To preserve your brand, stimulate progress

I often talk about brand as being evolution not revolution. And reading a book over the weekend about the impact of denial by leaders on everything from business to economies, I was reminded again about how easy it is to get caught in the mindless “rebrand” cycle and miss the real opportunities to stay current.

A key story in the book is about the Ford Motor Company. Founded by Henry Ford, it went on to dominate the early 20th century with a combination of foresight and courage. It was THE automobile brand for a population embracing the freedom provided by his cars.

But then everything changed. The percentage of people buying a car for the first time dwindled and a new market was emerging who didn’t want to just get from A to B and back again, they wanted – more. And at this fork in the road Henry Ford chose to stick with his single model formula while the newly burgeoning General Motors pumped out a choice of models and colours and added a financing arm to help people pay for it.

Given the current dire straits of many car companies today you could be forgiven for thinking a history lesson might be in order!

However, the point of the story is valid today. By failing to stimulate progress where it matters – in what you do and how you do it, the company and the resulting brand can quickly go from powerhouse to powerless.

The business landscape is littered with the tales of those who failed to heed this lesson.

Your brand is the result of the promises you keep, and when those promises get out of sync with the wants and needs of your customers, it is a safe bet even the most loyal will eventually go where they can be met.

The key to avoiding that fate is to stimulate progress. As Jim Collins notes in his book Good to Great: “Enduring, great companies preserve their core values and purpose while their business strategies and operating practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.”

It’s one of the best formulas I have come across for keeping your brand relevant and in demand.

Change what you do, change how you do it, change where you do it, change who you do it for. But never change why you are doing it. Never change what you care most about.

Be a bit more like Henry Ford when he forever changed the way we moved from A to B and ushered in a new era of manufacturing and a bit less like Henry Ford when he ignored the advice of everyone around him and refused to change his ‘single model and any colour as long as it was black’ ethos.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at


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