4 Ways to Protect Brand Equity During a Redesign

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If you have a brand that’s been around for a few years, one of your biggest challenges from a design perspective is maintaining your current equity while making sure your brand is relevant enough for modern consumers. It’s a delicate balance!

If you’re not familiar with the term “brand equity,” let me give you an example.

My favorite breakfast cereal is Special K. You’d recognize it; it’s the one with the giant red “K” on the package. My favorite flavor is Red Berries, which is easy to spot on the shelf because of its vibrant red color.

Imagine that Kellogg’s decided to refresh the brand. Maybe they want to follow the minimalist design trend, so they shrink the size of the K. Maybe their research indicated that Millennials favor the color blue. So they launch a new, blue package with a tiny “K.”

There’s no way I would be able to find that cereal on the shelf. I might not even recognize it as my favorite cereal when I saw it.

Instead, Kellogg’s has been very intentional in how they’ve evolved their brands over time. The giant “K” of Special K cereal is so integrated in how their customers recognize the product, it has hardly changed in decades even while the overall aesthetic has been modernized.

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We like to call brands that have done this well “heritage brands.” They are able to maintain their brand equity over years and years by carefully updating their designs without losing the essence of their brand.

What lessons can we learn from these successful heritage brands?

1.     Be Authentically You

Your brand has a unique DNA that is truly one-of-a-kind. You have your origin story, your values, and your mission. If you haven’t already, take the time to define your brand values clearly and concisely. What does your brand stand for?

If you have a clear sense of your brand identity, that can serve as a guiding light as you go through any change. If you have a brand that’s all about serenity, mindfulness and the environment, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to use intense colors and wacky fonts, even if that’s what your competitors are doing.

2.     Maintain Your Individuality

It’s very tempting to chase design trends whenever the next new thing becomes popular. However, by saying “me too!” to those trends, you can become lost in the sea of sameness. While you want to look appropriate for your category and your target audience, don’t hesitate to be a little different from everyone else.

Look at Pepsi, for example. Their biggest competitor, Coca Cola, has indisputably owned the color red for almost a century. Pepsi, on the other hand, was the All-American brand that always had a red, white and blue can. Then, one day in the 90s, they suddenly owned the color blue.

By owning the color blue in their product category, Pepsi is now able to receive instant recognition on shelf. Being different from their main competitor was a brand imperative.

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3.     Strive for Timelessness

Your branding needs to stand the test of time so that your products will be recognizable for a long time to come. Especially in the CPG world, it’s very important that your brand doesn’t completely change overnight. In addition to your customers, you may deal with complications from your printers or your retailers if you change things too suddenly or too drastically.

This is another pitfall of chasing design trends. If you choose a very trendy design, you run the risk of looking very dated in a few years when the popular aesthetic shifts to something else. What will people think of “Millennial Pink” in a few years?

4.     Build a Cohesive Brand

Above all else, you want your brand to look undeniably like itself. This seems obvious, but disjointed branding is all too common and can lead to a lot of consumer confusion.

Perhaps your brand has been around for 10 or 20 years and now you want to launch a new, organic line. You may be tempted to use an all-new color palette, with all-new claims on the package. You may even take the opportunity to update your logo, since you’re going through a new design phase anyway. The result will be a package that looks so different from what your customers are used to seeing that it will be like you started the company completely from zero.

Instead, take the time to ensure that all of your branding and marketing looks cohesive. This can include your logo, your packaging, your website, your social media posts, your print ads, and more.

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Have you ever heard the fable of the boiling frog?

If you put a frog into boiling water, he will immediately jump out because he knows it’s too hot. But if you put that same frog into cool water and then slowly, over time, bring the water to a boil, he won’t realize the danger until it’s too late.

It may be a morbid analogy, but I often think of that frog when dealing with a long-term brand strategy. You want to make changes so carefully that your customers don’t even realize the difference, and yet you’re always perceived as a modern, relevant brand.

 

Good brand building takes planning and forethought.

This starts with building a strong, solid foundation for your brand.

Fill out the form below to download your copy of our Brand Experience Worksheet. This four-page, easy-to-follow worksheet includes questions that will help you clearly articulate the vision for your brand, consider how you want customers to perceive your brand, and craft an experience around your ideal customer.

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3 Tips for Creating a Lifelong Customer from Porsche

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The other day we were talking in the office and Kurt, our Creative Director, shared this picture of his son at a weekend car event. Kurt is a member of PCA (Porsche Club of America) and his son, at a mere 5 years old, is a member of PCA Juniors.

In seeing this picture, I was struck by the pure branding genius of Porsche. Here is a child that has been not only exposed to the brand, but has been immersed in a joyful brand experience very early in his life. This young boy is likely to be a Porsche fan for life – and, more importantly (from a business perspective), a future customer.

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“The probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.”

As parents, we enjoy sharing our favorite brands with our kids, and Porsche has made this easy and fun by facilitating a group of young brand enthusiasts. Organizations that can involve both parents and kids help to create memories, connections, and long-term brand love.

By looking at the example of PCA, brands can learn a few tips for how to create a lifelong customer.

1.     Make Your Best Customers Feel Special

PCA was started in the early ‘50s by a Porsche owner in the DC area, just because he loved the cars and wanted to meet other Porsche enthusiasts like him. In 1955, the club launched with 13 members and quickly received official recognition as the Porsche Club of America by the Porsche factory.

By encouraging and facilitating the PCA, Porsche allows its customers to feel a personal relationship with the brand. A card-carrying PCA member is granted access to special Porsche events and social activities, which provides a feeling of exclusivity to only the most faithful Porsche fans.

2.     Let Your Customers Contribute to the Brand Experience

By 1958, the club had grown to several hundred members and they arranged a trip to the Porsche factory in New York. The factory graciously welcomed PCA members and made a special offer for them to take delivery of a Porsche straight off the line. This proved to be such a popular idea that the tradition is still in place today.  

It’s important to note that the PCA and its activities aren’t run by brand executives, it was created by a fan and the endeavor was happily encouraged by the Porsche corporation. If your customers are eager to contribute to the experience of your brand, provide them the opportunity to do so and reward them for it. It will only make them love you more.

3.     Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

Today, the PCA has grown to over 100K total members in 144 regional chapters across the country. PCA members receive many perks for being a part of the club, including social events, tech talks, drivers education events, help with technical problems, and more. Kurt especially appreciates receiving special parking and access to Porsche hospitality at races where the brand is participating. 

Fans love to receive praise and gratitude when they go out of their way to express affection for their favorite brands. When you have a customer that loves your brand, be open with showing appreciation through gifts, special offers, and a public expression of thanks.

 

With four generations that have major buying power in the market today, brands have the ability to bring in consumers at a very young age and capitalize on their loyalty as they grow.

How is your brand building lifelong customers? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

 

Earning lifelong customers requires a long-term brand strategy. 

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This starts with building a strong, solid foundation for your brand.

Fill out the form below to download your copy of our Brand Experience Worksheet. This four-page, easy-to-follow worksheet includes questions that will help you clearly articulate the vision for your brand, consider how you want customers to perceive your brand, and craft an experience around your ideal customer.

Name *
Name

Clean Label: Fact or Fiction?

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If you look at the food and eating trends that have existed over the last 100 years, it’s clear that we have come full circle.

Prior to the 20th century, everyone ate more natural foods. They ate seasonally grown fruit and vegetables, visited the local butcher, and baked their own bread. And then everything changed.

The two World Wars demanded food that could be preserved as it was shipped to the front lines. As more women entered the workforce, convenience became king in the kitchen. Industrialization and innovations in food manufacturing made it easier than ever to mass produce food.

Today, it’s to the point where 70% of the food we eat in America is processed.

And yet, over the past ten years or so, our culture has been making its way back to “real food.” With the help of new research in health and nutrition, food documentaries, and FDA regulations that expose what’s in our food, we’ve finally reached the end of our processed obsession and are back to believing that natural, clean food is best for our bodies, souls and overall health.

We want “Clean Labels.”

But is “clean label” real? Is it even possible? Isn’t everything you buy from a grocery store packaged, processed and shipped?

What does it mean to have a “clean label?”

Clean label means that we are moving toward ingredient decks and recipes that remove gums, stabilizers, preservatives, additives and more. It means that we are trending to make our food more recognizable, understandable and real.

It does not mean that manufacturing is dead or that processed grains, sugars and spices will wither away but that the ones we choose to eat will be closer to nature.

Should your brand move toward a cleaner label?

In short, yes. If your ingredients deck has some mysterious additives or confusing terms, you should definitely consider simplifying for a few reasons:

1. Modern consumers favor healthier foods.

Today’s shopper wants to know what is in their food and be confident that it is healthy. According to a recent survey, 27% of consumers say that health concerns influence their food choices and 41% believe that limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives define “natural” food. Your product will better appeal to these customers if you formulate the ingredients and position your brand with health and transparency in mind.

2. Millennial shoppers demand good behavior from companies.

The Millennial generation, which is aging into their 30s and making up a larger percentage of the grocery-buying population, is very mindful that what they purchase is good for themselves and the world at large. They care about the impact of food on the culture, on the environment, and on their bodies, and they are more likely to buy your product if your label reflects clean, natural, sustainable ingredients.

3. This trend toward health and simplicity will benefit everyone.

Unlike other questionable low calorie, low fat, low carb fads and trends over the past few decades, the clean ingredient movement is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to food that is laden with additives and preservatives. As more families and more companies adopt the clean eating mindset, the healthier our country will be.

This is a wonderful and important movement for both the food industry overall and for our own families. I have been watching this trend truly blossom over the past few years and I’m hopeful and excited to see it become more prevalent, recognized, and celebrated.

Does having a clean label matter to your brand? Let us know in the comments!

Living in the Foam

One thing I have noticed lately is that we are all very caught up in the here and now. I remember the days when I could relax and think about the future. Whether planning for my own life or my clients’ brands, I remember having the time and inclination to look toward the future and envision more.

I’m missing that today.

I have found that companies are spending more time focused on immediate issues than planning for the future. Grocery stores are focused on period numbers, companies on quarterly earnings, and my kids are obsessed with how many “likes” they get on each Instagram post.

There is something to be said about living in the moment, but don’t we also need to look to the future both for inspiration as well as for precaution?

From a branding perspective, this can be critical. Here are three reasons why focusing on a long-term vision or strategy will help you grow and succeed.

1. Control Your Brand

Who really controls your brand message? As companies, we used to be able to control the message of the brand through how we spoke about it, the advertising we used, our claims and our brand position. Today, our brand is often shaped by our customers through reviews, tweets, comments and more.

As a company, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reacting to customer comments rather than proactively leading your brand where you want it to go. By only living in the moment, companies may find that they are chasing their tails and losing track of what their true goals are.

Public opinion can occasionally prove to be insightful and help you learn and grow, but don’t allow it to be the rudder that’s directing your company strategy. Stay focused on your long-term goals and stay true to your brand promise, no matter what today’s Yelp review says.

2. Chart Your Own Path

Product development, especially in retail and on a large scale, needs to be planned years in advance. It takes the right partnership between functional experts to make products come to life.

While you are planning for growth, new items will inevitably pop up that you may have never imagined. They may give you new ideas, make you second-guess your choices, or even change the dynamic of your category.

In the face of these challenges, trust in your brand and stay your course. Keep an eye on trends and what’s new, but don’t lose sight of the product mix you have created and are committed to. Dollars go fast and mistakes are costly.

3. Slow and Steady Can Still Win the Race

Ask yourself and your team: “Are we in this for the long haul or will we want out in two years?” Either answer is valid and completely dependent on your own situation and desires, but an honest answer will help you choose your path moving forward.

Going for a quick win does occasionally pay off. Pop-up brands, one-hit wonders and fads are always going to be there. Remember the Chia Pet? Or the Furby?

However, when you look at the brands that have stood the test of time, they are brands that have remained committed to their core pillars but have been flexible enough to grow and expand appropriately over time. An established brand like Coca Cola may stumble by chasing a trend, like when they introduced New Coke in the 80s, but their company has remained successful by remaining true to their brand identity and keeping an eye on long-term strategy.

Our world is superficial and our trending topics change in a moment’s notice. Take some time to drive deep into what is meaningful to you in your life and your business.

Try living below the foam for a while. It is richer!

How Far Can Your Brand Stretch?

Have you ever noticed that brands lately have morphed into areas that you just may have not expected?

I just received an email blast from Wegmans that they are now selling yoga wear. As a person who sees Wegmans as a food store and a foodie one at that, it caught my attention and not in a good way. It felt strange to me, jarring. I’d expect such a product launch from a retailer like Walmart, but not a food store whose main brand premise to date has been about the eating experience.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen other big brands stretch, expand into new categories and extend their reach. For example, Dove successfully expanded from being known for a moisturizing soap to being a wide-ranging beauty brand that connects with “real” women in every area of their beauty routine. Gerber did the same thing, growing from primarily a baby food brand to being an “all about baby” company.

Food stores sell general merchandise including light bulbs, sponges, paper plates and toilet paper – everything you need for your home to run, but people typically don't enter their favorite food store in search of clothing. An argument could be made that selling organic, fair trade “purposeful” clothing is in line with Wegmans’ brand position, but how far can a brand stretch before it snaps?

We talk about brand stretch often with our clients at the beginning of an engagement. Creating a long-term plan and vision for a brand at the onset is very powerful. It also creates a messaging platform, a brand architecture and visual guide that can stay consistent and grow, continually bringing in new customers while keeping and connecting with current ones.

What can you do to ensure that your brand stays on message as it grows?

Plan and Envision

Many companies never take the time to be together and just brainstorm about the future. There is no immediate ROI on brainstorming and the time it takes, so a team’s energy is primarily spent on revenue generating activities. However, I would challenge that taking the time to create a shared brand vision has more ROI than you think.

As a kid, people are constantly asking you “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While some kids just instinctually know and never waiver, others struggle to define their path. Your company may be like that directionless child – you have some sense of what you’re good at, but can’t clearly state your ultimate goal.

Take time with your leadership team to reflect inward, look outside immediate expectations and assumptions, and create a best-case-scenario vision for your brand. This can provide a clear purpose for your company and help motivate the entire team to focus their efforts as you work toward the company’s ultimate goal. 

Know Who You Are

When we learn what our weaknesses are, our natural inclination is to work to improve them. In practice, however, it can be much more successful – for an individual as well as a company – to forget your weaknesses and instead work to maximize your strengths.

Being honest about who you are (and, just as importantly, what you’re not) will help you build a solid, authentic foundation and will make brand choices much easier moving forward. Once you’ve defined who you are as a company, the path for growth and expansion should be easier to see.

Stop Moving the Target

Have you ever seen the movie Airplane? I’m reminded of a scene where the tower supervisor hands an air traffic controller a piece of paper:

“Johnny, what can you make outta this?”
“This? Why I could make a hat, or a brooch, a pterodactyl!

It’s a very funny scene, but it begs the question – what is it?

Your brand could be anything, but what is it?

Some brands encounter an identity crisis as they grow. If they expand to appeal to a new target audience, they feel the need to pivot their branding to fit what that target wants or expects them to be. This puts a brand in danger of losing the core of their brand and it can be very confusing for customers.

Trust that the core values of your brand will have a mass appeal. Apple’s famous “Think Different” campaign, for example, appealed to outsiders and yet they became a household brand. Whether your brand represents tradition, change, integrity, heritage, rebelliousness, youth, or experience, those qualities can be expressed in many ways that will allow you to remain genuine to your brand even as you evolve to keep up with your company’s growth.

Ultimately, stay true to yourself. Grow and stretch your limits, but be aware of what it will mean for your brand, your customers, and the health of your business.