Time for Your Brand to Change its Tune?

dolly_partonThe sight of Dolly Parton singing ‘Jolene’ to the delight of thousands at Glastonbury was a bit of an epiphany for me this weekend.

I may not have been lucky enough to actually be in the crowd but the significance of the queen of country music playing to festival goers, most of whom weren’t born when ‘Jolene’ was first released, jumped off the TV screen.

This was an audacious move by the organisers of Glastonbury to veer off brand and see what happened.  And what happened was that the crowd lapped it up!

For many large corporates or traditional, conservative businesses, the brand is not only well-established but is – almost literally – cast in tablets of stone. Many even have brand guidelines with typefaces, colour palettes and the positioning of the logo so prescriptively laid out that every piece of literature ever produced looks exactly the same as the last.

There is a time and a place for the brand police and the whole point of a brand is to create a framework that will enable stakeholders to understand and engage with your company’s values.

However, a brand should also be a living, evolving, creative entity that can adapt to changes in market conditions and embrace new elements as it grows.  To do that, it may sometimes need to take risks.

Measuring the level of risk is the tricky part. While throwing Dolly Parton into the mix at Glastonbury may seem like a completely wild card decision, in fact, the festival has a long tradition of vintage acts, a healthy respect for all things kitsch and a finger on the pulse for developing trends. Dolly wraps up glamour and nostalgia in one so, while she extends the Glastonbury brand footprint, she does not contradict its core values.

Achieving that balance is the branding challenge for any company in any sector. Often, it’s essential to grow the brand in order to continue growing the business but there must be a critical path that links where the brand is now to where you want it to be; otherwise you may find your brand values get lost en route.

So how do you map out that critical path?

  • You start by taking a candid and critical look at yourself, and asking existing stakeholders to do the same.
  • Then you analyse that feedback: does your brand represent what you are now, what you used to be or what you want to be in the future?
  • Finally, you look at what needs to change in order to help you align your brand perception with your current and future commercial strategy.

Or, as Dolly says: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

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