Brand maturity isn’t a bad thing

People grow and mature over time. But while some behaviours and personality attributes may modify, essential things about us seem to remain mostly unchanged.

Author Susan Cain has become the voice of the introverted everywhere thanks to her book Quiet, and in a recent article she tackled the question: Is it possible for my personality to change over time…?”

As these things do, this got me thinking about whether it’s possible for a brand to change and mature over time. I’m not talking about the common misnomer of “rebranding”, which is really just an exercise in remarketing, renaming or relogoing. The question of change is a more fundamental one of identity.

Cain quotes research that shows, “despite the variety of situations that we experience in a lifetime—all of them influencing who we are and how we grow—our core traits tend to remain constant”. It seems like Aristotle was onto something when he said: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

This thinking also aligns with the research of others in the business realm such as Jim Collins, who notes that the values of an organisation, once bedded in culture, stay relatively entrenched and unchanging – something anyone who has tackled the sticky and often thankless task of trying to evolve the culture of an organisation can attest to.

Brands are a result of the organisation deeply embedding the identity elements of purpose and values. Those elements can, however, take some time to fully emerge.

It is a myth that a brand leaps fully formed onto the commercial landscape – name and logo blazing, launched from the creative cannon. Until the actions and decisions of the organisation play out over time, a name and a logo is just that.

The early days of the organisation are often marked by shifting priorities, as ideas are tried with both success and failure. And it’s often not until about year three or even year five that things begin to coalesce around a settled sense of what it cares about and believes – the purpose and values.

Much like Aristotle’s child, the foundations are now in place. However, the organisation and resulting brand is still young and somewhat immature. The natural enthusiasm and energy of the young often leading to inconsistency in the way it does things. And as a result, there is an inconsistent experience for people internally and customers externally.

A bit like the overexcited child who’s had too much sugar, early enthusiasm can see organisations inadvertently make choices that don’t align with what they genuinely care about, only to regret it later. Climbing out that window to go party with friends doesn’t seem like such a great idea when viewed from the pointy end of being grounded for a month under the daily glare of parental disappointment!

Over time, and with more experience, the organisation and brand mature – in what it does and how it does it, in how it responds to challenges, in the way it thinks. And rather than seeing maturity as a reason for concern, there are definite positives to having been around the block a few times.

Eleanor Rooservelt helpfully speaks about maturity in her book You Learn by Living. She describes real maturity as “self-knowledge. One must be willing to have knowledge of oneself. You have to be honest with yourself. You must try to understand truthfully what makes you do things or feel things… this self knowledge develops slowly.”

And here lies the reason that maturity is a good thing for the organisation and the brand. It has tested the boundaries and done the hard partying. It’s been through the experimental phase and made some questionable fashion choices. And now over time, it can bring a stronger and stronger sense of self to bear on the everyday demands of being in business.

So don’t let the hype and jazz of the young and new seduce you. Maturity has a lot going for it.

See you next week.

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan

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