Relevance: A Brand’s Fountain of Youth
Recently I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Leah Garchik. She recapped a story that involved a pilot, who, while navigating a flight to the East Coast, suggested over the intercom that passengers look out the window for a scenic “Kodak moment.” As Garchick reported, one flight attendant then asked, “What’s Kodak?”
Once a ubiquitous tagline, “A Kodak Moment” made its way into casual speech to describe a moment worth remembering, but awareness of Kodak’s popular tagline, as well as its brand relevance today, has almost completely evaporated.
This is a huge lesson. Success can be fleeting, even for the most iconic brands; The question is, how can you prevent that from happening?
Acknowledge Your Past, but Look Toward the Future
Many brands have rich and storied histories. While heritage is important, iconic brands like Burberry, Nike and Coca Cola show that you need work very hard to stay relevant and compelling in today’s world. While your brand’s heritage may be important, it is not enough to base the future on. It is important to continually ask yourself, “Are we spending enough time anticipating what’s coming next so that we can be present in the future?”
Don’t Confuse Brand Equity with Brand Relevance
Many brands use “brand equity” as a rationale for maintaining the status quo. They don’t want their customer-perceived familiarity with their brand to be disrupted, fearing that it might disrupt sales or brand loyalty. Last month Fortune Magazine published an article on the success of the Radio Flyer brand, and how its business went from stagnant to flourishing. For Radio Flyer, part of its turnaround was realizing that its business is really about selling imagination, not red wagons. When Radio Flyer began incorporating imagination into its brand strategy and culture, the 97-year-old brand was rejuvenated and between 2007 and 2010, the brand’s revenue grew by 31 percent.
Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs
In today’s business world technology will quickly disrupt even the largest brands at increasing speed. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster by delivering DVDs by mail, showing that convenience and choice trumped a brick-and-mortar environment. Netflix also anticipated it would need to disrupt itself—that on-demand would usurp DVDs. The company has spent considerable investment building its brand relevance around on-demand availability of high-quality content, not DVDs by mail (not without hiccups).
As you think about how to build your brand relevance going forward, focus on what your customers really look to you for: for Red Flyer it is imagination, not red wagons; for Netflix it is content-on-demand; and for Kodak, it was all about creating memories, not selling film. What makes you relevant?