Evolve, or fade away. This is the opening statement on our company web site and it is the perspective we at Hyperquake keep in mind with every design, strategy and web site deployment.
So what happens when a brand rapidly changes itself or stubbornly stays the same? What happens when a brand doesn’t follow the cues of its consumers or its industry? A brand fades away. And, sadly, a brand risks losing its way.
Why? Healthy brands, like healthy people or relationships, experience evolution. The dictionary definition for evolution is: “gradual development, a pattern formed by a series of movement.”
I’d like to add to that definition by stating for brands, it’s a: “gradual and purposeful development, a noticeable pattern formed by a series of meaningful movements.”
Sometimes those movements happen very fast. Sometimes the pattern takes only a few steps and other times one big leap. Regardless the path, a thread of consistency emerges when you respect the evolution of a brand—you see purpose and can trace the steps of strategic, consumer-centric choices made along the way.
A recent BBC Story “Have Japanese Brands Lost Their Way?”offers the perfect example of how a lack of proper brand evolution can result in losing your way.
The article highlights how Japanese tech companies stubbornly (and somewhat complacently) relied upon previous market dominance to grow their business versus listening to consumers and the ever-changing tech landscape. They failed to evolve and their companies have likewise failed to profit.
- Panasonic predicted an annual net loss of $5.5 billion.
- Hitachi reported a 48% drop in quarterly profit.
- Sony expects a $1 billion loss in the current fiscal year.
A perfect example of this was Sony and its previous market dominance in portable music devices. The Sony Walkman was one of the world’s biggest brands but Sony didn’t evolve within the portable music space properly. They ran after technology that wasn’t relevant, practical or affordable with their Song MiniDisc player. When Apple released the iPod in 2001, which met consumer needs in a relevant and innovative way, Sony still didn’t properly evolve. Instead they stubbornly held onto its MiniDisc technology till 2007 and didn’t completely sunset the product until earlier this year.
The BBC story is also quick to point out unforeseen circumstances that contributed to these brands’ current circumstances, i.e., the global economic crisis and the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. However, the BBC also notes this problem was one of Japan’s own design. I agree.
When brands “rest on their laurels” they can become stale. When brands are complacent with market leadership, they don’t follow the lead of their consumers or industry. The result—these brands do not evolve; they fade away or lose their way.
I’m not suggesting that Sony will all the sudden fade away or “close its doors” because of their recent choices. However, the BBC story challenges us to evaluate the scenario and ask “Have Japanese Brands Lost Their Way?” And, that is an important lesson in brand evolution and brand leadership for all of us entrusted with being stewards of great brands—global, local or anything in between.