If yours is like many businesses, there will come a time when you have to evolve your brand. What you offer, who you serve, what you want to be known for.
It can be difficult for many of your employees and customers. Their connection is with who you are, not who you aspire to be. So how do you evolve your brand without losing the very people who helped to build it?
I think of Peter Drucker, the father of management consulting. Whenever Drucker would come into a business that was in need of change, the first thing he would do was find something positive to build on. Some strength. Some uniqueness. Some success. Something of value he could acknowledge and that people would feel good about.
I think of Alan Mulally, who took over as CEO of Ford when the automaker was losing over $12B a year. It would have been easy for Mulally to reject the past. Yet he didn’t. He explained how every employee was preserving the legacy of Henry Ford whose vision was to make good cars that were accessible to everyone. He ran ad campaigns that connected back to Ford’s original ad campaigns in the 1920’s. Why? To demonstrate respect for the past and to capture the spirit of what made Ford a great company.
I think of A&W. The burger chain that decided they needed to appeal to a younger demographic while not losing their established customer base. So they kept their burger-focused menu but with a healthy and natural slant. Beef raised without hormones or steroids. Chickens and pork raised without antibiotics. They redesigned their restaurants with more of an “urban minimalist feel”. Yet they installed backlit glass fridges behind their counters to showcase frosted root beer mugs – a clear homage to the past.
“So long as you don’t deny your history,” says A&W Canada CEO, Paul Hollands, “you can enhance your brand and customers will embrace it.”
Don’t reject the past. Don’t delegitimize the efforts of those who came before.
Honor the legacy. Acknowledge the past as the valuable and necessary foundation upon which to build your future.
Make it happen.
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