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BIG THINKING

A change for the better: why brands must stay relevant

Beth Walls
Partner, LA
Hall & Partners

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Change is a core part of life. It's ingrained in nature as seasons, tides and winds are constantly changing. We don't always invite change, but it tends to be invigorating for us and the people around us. Sometimes we agonize over making a change – Should I go for that new job? Do I move to a new city? Should I go back to school? And other times change comes suddenly and without warning. Change brings growth and different perspectives. Without it we become stagnant and dull. Change brings freshness, vibrancy and all kinds of interesting, unexpected encounters and ideas. It's not easy, but sometimes that's the best part about it. Because really, aren't the tough and gritty parts of life the things that really shape who we are as people?

I just made a major change in my life. After spending 20 years in sunny Los Angeles, my family yanked up our roots and moved north to Portland. It's a decision my husband and I talked about for years – What do we want more of (and less of) in our lives? What kind of life do we want for our children? It wasn't quick or easy. It involved selling a beloved house, leaving an incredible nanny of eight years, and moving away from many dear friends. But the outcome has been amazing (granted it's summer and we're on day 55 of no rain in Portland). We're experiencing completely different patterns of daily life and surroundings – different weather, different culture and viewpoints, new schools, new grocery stores, and even different highways. We traded palm trees, helicopters and traffic for pine trees, starry skies, and deer walking up our street.

It feels like the world is changing faster now than ever before. Maybe that's due to our global connectivity and information that travels at light speed, or maybe it's where we are in history. As people around the globe and their desires change more quickly, so must brands. Without change, brands too become stale and outdated; once perceptions become calcified they’re nearly impossible to shake. Just like fashion or music, what seems cutting edge and relevant today becomes blasé if it doesn't evolve with us as people.


Change for the sake of change isn't a good strategy. Changing to stay relevant for your customers and the world is.


Isn't that really the role of strategists? Keeping a pulse on the zeitgeist to ensure their brands evolve in ways that are relevant for people.

It's been really interesting to see the change many US brands have made over the past year, from apolitical entities to organizations with a clear mission and purpose, willing to stand up to our government in defense of human decency. While I'm sure some are jumping on the bandwagon after seeing the positive impact to other brands' equity, I believe many are taking these stances with pure intentions of making the world a better place.

The best brands understand what they stand for and why they matter, and that core should never change. Just as moving cities didn't essentially change who I am as a person, a brand's evolution shouldn't change the core of what the brand represents. Change for the sake of change isn't a good strategy. Changing to stay relevant for your customers and the world is. Hence the importance of really understanding people. It doesn’t matter whether this is by your gut, behavioral data, or primary research… the end result is key: how are people's lives, interests and values changing, and how should my brand evolve to remain relevant and important in their day-to-day lives?

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