What do Coca-Cola, The Beatles, Madonna and Abercrombie & Fitch have in common? The iconic cultural brands have an incredible ability to stay relevant amid shifting consumer attitudes. Coca Cola is one of the oldest examples of an adaptive brand. The number one soda maker has come along way since its 1893 slogan, “The Ideal Brain Tonic.” Or, its overly literal 1945 re-branding campaign, “Coke means Coca-Cola.” If there is a brand that has stayed fresh amid the winds of time, it’s been Coca-Cola. Part of brand survival is taking something old and re-energizing it with new life. Most recently, Coca-Cola has assumed one of its most aspirational leaps with the “Open Happiness” brand marketing campaign — different from its 1955 “Tastes Great” campaign. Coca-Cola is one of many brands and celebrities that have cultural staying power because of their ability to re-invent and re-brand themselves.
Established brands, in particular, require brand marketing refresh. But when? Take example from The Beatles. In 1964, the Beatles knew they couldn’t live on bubble-gum pop forever. The Brit superstars had ridden Beatle Mania for nearly two years and the world was quickly becoming over-saturated with the sugary pop band. Certainly, if the Beatles continued down the “Love me do” road, they would have gone down with the Monkeys as teen pop in the annals of music history, not revolutionaries.
The Beatles became rock legends not for their ability to make gushy pop songs, but their genius to adapt to changing market landscapes with fresh looks and sounds. During the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band years, The Beatles weren’t dancing around in posh suits. No, they dressed in aristocratic hippie intellectual clothing (think technicolor military uniforms). Just as The Beatles updated their visual identity system (i.e. clothing) and creative output (i.e. albums), brands must change their logo, brand design, slogan and marketing messages to reflect their “new look.”
Take a look at how The Beatles updated their look from 1962 to 1967:
But how do brands figure out this “new look?” A “new look” should be informed by your fan base. Brands have two choices: they can either a) evolve with their existing target audience, or b) extend to speak to a new audience. In the late 1800s, Abercrombie & Fitch was a high-end sports outfitter that marked Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, John F. Kennedy and many other influencers as clients. By the 1960s, the company was failing and needed to reposition itself or call it quits. Abercrombie & Fitch re-invented itself as a casual luxury lifestyle brand for young people. To avoid bankruptcy, the company identified the unmet needs of a different demographic and essentially grew the brand around them.
To find inspiration for your “new look” Sparxoo’s 2010 Generational Report, Sparxoo’s 2010 Market Trend Reports and 2010 Psychographic Report. Once you have a clear consumer audience in mind, stretch your creative thinking, much like The Beatles in Sgt. Pepper or Madonna’s many personas (including favorites such as sex-slave, yogi, cowgirl and most currently, pimp). Tap into innovative blogs, such as Springwise, Fast Company or Seth Godin. Ultimately, all inspiration and innovation should be filtered through your new or existing audience. Do they want to “Open Happiness,” or drop acid and float around with Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, or buy-into casual luxury? Ultimately, the brand’s ability to stay relevant hinges on its innovative spirit and strategic thinking.
Updating a brand marketing strategy includes honest business assessment, strategic vision and creative stretching. In the 1960s, Abercrombie & Fitch performed an honest brand assessment and realized the brand needed a complete overhaul to stem rapidly declining revenues. To do so, the brand needed a new strategic vision to abandon its former audience and adopt a new one. And we can take inspiration from The Beatles in their ability to creatively stretch their thinking for each brand iteration.
Image by Svilen Milev from Stock.Xchng