This is always a brand steward's nightmare. Boardrooms talk about the importance of innovation to keep the company vibrant and ahead of the game. Yet many companies translate this into change simply for the sake of change. Without clearly understanding the brand relationship with the customers change can be fatal to a brand.
Wendy's is an example of how a brand lost its way with the sudden death of its founder, Dave Thomas, in 2002. The company continues to struggle to find its brand voice without Dave leading the way. This is often a problem when the owner/founder of a company is also part of the brand.
The biggest dilemma facing many brands is internal boredom. The desire to change the look and feel of a brand. The need to make it new and modern. The aspiration for brand managers to put their own mark onto the brand. Make sure the purpose for making changes to your brand is clearly understood and doesn't attempt to change the brand's DNA.
Pizza Hut has been struggling trying to find its brand positioning (a very costly way of understanding how the brand is connecting with its customers). Unfortunately, they keep changing the messaging and executions in the hope of connecting to their customers. They should spend more time and money on understanding their relationship with their customers than continually changing their advertising direction.
Brand line extensions are another brand folly. There are some natural and obvious line extensions and there are some ambitious attempts to get customers further embracing the brand. Virgin Group Ltd. , the parent company's to the over 200 Virgin branded company under the control of its billionaire founder, Sir Richard Branson, has shown that a relevant brand position can extend beyond many business sectors ranging from mobile telephones, to transportation, travel, financial services, leisure, music, holidays, publishing and the list goes on. If you visit the Virgin Group website they state that “Virgin stands for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. " It is through these brand values that allow the Virgin brand to transcend across a multitude of businesses as a unique and distinct brand. While BIC pens brand promise didn't allow them to extend their brand into pantyhose (what where they thinking!). They did successfully extend the BIC brand to water sports equipment (go figure!). Whoever heard of disposal surf boards?
The more unique, relevant and credible the brand promise is, the greater the chance its brand extension will be successful. That's why Paul Newman's food products succeed and Willie Nelson Biodiesel Fuel and Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong mutual funds failed. Consumers may love Nelson's music and respect Armstrong for his many “Tour de France" cycling races; their brand promise has no connection with consumers concerning car engines and finance.
The moral of this story is don't mess around with a successful brand unless you truly understand the brand connection with its consumers. The Virgin Group's example shows how a brand promise is bigger than a product (a plane, cell phone etc) but is intricately linked to the core values that drive the entire Virgin group of products. This brand promise connects each product strongly to the brand and to the consumer. A Virgin medical centre may not succeed.
Derrick Rozdeba - I am a connoisseur of fine brands. Using my brand appreciation and insights, like a sommeliers, I will impart my knowledge and opinion in savoring the many brands that identify our lives. Visit my blog http://derrickrozdeba.blogspot.com/