Brand Permanence is an important strategy that many companies tend to forget, especially when changes in the advertising industry, consumer behavior and world economy are on all of their minds. Companies may change their identity, not just what their logo looks like (Pepsi), but what their company is all about (Dunkin’ Donuts’ paninis). Many companies are adopting new business models and communications tactics in the wake of the socialization of the web (web2.0). Many are significantly pulling back on their marketing efforts during the economic crisis. Not all of this is good.
What is Brand Permanence? It is a simple matter of staying true to who you are as a brand and staying relevant and present in consumers’ lives.
Obviously, pulling back on marketing may seem smart from a purely numbers perspective, but once your brand leaves the collective conscience, your competitors fill the space. The precedent for this couldn’t be anymore clear. Not to say that brands shouldn’t be looking at ways to reduce costs, just that they shouldn’t axe their marketing, stick their head inthe sand, and hope that things will go back to the way they are.
Customer loyalty is hard enough to come by without muddling your brand. Both Pepsi and Tropicana (owned by Pepsico) have recently changed their logos, the later of which was recently rturned to the original once it was found that it confused customers in stores. When a consumer thinks of your brand, they think about your logo, your product history, your customer service. If they aren’t consistant, neither will your customer loyalty be. Coke’s logo was created in 1885, Pepsi’s was created in 1898. Since the late 1800′s the Pepsi logo has changed 11 times. Coke’s logo has never changed. Guess which is considered the #1 carbonated beverage?
It would seem strange that a product with a logo designed by a bookkeeper in 1885 would still appeal to the youth of today, but that was the original intent of the Coke logo and it’s simpe red and white scheme. Apple computers has had, essentially, the same logo since 1976, the bitten apple. While the color scheme and stylized treatment has changed slightly, the essential, simple, bitten apple has remained the logo for the company for over 30 years. But it isn’t just Apple’s logo which has remained consistent. Apple’s commitment to building better digital products to enhance users lives. From the first bulky desktop to the latest version of the iPhone, this committment to enhancing customers’ lives through electronic devices has remained intact as has their committment to customer service.
These last two points are the most important: staying true to your core product or service values and customer service. BMW and Mercedes Benz have long been considered consumer favorites and maintain Top 10 slots as European brands. BMWs 1917 logo design remains, as does Mercedes Benz’ 1909 logo design. But their consitency as quality engineered luxury vehicles is what helps them dominate mindhsare.
New England born Dunkin’ Donuts has been a favorite of coffee drinkers since I’ve been alive. They have remain loyal to their original logo, but recently havee been trying to compete with Starbucks and Panera. From all accounts (I don’t drink coffee), adding paninis to their menu and fireplaces to their stores, has only made their coffee worse, and their donuts stale. So, despite arguements to the contrary, Dunkin’ Donuts has muddled their brand permanence by changing their core values.
In 30 years Microsoft has made one change to their logo, but at times has been confused by it’s core values and faltered in customer service. That has helped Apple, take a bit out of Microsoft’s mindshare. Google, who, in just over 10 years has only removed an exclamation from their logo, but has consistently improved their product and brought more services under the auspice of providing users with easy to use access to outside data. We’ll see how they and Microsoft stat true to their core values, honor their brand, maintain customer service, and stay visible over the coming decades.
While most of the brands mentioned will weather these debacles, if only because they’ve been around so long, they offer lessons to new businesses. Your branding, at least the part you control (the perception of your brand belongs to the user), isn’t something to slap together. Really focus on your values as a company, create a mark that will represent your goals and identity, be consistent with how you interact with your audience, and always maintain good customer service.