People and companies want to grow. People grow from their core and brands should do the same.
People and companies want to grow. Growth is progress and ultimately that is what we all want. Yet, it seems that everything which seems so logical with personal growth we often forget when we are engaged in growing brands and the introduction of new propositions. And that’s a shame.
Suppose someone wants to grow from being a physiotherapist into becoming a child physiotherapist, then nobody will be surprised. When the same person would however make a career switch to become a dentist, we all expect a lengthy time consuming process. That time is necessary for the person to learn the new skills and for the environment to place and accept the person in the new role. The more known or famous the person is, the more difficult the transformation will be. The huge disinvestment in existing knowledge and skills are of course accepted. This is all very logical.
When talking about brands and propositions on the other hand, we often think that such a transformation can be made without a fight. Volvo is for example the brand that stands for safety. The brand wants to transform to “the world’s most progressive and luxury car brand”. The change is so enormous that it is actually a divestment of everything the brand has built. The heart of the Volvo brand was safety for a very long time. Is the heart suddenly somewhere else? Of course that is possible, but strangely enough we think inside a company often still too little about this and we start these transformations whether it is business as usual. Often we do this because we think that there a market for it. In those cases you are thinking clearly, but you have unfortunately put your brand heart in the fridge. And with that, of course, the heart of the real Volvo fan.
Now think of Volvo as a good friend whom you give some career advice. After your Volvo friend has told you where the heart will be in the future, would you not have suggested to make a first step with today as a starting point? So, in stead of directly transforming to “luxury car brand” perhaps using safety? Volvo, “the safe luxury car brand”? When you decide with your head that there is a market for something, then try to approach the market from your brand heart. After all, it is not just one person who suddenly wants a different direction in his life. It is a whole system of the brand itself, the staff and the fans of the brand. Be yourself and become better. It is more about depth than taking a completely different starting point. That feels very different. Just like people, brands can deepen. And that is for a brand always better than to start all over and build a new fan base.
Just like how people grow from their core, brands should do the same. This way consumers can continue to link the new direction or new propositions to the expectations they have of the brand. Growth works that way best. A good example is Coca-Cola Zero, which as proposition fully connects with what made Coca-Cola big and famous: the original Coke taste combined with the real feel of the brand Coca-Cola. With Coca-Cola Light this was already the case in terms of taste (opinions about this will vary), but the brand feeling was more skewed to the female side and men did not become fans. Zero provides real Coca-Cola taste and Coca-Cola experience, but without the calories.
The key to brand growth is thus to be yourself and execute that consistently in everything you do, with propositions that meet a customer need and deliver on the brand expectations. In short: use the brand as a compass, keep sailing in the same direction and stay true to your own heart and that of your fans!
Author: Michiel Maandag