Many of the brands that we work with arrive with a similar problem. They’re not connecting with their customers. Brand growth has slowed, or brands may be on a steep decline toward irrelevance. Oftentimes, the folks in the C-suite or in marketing think the answer is a complete overhaul — a rebranding. To continue to compete, they think they need to knock down the strategic brand house and try something disruptive and new.
Almost 99% of the time, though, what’s happened is the brand has lost sight of its higher purpose or it’s why!
What’s needed is a paradigm change. Older established brands generally still see longevity as a marker for success. Within this paradigm, businesses are treated more like cement structures. I would challenge a different approach: See your brand as a living organism.
Your Living Brand Construct
A cement structure may need remodeling. But a tree, the metaphor I like to use, has deep roots and the capability to grow in all kinds of directions. The health of the tree starts with a deep root structure, and this keeps the brand anchored and healthy — it also enables a dynamic and ever-changing model that can always grow.
A living brand model is agile and relentlessly focuses, and it anticipates changing consumer needs to remain relevant. There are four key dimensions that should be considered.
1. The Roots: This is the higher purpose and anchor — a guiding philosophy that informs culture, values, beliefs and how this brand will make a difference.
2. The Trunk: The trunk accounts for the agile operating systems that can be developed and redeployed with the latest technologies to continue to deliver on changing consumer needs.
3. The Branches: This represents the responsive innovation from a culture that celebrates creativity and even failure in its relentless focus to anticipate needs.
4. The Leaves: The leaves are intelligent experiences with a clear understanding of purpose and widespread focus on how to deliver to dynamic and changing needs.
A Human Construct Helps Shift To Marketing And Selling Brand Relationships
If you see your brand as a “living dynamic model,” it shifts what your marketing role becomes. Understanding your brand as a human allows you to better understand that consumers are buying a relationship. They want to be seen and heard and to feel proud knowing the values of the brand and company they are buying from. The money transaction is a vote to say that they have made a “smart choice” and “believe” in what a brand stands for and provides them. In turn, as a marketing person, you begin to “feel” your business and have a sense of pride, but also a sense of when your brand is hurting or consumers are beginning to disconnect.
A tree is an inanimate object, like our brand, and while consumers buy the tangible benefits, they are also buying to fill an emotional need. If we don’t see our brands as living, then it is difficult in this hyper-speed world to remain relevant.
The Roots Are Your Brand Purpose
However, this model only works if the taproot — the purpose — is clear. It’s the reason our brand exists.
This is often the problem with the brands I work with. They’ve neglected their higher purpose or reason for being, or they’ve moved so far away from it that their most valuable asset — their loyal customers — do not recognize them anymore. And it’s easy to do, especially in a world where brand managers change every few years, they are all being pressured to make their mark, sales slide and short-term decisions are made to protect short-term profit.
Too often, we try to “weld on” tactics from other brands. We’re looking at our competition and saying, “Hey, this is working really well for them.” And we don’t want to lose sales, so we try and graft those tactics to our brand trunk. The risk is that what we have grafted starts to look and feel more like the competition and less like our brand. A few too many of these grafts and the tree begins to become less healthy and even less relevant.
Living Brands Have The Flexibility To Evolve And Grow
Look at this idea in real life. African female elephants have evolved over the last few decades to be tuskless! At their core, the African elephant is still an elephant, even if it doesn’t have tusks anymore. A pine tree is still a pine tree, even if it evolves to resist pests like beetles.
Consumer demands change almost daily, it seems. Evolution is required for a brand to stay healthy. But everything still must be connected to our roots, or we’re not going to flourish. If a business is off, don’t add more potentially harmful tactics to shore up sales. Start by looking into the health of the taproot. What is it that makes your brand distinctly unique? This clarity will enable flexibility that will be in line with the brand’s purpose and shape growth in the right direction.
Why do you exist? What do you stand for? What are your brand beliefs, your values? The purpose of a cherry tree is different from the purpose of a pine tree.
Seeing our brands as living creatures that are evolving and changing helps us as we look to make them grow. And to make them grow, we must start at the roots — with the why!