Brands who refuse to grow internally are destined to die externally.
Imagine you are at your annual company review and future business plan reveal event. Some organizations' turn these events into small circuses with fire and lights and the whole nine yards. You love your company. You love it because you know its purpose and mission inside and out. You can recited their values and brand proposition in your sleep. You are sure the company will tout the successes of the product and how, by staying tried and true, you are crushing the competition.
Then it happens. The sales review part of the day shows a trend of flattening growth (still growth though! Right?). The industry overview shows all of the gimmicks (It can't be innovation. Right?) the competition is using to try and catch up to your brand. You are intrigued but still confident. Tried and true always wins with a brand proposition based in science and proof. How could you go wrong?
The second half of the day is the next year's marketing plan reveal. Big exciting news is coming for sure. Your CEO proudly introduces your executive marketing team and away they go! But wait, what is this? Their changing your brand? The packaging is stepping away from tradition? You are targeting a new segment? A line extension? This was not in the brand promise you know so well! How could they? You feel violated and forsaken by the organization you have dedicated yourself to for years.
I have not worked with a brand that hasn't encountered this issue. There are two obvious issues here that brands and marketing teams need to tackle when looking to grow.
Are we framing our innovation based on data-based learnings? Does the organization understand this data?
Are we framing our innovation as evolution or as reaction? Does how we are presenting it show respect to the path but opportunity ahead?
Brands who fail to recognize these two considerations when trying to grow put the organization's greatest asset at risk. It must be recognized that it is the charge of every member of your staff, from HR to finance, from sales to supply chain, to champion your brand. Failing to do so can lead to many negative outcomes.
Confused field employees
And that's just internal. I won't address the consumer facing issues of when a brand makes changes that are not founded in consumer insight. What this comes down to is recognizing if your brand is evolving or responding. A brand that has a stout history and successful track record is as entitled to innovation as the up-start new guy. However, this evolution must make sense from the top down. Employees who don't understand evolution will be surprised and potentially put off kilter. Imagine the feeling when parents decided to let lil Johnny know they are separating after a lifetime together? It is dramatic and extreme, but having been this employee, I can confidently say it happens.
Don't let this happen to your organization. Make sure your house is in order before taking it public. Make sure the messaging you're delivering for your brands in-house is as well thought out as the one your going to put into the public sphere. A brand must recognize, while the consumer must buy-in to your proposition, if your internal staff doesn't, the public may never be impacted they way you intend. Don't sacrifice amazing planning by skipping the first step of activation. Make sure your organization understands the how, why, and evolution of your brand within the context of the past. Grow them with your brand. Don't just expect them to come along for the ride and be true champions.