A century ago, businesses referred to their brand as a mark. A mark was purposefully locked. It was intended to identify the creator and the owner, not much different than a livestock brand. They were practical labels. Sentiment and emotion were not part of the equation. Marks were often simply the name of the business in capital letters, followed by the location of that business. These marks reflected origin and the business name often included the line of work.
CAMBRIA IRON COMPANY
Johnstown, PA USA
The concept of the brand arrived when art was mixed into these marks, often in typeface. The iconic Ford hood emblem is an example of this evolution. At this stage—and for almost 100 years—rebrands were reserved for businesses that changed ownership, shifted product offerings and, of course, as a damage control tool.
Why are marketers and creatives motivated to offer dynamic brands to their consumers? I see three leading rationales.
For one, a new identity is an effective way to launch a new product. Look at IHOP. The brand decided that a logo tweak would deliver the message that the pancake house was now also a dinner and burger joint. The logic here is of owned signage. The brand realizes it could use its already owned premise and digital signage and simply swap out. This is crafty and economical because it enables the brand to avoid an additional spend to get the word out. Instead, IHOP used its owned brand expressions and switched them out.
Revenue generation is also a driver. Food and beverage brands often see a 10 percent increase in sales because of a temporary rebrand. These are often seasonal and throwback efforts used to reignite inactive consumers. Bringing back vintage packaging art is a profit driver.
The third most common impetus is alignment. Brands position themselves alongside cause-related campaigns to drive emotion and access market segments. Red colored logos are crafted to not only raise money for AIDS awareness but also actively force sentiment and positioning.
The delivery of always-changing brand identity is complicated by the explosion of brand creative volume. I estimate that for mid-market and top global brands the number of creative assets in motion for any given brand is 10 times what it was seven years ago. This is further complicated by increased omnichannel endpoints like email, social, ecommerce, etc. Increasingly, there’s a playbook. Successful CMOs, brand managers and agencies are following and employing the following operational tactics.
Marketing teams need to properly calculate the capacity of their creative talent. If it requires four marketers to provide the care and feeding necessary to delivery one brand identity, then it will take 10 or so to manage three. There are some efficiencies in there, but don’t overestimate them. Teams may be eager to push forward with multiple brand identities, but they’ll surely need to do it with more teammates.
As you look to collect alternate brand experiences, consider outside sources. Some of the best, most unique dynamic brand identities have been conceived for brands by outsiders: individual creatives, agencies or machines. Use this exercise as a method of testing new agency partners, freelance designers and platforms.
Identity distribution gets complex, so consider a CDN. If there was ever a time to bite the bullet and move your creative to more efficient delivery platform, this is it. Dynamic brand delivery and swap-out is an effort in complex logistics (store, manipulate, distribute and track) and cannot be done manually at scale. Cutting-edge, complex brands are not managed from shared drives, agency portals, featureless cloud storage or passed over email.
Lastly, be sure to set a baseline first and pretend it’s ad creative. If you’ve been delivering only one identity, you’ve likely not done this. Most brand managers are more aware about the qualitative realities of their identities. Make the shift by taking 60 days to start tracking the performance of the existing identity. In order to track performance, baselines need to be set and distribution variables traced. At a minimum, a simple tracking pixel can tell you a lot.
On any given game night, the Miami Heat will hit the floor wearing any one of five different uniform styles. Not only will the team be sporting a unique jersey color and logo, but it is also visible throughout the brand experience, from the preceding week’s promotional ad campaign to the in-arena printed game program. These dynamic brand identities are attracting and shaping consumer experiences, all while challenging brand leaders to unlock their mark.