How to manage change, while maintaining brand values

It may seem paradoxical that a brand must embrace change to survive and thrive, yet the most important feature of brand values is not change, it is consistency.

The only thing that is consistent is change itself.

We have seen a number of leading brands come to grief because they failed to adapt and change to suit evolving social, commercial and cultural environments. Brands are social constructs, and as such are historically and culturally contextual. They live in a particular time and cultural landscape but one that is changing and shifting. It is like being in a story that is developing and unfolding, and the brand is a character who has to relate and adapt to the twists and turns of the narrative.

The best-managed brands keep their ears to the ground. They are sensitive to the changes in their environment and are quick to evolve and stay in tune with their public.

While we like our brands to be responsive to the world we share with them, we also want their values to be consistent. The core values which we associate with the brand should be solid, reliable and change relatively slowly, if at all. It is these values that contribute a lot to our emotional attachment with the brand.

Three simple checks.

  1. Remind yourself what your core, brand values are. Write them down again if necessary. If you are an automobile manufacturer, styling may change, there may be technological advances, you may need to respond to legislative changes, fuel prices or environmental issues. But your basic brand values may be something being a value, family focussed, safe, reliable brand (for example). These values should be maintained.
  2. Identify and quantify those key values and see which ones are most important in the current environment. You should not change them, but some may present real strengths at a particular time, and should be placed front and centre. For example, in times of economic austerity, reliability and value for money may be your most important values. But use your real values don’t try to invent new ones.
  3. Actively manage the brand values. There are lost of books, articles and advice on managing change. But while you are managing change make sure you are keeping the brand values at the core. Whenever responding to the need for change, we always find we have a number of options, alternative directions that need evaluating. Ensure that in making those choices, along with all the commercial, technical and management concerns we also ask; ‘Is this consistent with our brand values?
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