Maintaining Relevance for an Icon Brand – by Barry Seal, Managing Director – UK, Anthem Worldwide
Posted by: Anthem
Date added: Fri 16 Oct 2009
Think Marmite, Lea & Perrins or Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup. Your branding embodies what you stand for, so the concern is, if you change anything, do you lose anything?
However, brands should never stand still, however big they are, or they can lose relevance in the marketplace.
Looking at the grocery sector, there have been significant changes in diets and habitual cooking patterns over the years which have impacted on the usage of longstanding icon brands. Innovation is therefore essential, both in terms of product profile and also in application. Marmite has stayed in tune with these changes, successfully moving its brand forward with the launch of a squeezy format and also out of home portion packs with cheese.
Newer icons also need to constantly innovate and extend into areas that are sympathetic and in-keeping with the brand position. Hence why Innocent Drinks has launched its Veg Pots at a time when its core smoothie marketplace has lost excitement and is being hit by the economic downturn. It will be interesting to see how it extends the brand further into more populist areas if it wants to sustain its original growth.
Environmental and cost-saving issues also drive change for iconic brands. In either case, it’s important to manage the change and demonstrate the benefits to the consumer. KitKat did this well when it changed from its iconic foil and paper wrapper to the foil fresh flow wrap we know today. Despite initial resistance to the change, consumers have now embraced its new look as they understand it keeps the product fresher. And presumably for Nestle it has enabled them to make significant cost-savings.
When evolving an icon brand it’s important to use experience and instinct to uncover what is at the heart of its core equities and charisma, revealing what can be adapted and what are the brand ‘crown jewels’ that should be left well alone. In our work with iconic brands we have seen that there’s a very clear dividing line where an icon brand starts to lose too much of its equity and specialness, and you have to recognise this point and pull back from it to define the opportunities you have for change.
Creating relevance also means moving the brand forward in a way that modernises it whilst still instinctively representing the parent icon. We call this approach ‘progressive authenticity’, and it’s the method we have used for over 13 years of working with Grolsch in the Netherlands where we have redefined its brand in small steps over a number of redesigns, ensuring that it’s been kept relevant for a changing customer base over time. Marmite has done this equally successfully, bringing a contemporary tone of voice and attitude to a real heritage brand.
Working with iconic brands also gives you the opportunity to be creative. Such is the imprinted cultural awareness of what they stand for, they can allow you to be expansive and playful with their charismatic qualities. For example, with the illustrated range of sachets we created for Heinz and HP, we used the opportunity to open up a dialogue between the consumer and brand that went beyond what could be done with on-shelf packaging.
As private label continues to grow and impinge on iconic territory, brand evolution has never been more important. A salutary tale is embodied in the news last month that Colman’s English mustard announced a decline in sales as a result of fewer families sitting down together to enjoy a Sunday roast, coupled with changing consumer tastes towards milder varieties. Apparently industry leaders “called for mustard to be given an image makeover in a fresh bid to boost its appeal with younger people as well as the older generation.” Clearly Colman’s needs to think about how to make both image and usage relevant to today’s consumer if its flagship brand is going to cut the mustard!
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