Brand longevity isn’t new—in fact, this measurement of cultural relevance and ongoing consumer engagement is on the rise as brands continue to look for a way to quantify long-term success. But this concept is more important than ever, especially as consumer behaviors have been impacted by the pandemic, cultural issues, racial tensions and overall shifts in society.
Simply put, today’s consumers don’t think or behave like they used to. Adapting to these changes can certainly be a challenge if brands simultaneously want to stay true to their history and core audience, while also looking ahead and evolving. In addition, the decisions brands make today can have a massive effect on their trajectory for years to come.
But according to recent research from Brownstein, marketers are making decisions based on short-term priorities; meaning there is huge opportunity for them to rethink their approaches and consider strategies that inspire greater brand longevity. In order for brands to do this, they need to think about how consumers have changed, how this impacts their history and evolution, and how to meet consumers where they are.
Marketers who are just now starting to think about creating longevity for their brands might be asking themselves where to even start. The following actionable steps will help establish brand longevity.
Recognize today’s audiences are forever changed
It’s no secret that many consumers experienced lifestyle changes or societal shifts over the last few years, prompting them to try new brands or move away from brands they were previously loyal to. Because of these nuances, marketers need to realize how their core audiences have changed, as well as what their current audiences are looking for from the brands they interact with, so they can shift their messaging and overall approach to better adapt.
Our research shows that the majority of consumers believe brands have an important role to play in social recovery. To better address this, many brands have taken a hard look at their values in order to make their response to societal issues a more prominent pillar of their marketing efforts. In just the last two years, major brands like Land O’Lakes, Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima made real creative changes to modernize their marketing and adopt more culturally-sensitive approaches after understanding that their brands didn’t reflect what consumers found acceptable today. While these brands took chances on losing awareness and core audience support, their risks ultimately paid off in helping secure a strong future.
That said, the work of evaluating consumer preference and behavior is not one and done; rather, it’s a cyclical process that marketers should make a point of revisiting on an ongoing basis.
Evolve, but stay true to brand heritage and history
Our research on brand longevity shows that, in the brand ecosystem, brand heritage and technology make up two ends of a vital spectrum—and are two of the most important drivers of longevity. Brand heritage is often inflexible and shaped by established values of the organization, while technology is highly flexible and ripe for innovation. Although these two tenets might seem at odds on the surface, it’s important to think about them as a team, and utilize them to find the middle ground between staying in the past and hurtling towards the future. This can take shape across several factors:
- Product: In some cases, brands need to find ways to reinvent themselves by switching up their product offering while still staying true to their overall brand tenets. For example, streaming giant Netflix has remained steady as a brand over its history, even after its pivot from mail-in DVD rentals to digital streaming. While the company’s product offering changed to meet innovation and consumer demand, it remained consistent in engaging consumers to enjoy being at home through its services.
- Customer experience: On the other hand, sometimes brands will find that their product is working for their consumers, but the customer experience has room for evolution. For one, Subway recently remodeled their business operation to be more experience-oriented by incorporating technology-based ordering systems into their restaurants, catering to their customers’ overall desire for more innovation.
- The brand itself: Marketers may also come to realize their entire brand needs a refresh based on the current landscape. Mattel recently did this by introducing new branding for its Barbie suite of dolls, with a digital dreamhouse, a vlogger series and numerous mobile games to cater to Gen Z and younger children today—all of which resulted in exponential growth for the brand.
Brands looking to better navigate the dynamic of heritage and innovation should begin by taking stock of their current reputation and the reliability of their values, then evolve accordingly. Innovation is not about reinventing the wheel, but rather adjusting in order to adapt a brand to the modern demands and values of consumers.
Bridge the gap between physical and digital
Because today’s consumers are largely digital-first, it’s important to also meet audiences where they are. That doesn’t mean ditching the physical world entirely. Rather, to build brand longevity and encourage brand awareness, marketers should bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds by leveraging all the channels available to them.
What’s more, consistency between touchpoints matters. One example is the recent increase of brands leveraging the metaverse to engage with audiences. There is certainly opportunity here for some brands, but that doesn’t mean marketers can abandon tried-and-true tactics either. Finding the balance between diving into more innovative tactics and sticking with more traditional ones is essential.
As today’s landscape continues to evolve alongside consumer preference and behavior, it’s more important than ever to establish your brand as one with heritage and longevity. Those marketers who take the time to understand their audiences and look to find balance between heritage and innovation, as well as the physical and digital worlds, will come out on top in the long run.