Future-Proof Your Brand by Designing for Change

10 Thousand Design Designing For Change Pov 2560X1530

Chances are you’ve experienced more change in the past year than in the last five — or maybe 25 — combined. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put things in perspective back in 2001, long before COVID-19 hit: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century,” he said. “It will be more like 20,000 years of progress.”

With this staggering rate of change, it’s no secret that successful companies must operate in a perpetual state of motion, continuously evolving to meet the needs and expectations of the people they serve. While much attention has been paid to businesses that are evolving their product offerings and operational systems in the face of the pandemic, companies shouldn’t neglect how their brands need to also evolve to keep pace with people’s ever-changing expectations, needs and desires. Effective branding is essential for setting your product apart from the competition and making connections with consumers that lead to robust sales. Here are six factors to consider when designing your brand for change.

1. Pick up the pace
Historically, industry standards have recommended that companies change or update their brands about once every seven to 10 years. This has often meant making aesthetic updates to logos, color palettes, visual language and strategic positioning. And while the main reasons for updating a brand — such as change in market and positioning, the need for a more modern image, internationalization, or mergers and acquisitions — remain, in our post-pandemic reality, companies should consider updating and adapting their brands much more frequently and potentially more significantly.

Why? At the very least, to stay relevant to their customers who have fundamentally changed and are simply not going back to pre-COVID brand expectations. Optimally, today’s leading brands will be updated more robustly — not only to drive their own growth but to move their respective industries forward. Brand success comes from evolving quickly yet purposefully, with an eye trained on the future.

2. Preserve brand integrity while evolving brand possibilities
As important as it is for companies to keep pace with change, it’s just as important to recognize and value key elements and attributes that are core to the soul of their brands. These brand elements should be carefully mined and carried forward to create renewed and richer meaning. It could be the brand’s purpose or a beloved logomark, tagline or brand story. Draw from your brand’s heritage and origins to ensure your brand evolution stays true to its ethos. This will help ensure you maintain and grow brand love among your existing advocates.

3. Design for change across the enterprise
During these times of constant change, when consumers are increasingly empowered, brands need to evolve in ways that genuinely take the views of consumers into account and involve a company’s total enterprise, not just the marketing department. A brand today isn't just an identity, well-designed packaging or a great campaign. Brand should inform everything from employee communications to customer service; technology and operations to products and services. In short, everything a company makes, does and says.

Designers should consider the full brand ecosystem and how the brand is expressed and experienced across every brand touchpoint and interaction. For example, what is the brand tone and personality? How is it experienced through all five senses? In what new ways are people interacting with your brand and how might they interact with it in the future?

4. Make your brand accessible
Thriving brands of tomorrow must be accessible to everyone who wants to opt in to a relationship with it. Consider the many different factors of how all people experience your brand, including people of varying abilities, ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. Think about their needs not as special circumstances, but rather as human factors that deserve consideration. The goal is to remove barriers and provide independence for all people who wish to have a relationship with your brand across the full brand ecosystem, including how your brand manifests in the digital and physical space, products and communications. When designing for change, it can be helpful to begin with a full experience audit. As the father of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said, “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

5. Embrace radical collaboration
To achieve inclusive design, it’s important to design with, not for, your customers. Using customers as consultants as an afterthought is not enough. Invite your advocates along on the journey. Also take stock of your internal team makeup and environment. They should reflect the diversity and inclusivity you wish your brand to embody. Then invite external experts, inspiring change agents and trendsetters to serve as guides as you reimagine your brand. These external voices will help you get out from beyond your own walls and better anticipate new opportunities for your brand.

6. Let technology lead the way
Don’t make technology an afterthought. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we live in a tech-dependent world and everyone is digitally accelerated. What’s your brand’s relationship with technology? How might it evolve in the future with new technologies on the horizon? How is your brand best experienced and expressed digitally? Successful brands will be flexible and adaptable to keep pace with ever-advancing technologies.

Designing for change doesn’t have to be daunting. By embracing the power of change and keeping these six factors in mind as you take a step-by-step approach to evolving your brand, you’ll keep pace with people’s ever-changing expectations, needs and desires, whatever they may be.