It’s common for brands to become stagnant, rooted in their ways and too set on a specific course that restricts their ability to adapt to change. It is the classic example of the “That’s the way we do things around here” mentality. But over time, competition increases, markets develop, and consumer needs shift. Consequently, very few industries have remained static over the past year, let alone the last decade, which has created an urgent need for businesses to evolve.
Letting go of your roots
Resistance to change is one of the most significant barriers to a business’s long-term success. This resistance is often the result of a company becoming too attached to its roots, which can sometimes be so deep that they begin to act as an anchor, weighing the business down rather than enabling its growth.
These roots can be categorised as values, goals, and characteristics of a business that define how it operates, the messages it communicates, how it conveys them, and how consumers perceive the brand. But as times change, it is common for business roots to become outdated and unsuitable for the current commercial climate.
And as a result, businesses begin to face difficulties in keeping customers engaged and, in turn, achieving a profitable financial return. To see this in practice, we only need to look at the demise of some of the biggest named brands in recent times.
For example, the Arcadia Group is one of the latest digital transformation victims, a trend that has been gradually impacting the retail space in recent years and has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The digital shift has been led due to the need to meet changing consumer expectations and behaviours. Online sales are increasing year on year, and even more, customers are expected to be shopping with a digital-first perspective following the pandemic and its related disruption.
Instead of responding to the change in the market and embracing online opportunities, businesses operating as part of Arcadia Group continued to do things as they had always done. And it was this lack of focus on their digital offering, particularly when compared to competitors such as PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Asos, that ultimately resulted in their commercial downturn. Although not so great for the individuals affected in the process, the case offers other businesses a vital lesson in the importance of letting go of outdated roots and adapting to change.
Taking a risk
But due to the deep-rooted nature of such characteristics, there is a perceived risk involved with letting them go. It’s understandable as it will no doubt affect a significant change to business as usual. But, any risks can be mitigated if companies take a strategic approach in their decision to make the change.
For instance, by undertaking branding exercises, such as a brand audit and the formalisation of a value proposition, stakeholders can gain an in-depth understanding of the business’s current position, its offering and their consumers’ expectations through the creation of audience personas and its market via detailed industry insights and competitor analysis.
From here, there will be a clear view of which aspects are not appropriate for the current commercial landscape and where there will be an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour once the change has been implemented. Once a new proposition has been established in theory, it then needs a detailed project plan to role it out in practice, combined with an effective communications strategy.
Is change always necessary?
In short, no. Change for the sake of change can be just as damaging to a brand as staying consistent. Sometimes, the business’s deep-rooted characteristics form a vital part of the audience’s understanding of the brand and its offering. This might include family-run business values or branding elements that are connected to the location a business was founded in, for example. Often, it’s unlikely that these elements will be hindering the business’s growth potential but are instead adding value to it by acting as a USP and differentiating it from the competition.
However, in these cases, while the message does not need to change, how it is communicated might often be the message delivery methods that become outdated. For example, this might mean using online marketing channels such as social media, content creation, SEO and email promotions to support both online and offline activities.
It’s all about making well thought out changes to remain relevant, rather than continually altering your messages and offerings, which could cause confusion and disconnect between the brand and its consumers.
Ultimately, businesses need a solid footing upon which they can build on. But while these foundations are essential for business growth, like a tree’s roots, some often go off at a tangent and become stuck in the past, anchoring the brand to where it used to be rather than allowing it to move forward into the future.
Put simply, if you don’t evolve, you die.