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How to Keep Your Brand Relevant

Developing a successful brand is often a delicate and time-consuming task that may take years to establish. When a brand reaches that level of success, people will pay more for it and seek it out specifically — customers pay more for Coca-Cola than they do for the grocery store brand because Coca-Cola has spent decades (and billions of dollars) cultivating an image of their product as unique and distinct from other cola offerings.

However, brands have to walk a difficult line. On the one hand, they need to be widely recognized and popular enough to generate sales volume. On the other hand, brands that are too mainstream start to be perceived as simple commodities in a process known as genericization. Aspirin, escalator, and videotape were once brand names but failed to set themselves apart from their competition enough to maintain a distinct position in consumers’ minds.

Keeping your brand relevant is an ongoing process. Consumers, markets, and competitive landscapes are continually changing, and it’s necessary to respond to these changes to maintain your brand’s success.

Refine Your Brand

Ensuring a unified brand image that keeps customers interested and invested is essential to brand longevity.

Readdressing your brand’s fundamentals to provide a strong internal sense of what your brand stands for and represents is a valuable exercise. The Golden Circle, a concept first spelled out in a TED talk by Simon Sinek, is an excellent place to start. Picture your brand as a series of three concentric circles:

  • Why: the innermost circle is your “why” — your brand’s reason for existing. Most executives and entrepreneurs have trouble articulating their why. Making a profit results from properly executing your purpose, but why did you start the business in the first place? What problem are you trying to solve? Why does your company need to exist among your competitors?
  • How: the second circle asks you to consider how your business is different from your competitors. How do you execute your purpose in a unique, appealing, and enticing way to customers?
  • What: the outermost circle is the simplest — what does your company do? This is the simple expression of the product or service you offer, and it’s what you spend the majority of your daily time thinking about.

Each layer of the Golden Circle is built on the one below it. The outermost circles are the easiest to change, as long as you stay true to what’s underneath. If your brand can maintain its core values over time, customers will remain loyal.

Be Flexible

Being flexible and responding to a changing marketplace is a crucial step for brand longevity. It’s important not to rely on your current brand status to ensure future success. Trends in technology, product consumption, and competition change over time, and you’ll need to respond to these changes. Kodak is an unfortunate example of what happens to a brand that becomes complacent. For most of the 20th century, Kodak was synonymous with photography. Its reputation was unassailable in the film photography industry. In 1975, a Kodak engineer invented the first digital camera with a resolution of 0.01 megapixels. But the company almost wholly abandoned the digital market, focusing instead on its much more lucrative film business.

By the time Kodak decided to embrace the rising trend of digital photography, it was far too late. The market had been overwhelmed by tech giants like Canon, Sony, and Nikon, offering sleek products and advanced features that Kodak couldn’t match. In 2012, Kodak declared bankruptcy.

If your brand is to be more than a flash in the pan, you’ll need to learn from the mistakes of Kodak, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and dozens of other brands that were unwilling or unable to keep pace with shifts in their customers’ needs. Pay attention to market trends, keep track of consumer sentiment, and adjust course accordingly.

Engage With Your Audience

The best way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry is to maintain open and honest communication with your customers. Social media has granted brands an unprecedented ability to talk to their consumers, listen to their problems, and address them directly, but many brands don’t take advantage of these avenues of communication.

Answer your customers’ questions on social media and by email. Keep them abreast of what your company is working on via email and social announcements. Send out regular surveys asking them to weigh in on your company’s direction, and pay close attention to your data and analytics to see which areas of your company are succeeding and which are starting to slow down.

A Brand for the Ages

Once established, maintaining a successful brand requires continuous effort, but it’s vital to the long-term success of your company and the loyalty of your customers. By focusing on your customers’ needs, the changing trends in your industry, and the core features of your company, you’ll set your company up with a brand that can stand the test of time.

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