What’s your hurry? Changing a brand is slow work

What’s your hurry? Changing a brand is slow work

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Nearly every week I see yet another story about a company embarking on a ‘rebrand’. Accompanying the hype is a rush to discard what got them here in an attempt to downplay or erase the past. Which is a common symptom of how people try to change a brand.

It’s a farce. And begs the question of what the resulting shiny new names, logos and other artefacts of identity are trying to reboot, replace or revitalise.

But what does changing a brand look like when viewed as an ongoing store of value accumulated or eroded by what people do?

In her article on the slowness of change, writer Rebecca Solnit says, “We are impatient creatures, impatient for the future to arrive and prone to forgetting the past in our urgency to have it all now, and sometimes too impatient to learn the stories of how what is best in our era was made by long, slow campaigns of change. …”

An organisation’s long arc shows that change is always happening. So perhaps changing the brand means choosing different ways to generate and trade that stored value. Otherwise, you’re only giving the veneer a coat of paint.

To shift the activity that contributes value, you need to start with the organisation’s identity—not the visual identity, but the core foundations of purpose and values—what you care about and how you do things. Redirect the effort they harness and make promises to deliver a different experience.

Change using this approach is sneaky. Often defying usual metrics, it deposits results in under-explored places, which can feel like nothing is happening. Then people get impatient, weened on the illusion that change only lands with a drum roll. But this is slow, unheroic work.

More from Solnit, “You want tomorrow to be different than today, and it may seem the same, or worse, but next year will be different than this one, because those tiny increments added up. … A lot of change is undramatic growth, transformation, or decay, or rather its timescale means the drama might not be perceptible to the impatient.”

I recently spoke to a client who felt like ‘nothing is changing’. This was despite a renewed focus on purpose and better-understood values.

We began a list of shifts from the past twelve months. For example, people were more excited and confident about the future direction. Hiring was on the upswing, with more people seeking jobs with the company. The budget was approved for a project she had long championed.

Once we started, she saw small pockets of change in many places and consequently felt more positive. Value stores were growing daily, and without realising it, her actions were changing the brand.

In 1986 Carlo Petrini’ started the Slow Food movement. In the decades since everything from cities to cinemas has embraced the idea that good things happen slowly. And savouring the process is a crucial piece of the outcome.

I believe slow brand will always beat rebrand. That value accumulates and erodes with every action and decision. With incremental shifts in people’s everyday activity compounding into changes everyone experiences.

Absent shiny new artefacts, people can mistake slow brand as giving up or accepting what is. I disagree. Subscribing to Solnit’s view that “it will take steadfast commitment to see the job through.”

Thanks for reading.

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