Teaching An Old Brand New Tricks
Having something new to say keeps brands relevant, but it’s also a challenge. While consistency has been the status quo, today’s brands must also be agile.
An agile brand strategy allows organizations to update traditional brand messages in the moment as events happen, while still remaining true to their core values and identity. Agile branding is not about changing things all the time; it’s about responding and iterating in order to stay relevant.
Technology is the driving force behind agile branding. Modern consumers expect more from their favorite brands, and through a variety of tech platforms, they interact with them on a daily basis. Connecting to consumers through digital and largely interactive channels (like social media) gives brands access to a valuable supply of consumer data. In this “always-on” culture, knowing what consumer audiences are saying, thinking, and feeling about your brand in real time is at the core of an agile brand.
But technology drives both sides of agile brand strategy. Before cloud storage and the digital workplace, it was often too expensive or too difficult for organizations to implement agile branding efforts. Traditional branding was static, planned out months in advance and implemented for lengthy periods of time — reacting and adapting to branding in the moment wasn’t even a consideration.
Adapting the brand story to connect — in the right way
There are many ways in which brands adapt their stories and visual identities to connect with their audiences with the right brand experience at just the right time. For some, connection comes from reacting to cultural trends or newsworthy events. But for others, connection and relevance are a bit more playful.
In 2017, couture brand Balenciaga released a new bag. Retailing for over $2,000, the bright blue tote shared a shockingly similar design to Ikea’s ubiquitous 99 cent shopping bag. Along with several thousand social media users, agency partner, Acne, noticed the similarities and prompted Ikea’s in-house shop, Ikea Creative Shop, to respond the next day with an ingeniously cheeky print ad and accompanying social posts.
Staying true to the simplicity of their own iconic product descriptions but mimicking the style of Balenciaga’s campaign, Ikea’s response was a tongue-in-cheek ad for “The Original” blue bag. In a fun and playful way, Ikea’s use of agile branding kept their name relevant in the story and encouraged further digital conversation surrounding the lighthearted competition.
Other organizations have brand identities that inherently support agility. The Swedish Vodka brand Absolut boasts the longest running print ad in history. This lengthy run is made possible by their agile ad formula created in 1981: unique bottle outline + brand logo + clever word. Absolut has used the formula in more than 1,500 different variations, switching up their print ads to stay culturally relevant for over three decades. It’s a perfect blend of consistency meets agility.
Absolut has worked with some of the world’s most loved artists, like Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz. But the brand has drawn further connection to its audience by opening up the canvas to its customers, asking creatives across the globe to submit their own bottle designs for a chance to have their work displayed.
Quickly deploying agile branding across all touchpoints
While using both traditional and digital channels to deploy agile branding is critical to the strategy, an agile brand also benefits from employees who act as carriers of new messaging. It shouldn’t take more than a day for a compelling, engaging message to trickle through to employee-produced communications — and with evolving workplace technologies, agile branding efforts can and should be immediate.
It’s powerful if your entire organization can stay relevant and in the moment, not just your single-channel marketing campaigns. For example, cloud-based email signature management technology allows you to immediately deploy corporate email signatures with agile brand campaign elements and then quickly change them out once they become less relevant.
Possessing the agility to respond to relevant trends and stories in real time gives brands an incredible advantage, especially in a world where information moves fast. A strong, anchoring brand message gives organizations their start, but relevant and responsive messaging around that story gives brands their future.
Lucy Mehrtens is the head of communications, content, and brand at template management and document creation SaaS tool, Templafy.