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October 01, 2015

Top Desk

Evolving Your Brand for the Future

by Connie Tang

Click here to order the October 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

We all know that exercising, managing stress and controlling our diet can help us to slow down the aging process, but what do you do about an aging brand?

It’s a question every company that stands the test of time is going to face: How can your brand stay fresh when it’s been around for half a century? We’ve all seen companies manage to keep their brand thriving for that long and longer (think Coke, General Electric and Ford). And we’ve seen others that simply couldn’t pull it off, like Tower Records, Pan Am and Blockbuster.

So what makes brand longevity happen, and what can you do about it? The answer can be summed up in one word: relevance. Brands are meaningful to stakeholders such as consumers (and in our industry, to the independent business owners who fuel our growth) when they are relevant to the lives those stakeholders lead. Your brand has to be worthwhile for them to engage with, or they will simply disengage. And for that to happen, you have to understand your market, day to day; you have to be able to perceive and interpret the shifts and changes that naturally occur, and you have to be able to respond to them.

Longstanding successful brands are good at anticipating consumer trends and needs. They’re also rich in traditions, and traditions can be wonderful things. But they also can be double-edged: It’s a finer line than you might think between a brand that feels secure, reliable and trustworthy and a brand that feels old-fashioned, outdated and irrelevant. In business, as in life, nothing stands still, and if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward. To remain relevant to their current stakeholders, and attract new ones, mature brands have to update themselves. This is what some companies call “disruptive marketing,” a self-reinvention that matches the company to the here-and-now demands of its market. That can be tricky, because you have to respond to an ever-changing business climate and environment, while minimizing business interruption.

To remain relevant to their current stakeholders, and attract new ones, mature brands have to update themselves.

Change can be hard for people, and making significant changes to a company in the midst of its day-to-day operations can be like changing a tire on a moving car. Even when you know you have to do it, and you know the results will be great, you also know there’s going to be pain—maybe a lot of it. What can you do to minimize that pain?

The answer is really in how you make change happen. It’s about moving forward to a new state of business through evolution, not revolution. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking everything at a very slow pace. You’re not trying to make change so gradual that no one sees it. Change can be exciting and refreshing as easily as it can be shocking and frightening. Changing through evolution is about moving at the right speed for your business. How do you determine that speed? You focus on the things that need to be done. You prioritize. You move forward, making sure your key stakeholders know they are part of the process. You do what you can to minimize the shock and maximize the excitement, and you celebrate your successes along the way.

In other words, successful evolutionary change is rooted in strategy. And good, sound strategy is based on data and analysis; it contains a vision for the future, but it’s about the real world today. Having a clear and well-articulated strategy provides the perfect platform for steady, evolutionary growth. It enables you to focus the business on the future and to be transparent about your goals and objectives. This transparency helps to minimize fear within the organization and helps you to get buy-in from important stakeholders such as your board of directors, employees and IBOs. Plus, having a good strategy in place helps you to see where you’re going in the long term, which can make day-to-day decisions easier, and it enables you to see and fill gaps in your organization. Change is inevitable; with a good strategy you make it happen, rather than letting it happen to you. And a strategy enables you to see something very important: what success looks like.

When I arrived at Princess House in 2012, I found a stable, solid business going on 50 years old. The company had a lot going for it, and a few challenges. The most significant challenge was the brand itself: Although it had strong equity with its stakeholders, in the larger public it was mostly unknown. Those who knew the name associated it with the decorative crystal products that have been absent from the company’s product offerings for more than a decade. Many I spoke to who remembered hearing of Princess House in the past were surprised to learn the company was still around!

So in terms of branding, and bringing the company forward from its roots in the past, we had our work cut out for us. We started by examining what our brand stood for, and what that meant for recruiting and customer acquisition. We discovered that Princess House is about the warmth and comfort of the home, about enjoying life with friends and family. We’re also about diversity because our products are entirely at home in any kind of kitchen or dining room and our independent Consultant Opportunity is designed for anyone, regardless of their education or experience or even the language they speak.

Successful evolutionary change is rooted in strategy. And good, sound strategy is based on data and analysis; it contains a vision for the future, but it’s about the real world today.

Our analysis led to a comprehensive rebranding effort that successfully translates that warmth into a look, feel and tone that are in harmony with our tagline, “Share the Love.” It’s a brand that connects with our field, our customers and our hostesses. It has a contemporary, forward-looking feel while “winking” at our heritage. And it has a new, younger energy, something that we envision in the Princess House Consultant of the future.

Rebranding was the most outwardly visible sign of the evolutionary change Princess House is undergoing, but there’s much more happening behind the scenes. We’ve transitioned to a new leadership team internally, a team with a clear vision to bring new life to our business and the experience and expertise to execute action plans based on our analysis and strategy and built with milestones to measure success.

At the same time, we’re updating our infrastructure and processes and adding systems to support our growth. We’re transitioning to a back-end IT engine that will not only catch us up to where the company should be but also will be scalable for the future. We’ve expanded our logistical capabilities by adding West Coast distribution to serve our most active market region and balance service levels across the country.

Product is another area where we’re innovating. Princess House products have a reputation for quality and beautiful styling, and that’s something we cherish. We have to live up to that reputation and leverage it with each product introduction, especially as we continually evaluate our existing line and develop new products to attract new demographics and geographies.

Evolving a brand and a business is not something that has a fixed end-point: It’s an ongoing process.

We’re focusing as we never have before on public relations and media coverage, to get the Princess House story out to the millions who still don’t know about us. We are a company that is now 53 years old and yet our brand awareness is relatively low. We see this as an opportunity with the potential to have literally millions of consumers fall in love with Princess House products and our opportunity, once they hear about it!

Evolving a brand and a business is not something that has a fixed end-point: It’s an ongoing process. As the process continues, we’re living our brand every day. Part of our rebranding effort included a completely new, updated look to our home office, featuring our brand colors and iconography. As soon as our employees log on to their computers every day, they see our intranet site, PH Connection, which is fully branded and designed to engage everyone with industry news and company happenings, even announcements of birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate. In 2014, we brought the brand to life for our field by bringing back an annual National Convention after a 10-year hiatus, and it’s served to breathe renewed life and vigor into our Consultants and Leaders. And we’re investing in technologies to make it easier for our Field to connect with us seamlessly through their computers, their tablets and their smartphones.

Evolution doesn’t stop, and if it does, so does the business. To be successful, Princess House—or any business—needs to understand the world it exists in and adapt to it. In a changing business landscape, with fast-moving trends and shifting demographics, Princess House is committed to remaining contemporary, agile, diverse and relevant, while staying true to who we are and “Sharing the Love” for generations to come.

Connie TangConnie Tang is President and CEO of Princess House Inc.