This article dives into flexibility, a main brand trend highlighted in our 2024 outlook

For generations, business leaders have clung to the illusion of stability – the comforting concept of lengthier product life cycles, gradual market shifts, and steady consumer values. The idea of building a lasting brand or firm through adherence to constant principles once carried truth.

Today, it reads as a fallacy.

The nature of branding is ever evolving. Brands have always needed to adapt, but the need for adaptation has never been more critical than now. Change keeps coming with more momentum each quarter. How do we keep up with our customers’ demands? Flexibility is the key, and it must be embedded across pivotal areas of brand and business.

Architecting brand flexibility

The strongest brand architecture is easy to understand, intuitive, and connected. It clearly delineates which products, brands, and sub-brands reside under the master brand umbrella through cohesive identity and messaging. Yet it also allows organizations to launch new products, services, and brands when expanding into new spaces that stray further from current positioning.

Walking this fine line requires regularly evaluating where flexibility is needed or where consolidation makes sense amid evolving consumer values. Agile brand architecture balances coherence with adaptability to fuel sustained relevance.

To enable adaptive brand architecture, brand leaders should:

  • Conduct regular audits of brand portfolio health to examine the resonance of their current lineup and identify potential gaps where new offerings could meet emerging consumer demand
  • Identify new market spaces aligned to rising consumer needs and changes in competitive forces. Consider extending brands into these new verticals
  • Maintain cohesive identity and messaging across a thoughtfully expanding brand ecosystem. Ensure sub-brands clearly link back to the master brand

Companies succeeding in brand architecture know when to create sub-brands versus stretching a master brand. Take Google, for instance. While the Google master brand ties its growing product ecosystem together, the tech giant creates new sub-brands when entering entirely new segments such as FitBit in the tech health segment and Nest in the tech security sector. Brands like Waymo for autonomous vehicles, Verily for life sciences technology, and Calico for longevity research extend Google’s philosophical ethos while speaking uniquely to their individual verticals.

Architects have learned that building flexible structures helps minimize damage caused by seismic activity, storms, and landslides. The same principles apply to your brand. Designing brand blueprints with flexibility in mind will minimize structural risk and optimize revenue streams down the road.

Terminating stagnant self-expression 

The act of forging space for potential pivots in the way your brand conveys itself acknowledges that our world is ever-changing, and your brand is willing to change and grow with it. While staying grounded in legacy and purpose, brands should not allow identity elements like names, logos, taglines, color palettes, fonts, and imagery to ossify – potentially inhibiting necessary evolution. As consumer values and preferences change over time, brand expressions warrant a revisit.

Strategic flexibility in visual identities, branding style, and campaign voice helps drive relevance and appeal across changing demographics without alienating current advocates. Brands inspiring lasting love balance consistency in core equities with tailored refreshments that signal their forward momentum.

When transformation reaches an inflection point, like a merger, product expansion, or rebranding effort, identity shifts timed with these pivotal moments resonate deeply. While retaining brand essence, evolutionary refreshes invite new audiences into the fold.

Guidelines enabling agile brand expression include:

  • Updating logos, color schemes and font styles to feel contemporary while honoring legacy designs
  • Evolving taglines to underscore progress while retaining familiar campaign voice
  • Expanding creative platforms and visual systems for flexible regional localization
  • Loosening brand imagery to reflect modern values and demographic preferences
  • Shifting voice and photography styles to capture rising generations without abandoning tenured customers

Well-established brands sometimes require renewing their identities to prove relevance across demographics. Trusted brands might strike a chord with older consumers who reminisce over the logos and jingles from their childhood, but these brands only survive the generations if they can stay flexible.

Chevron recently tapped Monigle to introduce the Chevron brand to the people of Iowa at their annual State Fair. Chevron embraced flexibility in its visual identity and campaign expression to match the playful, community-driven Iowa state fair. Imagery like tractors and cornfields tailored the brand to local agricultural relevance and renewable energy possibilities ahead.

The flexibility north star, for Chevron and, really, all brands, is rooting brand in timeless essence – all while ensuring expression can adapt to drive relevance across changing consumer landscapes.

Flexing in go-to-market strategies

What would your brand look like if the framework encouraged you to question tried and true strategies? An approach that has not been tested in years may require re-examination. Brand agility is paramount in how offerings are strategically brought to market. What enabled growth in the past may now need reimagination amid disruptive forces and evolving consumer behaviors. Rigid adherence to legacy go-to-market (GTM) models risks surrendering momentum to more adaptive competitors.

The price tag on a global or national campaign is sizable, especially if it doesn’t yield expected results. Rather than large scale product launches requiring massive upfront investment, brands can pilot launches in limited settings first. Focus on optimizing tactics for targeted customer cohorts, segmenting by location, demographics, or other differentiating factors, before committing a major budget to a blanket rollout.

When brands launch market tests before wide product rollouts, they allow themselves the flexibility to change course based on results, and double down on the winning methods. The key is developing a flexible “test small, scale bigger” capability within GTM operations and the accompanying positioning. This may look like:

  • Exploring new distribution channels or revenue models aligned to rising buyer preferences
  • Experimenting with emergent promotion levers before mass adoption
  • Optimizing marketing mix to capitalize on highest traction areas
  • Customizing messaging tones and content formats to new cultural and localized contexts

There are few greater examples of flexible GTM strategies than Amazon’s MVP product launch cycle, iterated entirely based on user feedback. Offerings like Amazon Flex delivery, Amazon Go stores and Amazon Care telehealth began through targeted pilots focused on optimizing tactics before graduating to broader reach. This test-and-scale approach underpins Amazon’s flexibility in identifying then going all in on the most impactful go-to-market strategies.

By embracing a dynamic mindset – running small-scale experiments and pouring resources into winning concepts – brands can nurture an innovation muscle keeping GTM thinking fresh. While vision sets direction, perpetually asking “What if?” incites the next inventive pivot point unlocking new business value.

Business transformation by means of brand agility

Exhibiting brand agility may seem risky at first glance, but it is this flexibility in a volatile marketplace that could be your brand’s saving grace.

Customers who have developed brand loyalty sometimes have trouble with change. Change rooted in purpose, however, can build customer loyalty – even in times of turmoil. Transparency through brand transformation, leading with openness , and including consumers in the purpose of these changes, is especially vital for brands deeply ingrained in the cultural landscape.

Guidelines for legacy brands to enable progress through brand dexterity include:

  • Honoring your legacy while ensuring brand identity doesn’t inhibit necessary pivots
  • Evolving messaging to align with strategic shifts while reiterating enduring brand values
  • Remaining authentic to roots while highlighting how the future vision advances the brand promise
  • Emphasizing flexibility as a renewal of founding values and spirit rather than their dilution

For legacy brands, refreshing the face of the company could prove crucial during pivotal transformational phases. For example, JPMorgan jumped on an opportunity to refresh their brand when demand grew for digital banking, and quickly became an early innovator through ventures like Finn, a mobile-first banking app targeting millennials through contemporary branding.

A clear departure from established Wall Street firms, this differentiated yet linked digital brand helped JPMorgan transform digitally while funding the pursuit of cutting-edge capabilities. More recently, as cryptocurrencies caught mainstream momentum, JPM launched crypto services for clients, demonstrating agility to compete in emergent areas. And, as sustainable investing started to gain traction, JPM created climate policy teams, guiding clients through decarbonization journeys with flexible carbon offset products. The brand recognized that to keep up with humans’ constant seeking of personal transformation, JPM would need to do so itself.

By perpetually scanning the horizon for paradigm shifts, then leveraging the strength of its master brand to stretch into new terrain, JPMorgan embodied brand dexterity, enabling transformation.

The key is honoring legacy while ensuring flexibility to reimagine – inviting customers along by conveying purpose, not just change.

Flexibility from within

Ant colonies are generally well-functioning societies. The worker ants are the first line of defense, gather food, and build and repair the nest. Brands can learn a lot from their worker ants on the ground.

Deep listening should not only be reserved for customers. Staff and key partners have their ear to the ground with your customers everyday and can serve as trackers of valuable customer feedback. These insights enable continuously tailored experiences. How do we create a culture of engagement to build trust, openness and nurturing relationships? Provide staff the space to assert their own judgment in customer interactions, encourage a two-way dialogue, and co-create with them.

Allowing staff to take ownership of experiences they create for customers will allow the brand to grow holistically through these authentic relationships.

Brands can take the first steps into a flexible and engaging culture by:

  • Listening closely to staff insights and customer feedback as key inputs guiding strategy
  • Encouraging thoughtful experimentation to give teams latitude to respond decisively to shifts
  • Letting brand strategy be informed bottom-up as much as top-down
  • Allowing the collective ecosystem to shape your brand’s purpose to match what matters most to employees and consumers alike

Products and promotions will come and go. But the empathy that begins internally fuels the responsive support people cherish from brands that earn life-long loyalty. Building flexibility into the primary spheres of your brand will establish a proactive approach to engagement, and a sustainable environment for brand growth through the years.

Brand be nimble

Speed defines life today – and speed necessitates dexterity in every aspect of business – including, and especially, brand. Rigid brands risk being left behind as consumer values, competition and market forces evolve. Faster today than yesterday, and likely faster tomorrow than today.

Flexibility is the main ingredient for brands that reinvent themselves with changing times. But adaptability needs to be grounded in core values. This gives flexibility firm roots while branches move freely to find opportunities. Adaptability doesn’t have to come at the expense of legacy.

Ready to grow your brand? Contact us to set up time to chat about infusing flexibility into your brand for a more profitable 2024 and beyond.

March 5, 2024 By Monigle