Following the passing of one of the UK’s most prolific artistic chameleons, David Bowie, this blog takes its cue from ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth.’ Bowie was the master of reinvention, and many of the world’s biggest brands could learn a thing or two from the Brixton boy.
Bowie’s creative eras were distinctive in every way; physical appearance, name and most importantly, music. Over a career that spanned more than four decades, it is exceptional to think that Bowie’s music always remained uniquely his. An inherently difficult thing to do, he managed to strike the right balance between the old and the new, seemingly with ease.
For businesses, being able to move with the times, grow and develop - while at the same time staying true to the core values that provide a point of differentiation – is no easy feat.
David, Ziggy and the Thin White Duke
A brand name is of course, key to a brand’s identity. In the most successful cases it can be so familiar as to be affectionately nicknamed by its loyal customers - Marks and Sparks, Coke and Maccy D’s immediately spring to mind.
However, there are also instances when a brand decides to make a drastic change, by changing its name entirely. Whether this be a move from a company to completely reinvent itself and start again or just a change in corporate governance – a change of name is a bold brand move.
For instance, Wahanda (the beauty deals website) recently changed its name to Treatwell, taking on the name of a prior Dutch rival it acquired in June last year, on account of a major rebrand which aims to streamline its operations under one name in anticipation of its global expansion plans.
This change was a sensible and strategic long-term move on its behalf. A unified singular brand name is the surest way of ensuring brand familiarity across the board. However, in order for the rebrand to be successful, it must ensure that its existing customers buy into this change, that services remain consistent if not improved upon, and that the change is bold enough to attract and tap into an entirely new client base.
Adding strings to your Bow-ie
The consistent quality, relevance and price of a product or service will also secure brand loyalty from existing consumers. However, for a brand to become iconic in the minds of consumers, this is not the right approach for a business that plans to not only grow but also stand the test of time.
For a brand to become iconic, organisations need to constantly have their finger on the pulse of emerging trends, technologies and meet, if not pre-empt, consumer needs.
A successful brand identity must be aligned with current and emerging issues. Given that corporate responsibility is under huge scrutiny, this could include making a transparent commitment to CSR reporting, publishing annual diversity reports or a way of highlighting ethical sourcing practices.
This also has to be paired with an understanding and appreciation of the aesthetics of a brand and recognising when the time is right for a revamped or even an entirely new logo.
Google is a great example of this, having recently ditched its original traditional type for a more modern look that kept its original colours, while also renaming the parent company Alphabet. It is still recognisable, but noticeably different, reminding people of its new corporate structure.
But of course, just as there are brands out there who have gotten it right, there are clear examples of when it’s gone wrong.
In 2010, Gap seemingly got rid of their iconic logo which they had been using for 20 years without warning. This was met with widespread consumer confusion culminating in their entire rebrand strategy disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.
A mere six days after the new logo and rebrand had been rolled out, it was pulled back, after Gap realised their efforts were misguided. The rebrand was not representative of a change in direction from the clothing outlet and had no clear rationale behind it, rendering it unsuccessful.
Understanding and pre-empting consumer needs and demands is crucial to the success of a brand, although the famous saying applies- ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
“Turn and face the strange”
A good-looking brand is only as good as the product or service that it’s founded upon. If the core values and identity of a business get lost under layers of shiny branding then brand identity – however visually iconic – becomes null and void.
For all of David Bowie’s different names and personas, his talent remained consistent throughout his career. It is this that afforded him such success and the following of a large, loyal fan base that grew in size throughout his career.
The consistency of a business’s delivery married with an understanding of the importance of keeping abreast with trends in society is the surest way to not only stay relevant but also to grow.