7 Keys To Brand Evolution In A Changing World

Larry LightJanuary 3, 20246 min

There were brand-businesses that did not survive in 2023. Bed, Bath & Beyond, Rite Aid, SmileDirectClub, Lordstown Motors to name a few. There are several reasons for the demise of these brand-businesses. However, there are evergreen principles for building and maintaining powerful brand-businesses. Here are seven keys for evolving in a changing world.

1. Know Your Market

Sounds simple. But, many brand-businesses do not define their market properly. A market is a specific group of people who share a specific want (need, problem) in a common context. Product categories, channels and price categories are not market segments. There is no such thing as a granola bar market. There is a market for portable, quick, energy-dense easy-to-eat nutrition. There is no such thing as an upper upscale market even though hotel and auto brand-businesses use this nomenclature.

Know your customers as if they were your best friends; your closest relatives. Know as much as possible about your market in order to understand just how your brand-business will satisfy in a relevant differentiated manner.

Claire’s, the “fun fashion destination for jewelry, cosmetics, accessories and ear piercing” is a fabulous example of a brand-business that knows its customers. Claire’s market is tweens, teens and young women who are “…fearless, authentic and wildly creative in the ways they show up, and our brand is a platform that creates space for them to express all sides of themselves.”

2. Use Needs-Based Occasion-Driven Market Segmentation

How does a brand-business learn about its market? Conduct needs-based occasion-driven market segmentation. Needs-based occasion-driven market segmentation creates a customer-driven map of the category divided into a) what are the needs? b) who has the needs? and c) in what occasion do these needs exist? Who x why x context.

Segmentation identifies a brand-business’ customers providing competitive advantage. Segmentation provides a strategic focus that is essential for effective marketing. Segmentation provides direction for identifying market priorities driving the brand-business strategies.

AB InBev, maker of one out of four beers sold worldwide, uses market segmentation to its advantage. AB InBev stated that insights from its needs-based occasion-driven segmentation have already changed the marketing for its brands. AB InBev recognizes that satisfying customer needs and problems while understanding the specific occasions in which these occur is the key differentiator between marketing and selling. Selling is convincing customers to buy what you know how to make. Marketing is about profitably providing what specific customers need or might need or might solve their problems in specific occasions. Superior understanding of customer needs and occasions provides the basis for outstanding competitive advantage.

3. Satisfy Contradictory Needs

We continue to learn that people do not like to compromise. Customers do not want either/or solutions. Customers expect brand-businesses to optimize conflicting needs. Single-minded solutions are not as powerful or appealing. Brand-businesses are promises of complex, multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, relevantly differentiated experiences. Brand-businesses should focus on delivering the benefits of contrary needs. The best trade-off is no trade-off. A trade-off means losing something of value.

Barnes & Noble is a rejuvenated brand-business. One of its critical strategies has been the optimization of two contradictory needs: the maximization of an independent, local bookstore experience with the depth and breadth of a mass marketing bookstore.

4. Create A Brand-Value Strategy

Brand-businesses must create a brand-value strategy. This is not a calendar. A calendar prioritizes tactics. Tactics are how you implement a strategy. A brand-value strategy is a plan. It is a plan to create trustworthy brand-business value.

A brand-business value strategy affects R&D, not just marketing. Brand-businesses must engineer value into products and services.

One goal of a brand-business-value strategy is “amazing value.” Amazing value is not offering a lot for the money. This is brand-business-value tonnage. Amazing quality is a great brand-business at a great price. A great brand-business with a price that will entice. Staggering value is unique, high quality at a price that amazes the customer.

Whole Foods’ 365 brand-business is a stellar example of implementation of a brand-business value strategy. Whole Foods 365 changed customer perceptions by remaking 365 into an affordable high quality brand choice across multiple categories.

5. Respect And Reflect The Brand-Business’ Provenance

A brand-business’s provenance – whether historical or newly formed – acts as a constant. The brand-business’s provenance is a force for understanding and appreciating a brand-business’s past while helping to engage in the present. A brand-business’ provenance lays a relevantly, differentiated trustworthy foundation for the future.

A brand-business’s provenance is its consistent and motivating theme. A brand-business’s provenance is not about preserving a past; it is about preserving the best of the past for the present and future.

The power of a brand-business’ provenance is significant, especially in an uncertain world.

When times are uncertain, customers seek trusted sources. This drives the need for provenance. A brand-business is more than a trademark; it is a trust mark. A trusted brand -business influences customer consideration and preference while increasing willingness to invest by all stakeholders. It is a hedge against uncertainty.

Elizabeth Arden is using its provenance in beauty to reignite and reintroduce its brand to younger generations. Elizabeth Arden’s global General Manager stated “We drill down on the history of the brand, and it manifests itself in the creative. We have this rich legacy, but I would argue there’s a lot of modernity in who we are and what we do, and we’re very focused on science.”

6. Have A Relevantly, Differentiated Brand-Business Promise

A brand-business promise describes its expected relevant, differentiated, trustworthy experience. A brand-business promise is something that a brand-business continuously strives to achieve. A brand-business promise is a future-focused description as it states what the brand will do for its customers. Regardless of industry or category, a brand-business must have a brand promise. Otherwise, it is a commodity.

Art Basel is focusing on becoming a powerful global brand. Art Basel has articulated elements of a distinct, compelling brand-business promise. Extrapolating from discussion in the press, Art Basel sees this: For people who desire community engagement and are excited by our changing cultural world; Who seek a broader cultural perspective or who want to share their art to intrigue others; Creative, festive, innovative Art Basel offers people an opportunity to engage with local creators, learn what is happening culturally, participate in events, and purchase art. Art Basel will do this because it offers trophy-level art, varied cultural experiences and community level engagement.

Brand-business building is not just about advertising. Brand-business building is not just about message management or device management or digital management. Brand-business building is about promising to profitably deliver an expected relevant, differentiated, trustworthy experience to a specific audience. 

7. Adapt To The Changing World

Disregard for the changing world is marketing mismanagement. Disregard for the changing world is mismanagement in how a brand-business treats its customers. People change. Behaviors and attitudes change. Staying the same in a changing world signals to customers that the brand-business no longer cares about who they are and how they feel.

With changing perceptions and medical innovations, the world of weight loss is rapidly altering. In order to remain a powerful brand-business in an altered landscape, Weight Watchers International has reimagined its purpose.

Instead of relying on its points system, its workshops and weigh-ins, WWI is now offering access with advice to the science of weight-loss drugs. Previously, WWI described drugs as the easy way out. WWI’s approach focused on will power and changed behaviors. No longer. WWI has admitted publicly that it made mistakes. WWI is now ready to change how it delivers weight-loss to customers.

Losing touch with a changing world is a disaster for brand-businesses. Losing touch with customers and their changing wants and problems will mean the brand-business is not up to speed. Not innovating or renovating means a brand-business is not thinking about the present or thinking about the possibilities for tomorrow.

Brand-businesses should resolve to use these seven strategic solutions in 2024. There is no indication that 2024 will be a less challenging environment than 2023. Instead of always seeking the latest blue-sea idea, it is important to focus on and implement evergreen strategies that have been proven over time to help generate enduring profitable growth.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Larry Light, Author of The Paradox Planet: Creating Brand Experiences For The Age Of I

At The Blake Project, we help clients from around the world build strong brands and profitable businesses. Please email us for more.

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