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Changing is Choosing – Nothing More, Nothing Less

Hiren Panchal
by Hiren Panchal  |  20th Mar, 2013 in Life

Brands need to continuously evolve in order to stay relevant in a changing market

If Starbucks hadn’t and chosen a new corporate identity on its 40th anniversary, it wouldn’t be the $11.7 billion coffee maker it is today. Thanks to the global public affairs campaign rolled out in 2011, the coffee brand’s revenues rose $11.7 billion (11% increase over the previous year), while the brand surged 40% in popularity!

That’s the kind of disruptive effect change has. It infuses raw energy into a deadpan scenario. Change maybe a small word, but it carries in its wake the weight of a big responsibility and some inherent risks. The stakeholders know this yet they invest into change because it’s a bit like that bungee jump – you may develop cold feet at the edge of the cliff, but once you let go, the rope takes care of the rest, and your drop from several feet height, feels light as a feather.

In contrast, sameness can be comforting only because it’s familiar. But would a caterpillar ever develop the ability to fly, if it didn’t have the confidence to shed its withered old skin and sprout the wings of a butterfly?

Look what happened to Xerox Corp. Once a Fortune 500 company, Xerox was the other name for a photocopier. But when it got slow about exploring newer opportunities and markets (end-to-end document manager), and photocopying became a dying technology, it started losing the game to HP and Canon.

The same happened to Finnish handset manufacturer, Nokia that once commanded a giant footprint in the global industry. However when it got late in entering into the smart phone market, its market share slid from 90% to less than 50%, last year.

Every brand has a lifespan, and must traverse the full learning curve to traverse its journey from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Not that master brands like Nike, Levi Strauss, Apple, Gillette, and IBM don’t ever falter. They often do. But when they do, they stand up from the dust, take stock of their losses, learn from their mistakes and bounce back with renewed energy and focus in building products that bring true value to the customers. All that requires courage, conviction and change – oodles of it.

There was a time in Apple’s history, when Steve Jobs invested all his marketing dollars into iMac, a difficult decision, but since he was convinced that it would mark a turnaround in the company’s fortunes and he believed in the product, Apple stock price jumped and its market valuation skyrocketed to over $16 billion.

Most of us crave stability but stability is a mirage. It’s against the law of nature. Let me give you an example. About five years ago, I lost my dog. The mutt had lived a full life (died at a ripe old age of 15) yet I felt inconsolable and was beside myself with grief for weeks. Then one fine day, I woke up and decided to stop mourning and feeling sorry for myself because wherever I looked, I saw evidences of change. Nothing in my life was constant, so what gave me the false hope that my dog’s life (pun intended) would remain constant?

Sometimes, it’s a challenging task for us to convince our clients that they need a new identity, a new packaging, or simply, a new strategy. We hold endless discussions with them, but they remain adamant, dig their heels in and ascribe, sentimental value to a logo, forgetting that even if it’s a real, live entity in their mind, it could have lived its life and it’s now time to move on.

We hang on to our memories and memorabilia (old photographs) of those “good old times” but no one can turn the hands of the clock to bring that era back, no matter how intense that longing and that’s not healthy either. As the old adage goes, “The bow that is kept forever taut will break.”

That’s why we often recommend to our clients – fix the issue before it’s too late, when any change, big or small would cease to matter, because the market would have changed so much that the issue would be dead or irrelevant.

Hiren Panchal

Director, Litmus Branding Pvt. Ltd.
Ahmedabad, India
A designer at heart, marketer by temperament; technology freak and knowledge-seeker by design – that’s me.