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Lifespan of a Brand

Bob Brock

A brand identity grows in power and equity over time. The longer a consistent brand campaign is in play, the more it grows in commitment, reach, and penetration. Provided, of course, the campaign retains resonance and relevance.

No question, a brand campaign ages (see the brand life-cycle graphic below), and unless the brand is revitalized every so often, it will at some point begin to fatigue, when its resonance, relevance, and vitality begin to wane. We’ve seen organizations reach this point in as little as three years, while others continue to grow and strengthen for 10 years or more. The key is to understand where your brand is in its life cycle.

Gauging brand resonance and relevance is a primary responsibility of the chief marketing officer.  It requires vigilance and periodic research.

Here’s an example:  In 2000, we guided the development of a brand platform and creative framework for a community college in the southwest. Over the last ten years, across multiple CEOs, and spanning ongoing evolutions in priorities and significant expansion, the brand has continued to grow in awareness and power.

Let me be pointed here: The campaign creative materials have been refreshed regularly by the in-house team with new imagery, headlines, copy, designs, and so on. But the brand itself – brand promise, drivers, key messaging, strategic tagline, and market positioning platform – have all stayed unwavering as a sturdy foundation underlying the clear creative strategy.

Over the years, we’ve measured the brand’s growing equity in several ways – external surveys and audience interviews, internal focus groups and surveys, bottom-line return-on-investment. Today, more than 8 in 10 students and prospects can recall – unaided – what the brand promise is. Moreover, these audiences understand why it’s important and beneficial to them.

This is what brands are supposed to be, what they’re supposed to do.

Now we’re preparing, for the third time in 10 years, to once again test the vibrancy, relevancy, and resonance of the brand platform at this organization. We’ll be holding discussion groups with faculty/staff/alumni followed by student focus groups.  This process helps us identify, refine, and test a series of value propositions based on the brand drivers.

Then – and most importantly – we’ll present the findings and conclusions to a senior leadership team. We’ll ask them to review, revise, and refresh the brand platform based on the stakeholder input and guided by their combined strategic vision for the future.

Then we’ll ask the leadership team to re-commit to the refreshed brand platform, which lays out what the institution will say about itself and how it will characterize what it stands for in the marketplace.

Once the brand platform is approved, we’ll deal with how the institution speaks to its audiences – the creative platform. That’s when we’ll create and test a new brand design framework that most effectively communicates the brand platform to primary audiences.

This brand-refresh process usually is needed every 3-5 years or so, but lots of turnover in senior leadership or rapid institutional change can require a brand refresh sooner than that.  The process is efficient, and effective. It takes only about four weeks to test and commit to the brand strategy, and another 4-6 weeks to develop and test a new brand creative framework.

But it’s a critical process that enables your brand to live on and grow in strength, vibrancy, and equity over many, many years.

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