Staying true to your brand identity: the easiest recipe for success

Herbal Essences packaging evolution.

Hands up to all the marketers out there who have ever reworked their brand’s equity? Brand builders generally love making their own mark on a brand. Questioning what makes it different from its competitors. Ensuring it is still relevant with the times. We may want to stretch the equity a little to make it stand out a bit more. Or modernize the design to make it more appealing to today’s consumers. The idea of reworking your brand’s identity is enticing, however, beware how far you go! Veering off brand equity can sometimes turn into a costly mistake. Whilst staying true to your brand’s identity is the easiest recipe for success.

Know what your brand stands for and what makes it different

My very first job was working as a marketing manager on Herbal Essences. If you don’t know Herbal Essences, it is a very experiential hair care brand. Its purpose is to provide a pleasurable experience in the shower. The natural ingredients and the amazing scent are the brand’s points of difference. The ads evoked a (very!) pleasurable experience in the shower. You can check out the Yes! Yes! Yes! campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jac476BdeCQ

I loved working on that brand (well, we did seem to have much more fun than everyone else, especially when reviewing the casting videos of the girls acting out their pleasurable experience!). This equity, however, did not bring to life the archetypical benefits of the category. All the big competitors were talking about hair benefits with a strong science story as their reason to believe. Herbal Essences, on the other hand, was focusing on the experience of using the product.

Stay true to your brand’s identity, it’s what makes it relevant to its consumers

To better adhere to these archetypical category benefits, the brand was completed reinvented. It launched a completely new packaging design (moving from design A to B) and a new campaign which focused on hair benefits. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz7kGvKlYlU

And guess what? Going head-to-head with its competitors DIDN’T WORK! Herbal Essences was no longer Herbal Essences. The pleasurable experience at the core of its identity had disappeared. The natural ingredients and transparent packaging had vanished.

Luckily, the team then went back to the brand building fundamentals and looked at the brand’s core points of difference and visual assets. The brand was relaunched a second time, simply cleaning up and modernizing the original packaging (design C). The communication refocused on experience and ingredients. Herbal Essences was back!

Evolve your brand, but don’t reinvent its identity!

Fundamentally, it is all about understanding what your brand stands for and why it is relevant to a specific consumer audience. If you are not targeting the largest consumer segment or talking the archetypical category cues, it does not mean that you are doing something wrong. In fact, unless you are the category leader, it probably means that you are doing something right. The consumers who love your brand don’t want the same benefits as your competitors, otherwise they would just go and buy the competitor anyway!

So, by all means, evolve your brand to remain relevant with the times. But please, don’t reinvent your brand’s identity to make it something that it is not. You risk losing sight of what makes your brand relevant and what consumers love about it. And it could end up costing you quite a lot in the process!

Brand builder, strategist, writer, food lover. Passionate about building meaningful brands that have a positive impact on society, culture & environment.