Marketers want their brands to stand the test of time. However, pinpointing exactly how to achieve that can be difficult, especially when considering the many obstacles that stand in the way of a brand’s legacy. During our research with the Harris Poll, we surveyed more than 3,000 consumers and 400 brand and marketing professionals to understand what they believe drives brand longevity. Although we identified eight key drivers of brand longevity, we also discovered marketing and brand professionals had difficulty prioritizing them. This struggle to determine what’s most important to embrace could be due to the many hurdles that can pop up on the journey to a lasting brand.
So, what gets in the way of a brand’s pursuit of longevity?
Based on our research, one in five brand and marketing professionals highlighted lack of a clear vision as a significant hurdle. Nearly as many said the same about equating relevance to risk-taking, while resistance to change closely followed. Other significant hurdles included a heavy emphasis on short-term (rather than long-term) marketing strategies and an inability to maintain consistent messaging. Regardless of brand size, there is a through line of scattered, unfocused decision-making that can lead to these obstacles.
But not everything is grim. There are ways for brands to combat and overcome these barriers on their path towards longevity, a few of which we’ve outlined below.
Define (or redefine) the brand’s mission, vision, and values
First, brands must consider revisiting their mission, vision, and values, or developing them if they haven’t yet. These statements are the guiding light behind businesses — centering a brand around a common purpose that consumers clearly understand and employees can rally behind. People are busier than ever, and want to purchase from brands that solve their challenges, fulfill a need or desire, or offer something else that makes their life better. So, it’s essential for businesses to have a purpose, and to then be able to communicate that purpose with their audiences. Then, once these principles have been established or revised, they should become a consistent touchstone in brand communications and marketing — the more a brand lives and breathes its mission, vision, and values, the more audiences will trust their authenticity over the long term.
Listen, adapt, and evolve
Staying relevant doesn’t always have to be risky, but it’s necessary for a business to thrive. Relevance means evolving to meet the market environment and customers’ needs as they change, not chasing to catch up with the latest industry disruptors. It’s also important to note that while not everything about a brand will need to change, not changing at all can be the biggest risk of all, leaving a company vulnerable to stagnation, and eventual irrelevance. Instead, brands should be open to the kind of changes that will allow them to evolve alongside their audience. Consumer research, competitive analysis, and trend forecasting (among many other tools) can all play important roles in helping brands listen to the market and adapt to future shifts as they come.
Don’t neglect the brand’s legacy and heritage along the way
Change doesn’t mean abandoning the past entirely, and there are many successful ways of balancing a brand’s heritage with its future. For instance, creatively reinterpreting the legacy of the brand through advertising can take audiences on their evolutionary journey alongside them, while also helping maintain market relevance. In addition, strategically leveraging technology and media, particularly by investing in social media, can help reach younger audiences. The brands who are consistently successful, and who rank highest among both marketers and consumers, are those who are both proud of their past accomplishments and adapt to changing consumer attitudes.
Once brands understand the obstacles that can stand in the way of their longevity, they can take the necessary steps to overcome them. Taking a close look at the core of the brand itself — its ethos, and how it communicates that ethos to consumers — can act as a catalyst for further adapting and evolving. When combined with a firm foundation, an evolving brand can not only achieve longevity, it can become unstoppable.