risk of doing our clients a grand disservice by virtue of agreeing to make them something different than who they really are. This is 2015, the platinum age of communication. Marketing has changed in ways that brands need to adapt to and respect – lest we forget there has never been a time in history where consumers have as much choice to filter out advertising messages as they do now, and this will only increase.
Take McDonald’s for instance. Their messaging has vastly changed in the last few years from encouraging consumers to engage with their full-transparency campaign to the most recent and highly engineered attempt to create an emotionally charged campaign. McDonald’s is not an emotional brand (even though for some it holds a certain element of nostalgia). It serves a purpose and a very good one at that – consistent, convenient food, but let’s not make it into something it’s not. It’s neither about moments, nor the stories of the people in the communities that they open franchises in; it’s about filling a need when the craving hits.
The intention from both marketers and agencies should most often focus on how to evolve brands, not re-create them. In other words, how to continually evolve a brand in a manner that is engaging, stays true to it’s core purpose and core promise, and slowly, gracefully grow it into a territory that doesn’t seem to deviate too far from who their fans have come to know, and even love.
Enter A&W. Using the same spokesperson throughout all campaigns for the past many years, employing the same tactical, man-on-the-street/interview-style-creative, getting straight to the point and telling people what they want to know, while simultaneously seeing year-over-year growth. A&W is not trying to reinvent themselves every year. They have found a specific voice and it appears as though the tone and manner they have adopted is resonating with consumers. Quite simply, their campaign aligns nicely with who they are as a brand.
Social listening and analytics have the ability to provide us with invaluable insights when venturing forth into a brand evolution; how can we evolve the brand while staying within our original core values? How much change are our consumers willing to navigate? At what point will we begin to alienate the very community that helped shape our relevance and legacy? Important questions that must be carefully addressed and then executed with calculated precision prior to, and during the journey of a brand evolution.
I often question brands that engage in seemingly needless and often-drastic shifts. Change for the sake of change. In my opinion, consumers do not adapt as easily to these shifts, and while this may seem obvious, brands continue to confuse us. People need time. And we need to respect the very notion that consumer trust is earned. Before deciding that it’s time to make changes, speak to your audience, listen to what they’re saying about you when you leave the room, understand social shifts, and how consumers engage with messaging. Because the last thing you want to hear after you have invested an entire legacy into this needless change is: ”I think I liked the old you.”
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