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Brand evolution vs. revolution: Which is right for you?

Learn whether your brand and its messaging would be better off with a few minor changes—or a complete overhaul.

If you are like me, after every great tradeshow, you come home feeling inspired. Seeing new branding and innovation can light a fire to make changes to your own brand. Change is good—great, in fact—but how do brands know how much change they need? How do they determine if they need a brand evolution or a brand revolution? And, what, really, is the difference?

In simple terms: An evolution is small and a revolution is big.

An ​evolution​ is working with the same foundation and pulling out pieces to remodel. It is much more nuanced. All elements of the brand need to be reviewed to determine what stays and what goes. Change could be a small refinement to color or a larger overhaul in communication and messaging hierarchy. At the end of the day, the consumer will be able to make a connection from the brand before, to the brand after.

 A ​revolution​ is building from the ground up. Essentially everything is on the table: identity, hierarchy, communication, graphics, colors, visuals, even brand name. 

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Which is right for my brand?

​There is no rule to determine how much of an evolution or revolution your brand needs. Here are some key things to consider at the start. 

  1. What prompted the consideration to change to your branding?​ Declining market share, relevance with your consumer, visuals and voice not representing the company today, new competitors in the category? Most likely, it is a combination of all of the above, but understanding your motivation helps lay the foundation for the way forward.
  2. Let’s talk equity. ​Equity in visual assets, that is. If your brand has been around for decades, the equity you have in certain visual elements will be much stronger. For young brands, especially with limited distribution, the equity will be less no matter how great the branding may be.  
  3. The target consumer’s changing behavior. ​Branding is all about connection, so it is vital to understand the mindset of your consumer today and how their behaviors are evolving. It is important to know why some consumers are loyal and others stray. This understanding will keep loyalists engaged and bring more consumers to your brand family. 

 

Benefits and risks  

Whether your brand is two years old or 20, there are always benefits and risks to change. 
 
Benefits:

  1. A stronger emotional connection​. In any category, there are dozens of options for consumers to choose from. A brand must go beyond delivering a functional benefit and resonate on an emotional level.
  2. More than looks. ​Be it an evolution or revolution, when done well, change can not only make the branding visually stronger, but can also strengthen the positioning of the product in the category and in mind of the consumer.  
  3. Positive possibilities.​ Increase in sales, velocities, followers, positive press, investment, employees–the positive possibilities are endless. 

 
Risks:

  1. Loss of current consumers. This is always the number one concern for brands. “We don’t want to lose our current consumer.” “ We want to make sure they can find us.” The good news is your consumers already love you. By evolving, you give them more reasons to love you. Still worried? Get consumer feedback. ​There are many ways to gain consumer validation on a brand evolution, whether it be robust quantitative and qualitative research, or nimble ‘gut check’ surveys.
  2. Hidden numbers. ​You may be at a stage where you are open to changing everything— brand name, product names, packaging design—but keep in mind, changing a brand name and/or product names can require all new UPC codes and set-up with your distributors. Without understanding the costs and timing associated with this, it may stop the branding project in its tracks.  
  3. Being reactionary.​ It is easy to be tempted to make changes to your brand as hot new trends hit the stage. When rebranding, make sure there are solid strategic reasons before proceeding. If you don’t, you risk changing things up too often and never gaining the equity that will build your brand. 


With any change, we all must be patient to see results. It can take months for everything to roll out and have meaningful impact. ​At the end of the day, brands must remain relevant without being reactionary and remember that the potential for possibilities will always prevail.

Alicia Potter is the founder and creative director of Boulder-based Faven Creative; she specializes in food and beverage branding and packaging design.

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