“Does This Brand Make My Butt Look Big?”

With technologies advancing at such rapid rates and attention spans getting shorter by the day, the average length of a brand’s lifecycle has been heavily reduced.  We’ve all had that horrible thought before:  Is our brand out of date?  Are people talking behind our backs?  Or worse – are people not talking about us at all?!  

Just how long your brand’s lifecycle is, is dependent on a number of different factors.  Of these, the four that have the most impact are; your industry, target market, brand values and your branding history.

If you’re in an industry that’s seen as cutting-edge, Hi-Tech, active or fun, chances are, you are going to have a much shorter brand stability window than those industries considered slow moving.  The same can be said for a brand’s target market.  If you’re currently targeting baby-boomers, you can expect a reasonably long branding cycle.  Oh, you’re targeting Millennials and beyond?  Then I guess you’ll be starting to plan for your next brand iteration almost as soon as this one is implemented.

Your brand values and branding history both work in similar ways, to make smaller adjustments to the timeframes set by the first two factors.  You’re in a fast-moving industry and want to extend your brand lifecycle?  Then ‘tradition’ and ‘stability’ are great values to work with.  Likewise, building on the values of ‘fun’ and ‘innovation’ will result in a shorter time between brand updates in a slow-moving industry.

Your branding history boils down to what people have come to expect from you. The more regularly you make major brand adjustments, the more often your target audience will begin to expect them. Once the expectation is there, you need to take care if you plan on pushing that timeline back out again – especially if your cycle of change has become shorter and shorter every time.  In this instance, you will need to ‘wean’ your brand off the changes slowly, extending the timeline out over a number of cycles.  If not, you run a high risk of joining those brands that have gone ‘stale’.

On the flip-side of this, if you change things up less often, each rendition of your brand can hold its’ effectiveness for much longer.   If you’ve never made a change before, then your first one has the chance to last for quite a while (as long as it’s done right of course).

So is your brand making your butt look big?  Or is it just in your head?  How can you tell if it’s time for a change?

I wish I could tell you there was a simple answer to this age-old question, but with so many variables in play, one size fits all just isn’t possible.

The first thing you want to do is consider your brand’s lifecycle, based on the factors discussed earlier.  What’s considered the norm for your industry?  Does your target audience expect stability or change?  Do any of your brand values lengthen or shorten the lifecycle?  This will give you a basic starting point – but remember; this is only giving you a glimpse at your expected lifecycle with no other influences.

These influences are the next things to look at.  First and foremost – does your current brand still resonate with your target audience?

Over time, things change.  People change.  Brands change.  Your brand values are the foundation, and even foundations need to be checked if you’re looking at renovating.  While I would almost never recommend a wholesale change in brand values, there are times where they need to be redefined (or defined more clearly) to remain relevant today.

This is by far the most important influence to consider.  If you are unlucky enough to receive a ‘no’ on the brand relevance front, then the rest really are moot points.  If your brand isn’t connecting anymore, you need to take action quickly – even if the budget isn’t there.  Find the extra resources from somewhere, or work out how to make the biggest impact with the resources you do have.

The longer you remain in brand purgatory; the harder (and most likely more expensive) it will be to pull yourself back out again.  Spending the resources now, will mean saving more later – and increasing sales sooner – adding up to improved ROI.

If the answer is “yes, our brand remains relevant”, then you can move on and make your choices based on what your competition is up to and finding different ways to stay ahead in the game.

A word of warning here – always as yourself ‘Why?’

If you find out your brand doesn’t resonate anymore, ask your target audience why.  This will be a deciding factor in the level of change you need to plan for.  Perhaps it’s just terminology that needs changing to dispel confusion and reconnect with your brand values.  Maybe your visuals are dated but your message is still sound.  It could be that you’re trying to connect in the wrong ways.  Your target ‘generation’ may have changed – People in your target age-group are now Gen-Y instead of Gen-X.

If your major competitors all seem to be making brand adjustments, ask yourself (and your experts) why.  Do they know something you don’t?  Are they trying to be more like you, or completely different?  Don’t instantly get caught up in ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ – making the wrong changes at the wrong time, can have a long-term negative impact on your brand.

And don’t forget to ask yourself why you want to update your brand to begin with.  Is it as simple as sales are down?  Well, you should first check to see if your branding is actually the culprit.  Do you want to ‘make a statement’?  Then you need to decide if a rebrand is the best option.  Are others telling you it needs to be done?  Or is it just feeling stale to you?

Whatever the reason, make sure you do your homework to find out the why.  This will help you to determine whether you actually need a change, and what sort of change is needed – who knows, you may even find out that your target audience likes that fact your butt looks big.