Consistency is not mere repetition - Strategic Brand Management

Brand messages and slogans are bound to evolve. Evian was, initially, the water of babies, then of the Alps, then the water of balance, later the water of balanced strength, and now a source of youth. These changes in positioning occurred over a long time period: they demonstrate the evolution of the consumer’s attitude towards water, the maturation of the market and the evolution of competitive position.

The functions and representations of water are not fixed: they depend on external factors linked to urbanisation, industrialisation, rediscovering nature, discovering pollution, new representations of the body, health and food hygiene. Positioning is the act of relating one brand facet to a set of consumer expectations, needs and desires. As these needs change through time, the brand is obliged to follow suit. However, Evian’s identity remained consistent throughout these repositionings.

But within a brand’s lifetime these changes in positioning should not happen too often, about every four or five years. However, the brand’s means of expression can move faster to integrate with the evolution of fashion: new speech modes, new signs of modernity and new looks. It is essential that the brand is perceived as up to date although such necessary adjustments and changes make the brand run the risk of a loss of identity.

To retain their identity while changing, brands often stick to their communication codes, that is their fixed visual and audio symbols. This is undeniably a factor that contributes to a brand and what it represents being recognised. Even when not named, Coke commercials can be picked out: their music and their style are unique. But the style itself is subject to obsolescence. Continuing with it could prove fatal to the brand.

Unfortunately, it has to be acknowledged that brands have a hard time parting with their communication codes, even when they feel it is necessary. This is to be expected: they are afraid of losing their identity. But this reluctance is largely due to the fact that brand management concepts are essentially static.

Time is not taken into account when it is a key parameter in markets. In that sense, the concept of ‘communication territory’ is a vision that clings to the ground: it has to do with all the visible signals that the brand uses to communicate its definition and what it represents. However, an identity that defines itself only through signs is subject to an alteration of their meaning. The brand is indeed recognised, but no longer in control of its meaning.

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