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Evolving a Brand: An Annual Review

Feb 6, 2024
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” - Charles Darwin, 1809 

The world is changing faster than ever before, driving companies to continually evaluate how marketing can continue to contribute to success. Ultimately the purpose of a brand is to communicate effectively with your target audience in a meaningful, memorable way. If the world is changing, companies have to transformwith it and that might mean their brand needs to evolve too.

How do you know it’s time to evolve your brand?

A strong brand should be developed and marketed strategically based on research, the target market, a strong foundation, and creativity. But these days, for a brand to survive, let alone thrive, it has to evolve and there are several possible factors that may drive an organization to rethink the brand.

In no particular order, the following is just scratching the surface of what may drive a brand to evolve:

  • To stay relevant: This is the core purpose of a brand and if the industry or the customer is changing, staying current is critical to success.
  • To stay ahead of and differentiate from competitors: The market may be changing with new rivals entering the scene. Or, existing competitors may change how they communicate, ultimately driving companies to change to stay ahead of the curve.
  • To attract the ideal customer: A lot of businesses hone in on their ideal customer over time, as they learn from experience. The brand may need to evolve to appeal more directly to a particular customer to build on that success.
  • Finding success in a particular niche or service line: Just as organizations may refine a specific customer, over time organizations may find success in a particular area or service line of the business that was previously minimal or might be experiencing growing demand that should become a focus for the brand.
  • New opportunity in the market: Perhaps a new service is possible now that wasn’t previously. Or an organization can now provide a service differently that’s better than the competition. Or business has revealed an unmet need that the organization can provide. These are all reasons to consider expanding the brand.

How often should a brand evolve? Or when is the right time to evolve a brand?

First and foremost, brands should be strategically positioned, as they are more than just a logo or selection of colors that someone at the company likes. Rather, a brand is a collection of assets (think fonts, colors, imagery, messaging) used together to create a meaningful message. This brand should be firmly based on the business’ goals—looking at both short and long-term planning. No business plan? No strategic brand. We believe a brand and a marketing plan should always support the organization’s business goals.

Just like a business plan, which should be reviewed and evaluated at least once a year, so should your marketing plan. If you’re an EOS company like us, you’ll be familiar with the annual meeting and quarterly check-ins to stay on track. At a minimum, each year a brand should be planning its marketing efforts and, as part of that planning, should be evaluating what’s been successful, what was less successful, where are new opportunities, and what’s the approach. In short, a Situational and a SWOT analysis should get you started. This evaluation should reveal when adjustments to the brand may be wise. Unsure how to proceed with this annual planning? Work with a marketing agency, like ours!

In short, the right time to evolve is when your brand needs to transform to stay relevant in order to communicate effectively with the target audience. 

What does evolving a brand look like?

If you are reading this now and panicking—evolve the brand every year!?—yes! But that doesn’t mean a new logo and positioning statement every year. That’s the fastest way to cause confusion. Evolving a brand may be a major overhaul or it may be small tweaks—depending on what’s driving the change.

Small tweaks to a marketing plan may result in some minor adjustments such as modifying the target audience for digital campaigns to better pinpoint the ideal customer. It might mean adding new products or campaigns such as Massage Studio offering CBD oil or 3 Daughters Brewery launching Palm CBD Seltzer. These adjustments to the brand may require a new tagline, a new call to action, or updating the marketing mix.     

Sometimes brands require more significant adjustments to stay relevant. Larger adjustments may include:

  • Launching a new (or refreshed) website to better meet users’ needs, showcase the organization’s success, support the marketing-sales funnel, or speak to specific target audience(s). A website can often be the most significant tool in the marketer’s toolbox. Website users expect a great experience and to find what they are looking for quickly, therefore websites should be constantly updated and maintained to serve them. Additionally, technology also is ever evolving, which can affect ease of updating and SEO, making website management less cumbersome. Some brands who recently updated or completely redeveloped their website to better connect with their customers include the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, Priority One Financial Services, and our very own website.
  • Refreshing visuals and messaging but still working with an existing logo. For example, Legacy Protection Lawyers was well established in the community, however communicating the complexities of estate planning to convert potential clients to active clients could be challenging and time consuming. The firm wanted to have their brand articulated and refined, so that it would resonate with potential clients and smooth out the process with easily understandable marketing materials to improve conversations, resulting in more engagements.
  • Small logo adjustments—sometimes just a tweak is all that is needed to be more relevant with your target audience. Brand evolution doesn’t mean you have to rebrand the whole company. At the start of this year, we adjusted the tag on our own logo from “branding & advertising” to “branding & marketing” to more accurately articulate what we do. Read more about the difference between marketing and advertising, and why we made the change.

The most significant brand evolution is a complete rebrand. This will likely include defining a new brand platform along with creating a whole new logo, a color palette, imagery style, and messaging—sometimes even a new name. These changes may still be subtle, but typically are more drastic. This often is needed when a brand hasn’t been reviewed annually for quite some time and needs to be reset to be relevant. For example, our client at Priority One Financial Services had been a leader in their industry for years, but the brand hadn’t kept up alongside the great work they did for their dealers, which spurred the need for a rebrand in 2021. Northstar Realty and Global Jet Sales also rebranded to be more relevant to their target audiences and to be reflective of the times as both were legacy brands in their industries. Major changes to the business plan and therefore marketing plan may also suggest a full rebrand is imminent. 

Evaluate Your Brand

It’s never too late to take a step back and evaluate your brand, positioning, and target audience. If you’re unsure how to get started, give us a call!