Evolve not change your brand strategy: The guidebook for startup founders
In the ever-changing landscape of business, most founders know they need a brand strategy. This, paired with the reality that consumers and the environment around them aren’t static data points, does make founders question
“Is brand strategy really worth it?”
Let’s flip the answer around:
Because the world around you spins faster than your brand strategy can evolve, you must have a brand strategy to guide you through turbulent times. It’s your trusted friend, who helps you adapt and stay strong as you navigate the unknown waters of the business world.
Evolve and adapt — not change. This is the way forward for startup founders.
Which should be the norm, but most founders unfortunately ditch the strategy and experiment till they find a workable answer.
That’s not the best for your brand because you will lose yourself in the ‘figuring it out mix’
A brand identity/strategy is encapsulated in its core values, mission, and vision, this acts as the bedrock upon which its reputation and resonance with consumers gets built with time.
The ever-evolving market trends might force brands to change, but true authenticity and trust are built by sticking to your essence — your brand heart.
It’s rare to hear of a brand changing their
unless they’ve pivoted/taken a new problem up to solve
But it’s not unheard of brands changing their
- voice and tone
- online media strategy
Think of it as ‘what’s behind the curtain’ and ‘what’s in front’.
And when done well, they will appreciate the change, I guarantee.
The benefit of sticking to what you know is best for your brand is multi-fold
- You display that your brand core is strong and can withstand fluctuations
- By engaging with the new incoming insights and data, you display that you’re customer-centric but still stuck to your core
- When times get tough and you need to take calculated risks and strategic pivots, your brand showcases resilience and authenticity
Brand evolution is having a compass set on creating the best brand experiences, anchored by design aesthetics, storytelling finesse, and emotional resonance — that leads to ever-lasting messages to consumers that sweep through touchpoints with ease, creating new memories for consumers.
Put simply — evolution happens, and your brand needs to evolve to sustain. How you evolve and what goes on BTS, is important to consumers, just as much as buying your product/service.
The sign of a legacy brand is one that can waltz to the tunes of adaptability and authenticity, without losing themselves in the mix — leaving brands in the minds of consumers for generations to come.
Think of brands such as Ford, Mahindra, or Maggi.
Situation 1: Market evolution and the consequential brand strategy modification
There are two sides to the coin here.
Markets change in two shapes and sizes
- Something totally new comes in that’s going to disrupt business like no other. You're blindsided!
- There’s a trend that things are changing, and gradually over time things change for the better. You know it’s coming and you have time to adapt!
Understanding which kind of change has occurred is key to adapting your brand strategy accordingly. You can’t make a change till you understand if this is a long-term, impactful change or maybe in some instances short-term and not impactful.
- Technology changes — till a few months ago we didn’t know what ChatGPT was, or the beauty of Midjourney.
- Competition disruption — when businesspeople see that x company is doing well, they're bound to copy/replicate what you’re building — this can drastically alter the competitive landscape.
What your brand can do to evolve, not change:
When technology or competition arises, it puts a question on what the consumer’s expectations are. It’s a time to redefine what the emotional benefits are, and then adapt to remain relevant and competitive.
You might want to look at things such as :
- Redoing your positioning statement to prove your innovation quota or you might also want to go down the route of focusing on customer expectations
- Redoing your brand voice and tone to maintain a competitive edge. Here, a customer-centric approach, underpinned by data-driven insights, will empower your brand to align with shifting consumer preferences to respond strategically to real-world changes
Situation 2: Consumer evolution and the consequential brand strategy modification
Consumers are never going to be stagnant data points. With the new inputs they receive every day — the way they act, react, and make decisions changes.
Two ways consumers evolve
- Preferences change basis new needs, or redefined needs
- Economic fluctuations cause changes in spending habits
The ebb and flow of consumers changing forces brands to sustain relevance and competitiveness via rethinking their brand from a cultural and real-world-use case view.
View the same strategy with a different lens, in simpler words.
What your brand can do to evolve, not change:
A change in consumer mindsets or the environment is a sign that you need to re-align your brand to something more meaningful.
You might want to look at
- Building an optimization plan when it comes to your messaging — this means that what was ‘basic’ and accepted before, is not now, which means you need to shift to higher-order messaging immediately. Talk to the evolved consumer by speaking to them about things that matter.
- Re-communicating your values and brand heart — sometimes iterating what consumers know/might’ve forgotten is a gem. Your messaging can reflect a commitment to the consumer, showing them that you’re sticking to your path and are doing the best for them.
Navigating through uncertainty is not a one-day job when it comes to brand strategy. You will have to first re-commit to meeting their needs, and you’ll need to use data to navigate the changing market situation, and last but not least — let your brand speak for itself.
Navigating brand evolution
There’s a delicate relationship between embracing change and staying authentic to your brand. As dynamic as the world is, founders need to navigate through these changes and evolutions without forgetting one core thing.
Their raison d’etre.
It’s through this, as a founder, that you’ll be able to move the brand several steps forward without compromising values, identity, and authenticity.
Evolve, not change — an overall perspective
- Preserve what’s working and makes your brand unique — your core values, vision, mission, and more. You ideally shouldn’t change this unless you’re pivoting or the business use case has changed.
- Use storytelling — a sword in a brand marketer’s armor, storytelling can be used as a tool to convey the why what, and how of changes.
- Be open to listening to and hearing feedback — A founder’s job is to build for the customer. It’s the NSM (north star metric). It’s what helps validate that their needs are being met with your product/service.
- No one can validate strategy changes till they go live — but you can test-bed before you hit the publish button. When making strategy changes, always get opinions from people who know your brand, and those that don’t. One will give you candid feedback, one will give you customer-centric feedback. Use both to build.
- Use transparency to tide over — If you think hiding changes is a good thing, it never is and never will be. Inform customers about the changes, and the reasons behind the change. Your consumers will build a much deeper relationship with you over time.
Brand strategy that’s evolving and showcasing customer-centricity will be a catalyst that drives positive outcomes.
A brand strategy that’s moldable, evolving, and adaptable will make you stay relevant, helping you attain success quicker, faster, and better.
Remember this famous line,
It’s not what you say, but how you say it! — Mae West
In this case, how a brand responds to market evolution shapes its reputation and perception in the eyes of consumers.