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Branding Paradox of Innovation and Continuity | Slangbusters Blog
Jan 4, '20

Branding Paradox of Innovation and Continuity

And on how to have the best of both worlds for your brand.

Top view photo of blue water body

Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything but temptation.”

A classic example of paradox, isn’t it?

Even in the world of branding, we come across such paradoxical situations that sound absurd, but true. Let’s say, this one, for example, brands need to bring along innovation to sustain continuity.

Have a squint at your favorite brands or take a squiz around you. Start from the time you roll out of bed and brush your teeth. Is it the Closeup, Closeup Ever Fresh or Closeup Ever Fresh+? Or maybe when you order a Burger King during the lunch break. What does it say? “Have it your way” or “Be your way”?

Most of the brands, most of the time change some aspects of their brand profile. The way “Nike” is written now could be different than how it was written some years ago. Maybe the brand decided to change the Type. Likewise, “Apple” could have probably decided to add a few more shades to its palette, so that it can be used against different backgrounds.

It can so happen that you walk down the street with a friend and say, “Hey, these people came up with the logo only just recently.” And then you start associating the brand depending upon the image it wants you to build in your mind.

Then again there is this déjà vu factor that most brands like to play with. Brands create that feeling of nostalgia in customers’ minds to achieve loyalty. Probably, that is why somethings just don’t change. The utterly-butterly girl on the Amul packet is 50+ years old, believe it or not.

While brands try going for a makeover, they still want to play safe. They want to find a balance between innovation and continuity. And sorry to say, but that’s where most mishaps happen. Change is good (Change is the only constant; well yeah, cliché max) but for some brands, the change also means losing a long-established identity. And when that happens, phew: customers disappear in thin air.

If buying Amul butter is also because of that sweet little girl on the packet, then suddenly seeing her gone will only dishearten you. You will feel that the brand has ditched you and you might no longer want to be associated with it. But then again, what if this girl comes becoming cuter or better? You will probably add calories for a couple of years down the line!

You see, it’s confusing whether to go for innovation or stick to consistency. There is no trial and error approach here. It’s more about hitting the right chord. And before we bury our heads further into this, let’s get a grasp of a few things.

WARNING: You are entering an innovation zone. Please proceed with great caution ideas.

Blue colored wooden door

(Photo by Lucian Alexe on Unsplash)

What is this innovation? This new, NEW, that brands want to thrive on? And why do brands need it?

Bringing fresh ideas on the table is all about accepting a change for good. It is about understanding diversity. Think along. Maybe your audience has outgrown your brand characters. They no longer feel empathetic towards them. Maybe the color on your palette is behind the times. Your logo seems primitive. Or your brand message is not in alignment with the vision of your company, anymore.

In most of these situations, change is necessary. You need to break the cocoon and come out of the shell. When you feel that customers are giving you a cold-shoulder, maybe it’s time to contact a branding agency and evolve. Because innovation is all about metamorphosing in the right way. For brands, innovation is like evolution. It has to be slow and steady.

Continuity is how you build a physique

By the way, here we are talking about brand physique. So obviously, continuity is about retaining the good. While change is necessary to avoid becoming redundant, continuity is inevitable for brand recall value. If everything changed all the time, we would find ourselves in chaos; not knowing where to go or what to do. Brands are no different. When continuity is missing, brands go haywire; lose their focus and objective. For a brand to establish itself in the market, it needs to stick to certain factors more firmly. A continuous brand identity is a great way to retain stakeholders, maintain collaborations and attract funding.

Besides, when you continue with your brand elements (through tangibles like logo or design), you are giving your audience a promise that your forever brand will remain just the same. Continuity is important to build trust. If innovation is evolution, continuity is evolving with vestigial organs.

Guess, we are on the same page now. For the right branding strategy, innovation and continuity should go hand in hand. But how to find this equilibrium? When to take a step forward and when to pause? Perhaps what you read next, may help.

Take the road less traveled or the other one. But know where you are heading.
Monochrome photo of a leading road

Do we change or do we go with the same flow? This question should probably come later. Where do you want to take the organization ten years down the line? What is your company’s vision? Probably, these are the questions you might want to take up with priority. When you chalkboard ideas and make a roadmap for your company’s journey, you will automatically know what time will demand. You will be better placed and will be able to decide what to change and what to retain. And while there is no recipe for the exact proportions of these ingredients, the answers to the above question will be all you need.

Your company’s vision will determine what mix of incremental, fundamental and transformational changes it requires.

You might have to look at everything along the course, right from whom and how you collaborate with third parties to your existing leadership hierarchy. Once into wood products and tires, Nokia now thrives in the wireless world. Currently, it has a 37% share of the global cell-phone market and this is only just growing as compared to its closest competitor, Motorola. For Nokia to achieve this position, the brand had probably envisioned this status years ago and then practiced innovation.

For the Finnish firm, it was certainly the road less traveled. But it did know where it was heading. Now, do you?

To each their own (time)

What are you selling? Lipsticks? Cell phones? Toys? Apparels? Washing Machines? What?

As far as your products are concerned, are you ready for change yet? This answer will come basis what you are selling, i.e. what is your industry. Smartphones or even cars for that matter, get suspended within months, whereas white consumer goods such as microwaves or air-conditioners can go along to meet their renewal cycles a little later.

Understanding market dynamics is important. So while there are certain industries where change is rapid to cover investments (remember, Closeup, Closeup Everfresh, Closeup Everfresh+), others can go unhurried. There is a certain speed that drives every industry and it’s necessary to stick to continuity if your niche demands it. You can come up with different shades of nail paint in a matter of months but you can’t be introducing various versions of play stations that often.

When the time is right, your entrepreneurial instinct will tell you. And just in case, if you do not trust your instinct, your branding studio should be of help.


Small toy airplane in hand over a blue background

Well not really, but digitally. Because in the digital world where news travels fast, distance has lost much of its meaning. In this context, whatever happens in the other part of the world affects us. Sitting in China, it’s impossible to ignore the socio-economic differences in Africa or the demonetization in India. Branding decisions have much of a geographical context. So when you consider a change, you need to analyze the implication to the greater audience or the audience that exist but are not directly in your circle of influence.

Say you are a jewelry brand based out of Mumbai with the majority of its ‘A’ customers in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps at some point in time, if the economic picture looks bleak, you wouldn’t want to burn your hands trying new things. Any change driving your organization happens at a cost and as an entrepreneur, you would want to cover up investments soon. In a scenario such as this, you will stick to what has worked for you in the past; your tried and tested methods. After all, you wouldn’t want an innovation blow-back.

Company context, industry context, and geographical context are three major parameters to determine where your brand stands in terms of welcoming new ideas and continuing with the old habits. But there should be certain ways to find the right balance too. Below mentioned key behaviors will make sure you constantly play the innovation and continuity see-saw for good and make the most out of it.

Discipline: Underline what your brand stands for and its big promise. Then look for fresh ways to deliver that promise

Flexibility: Be agile to change. Adjust to new circumstances, shifting market scenarios and shuffling consumer behavior. Then constantly seek opportunities

Responsive: Be a conscious brand. A careful approach towards employees, communities, environment will make you lovable

Multichannel presence: Explore different mediums to engage with your audience. This will give them new experiences. You will learn a lot in the process

Global approach: Whatever decisions you take think from a global perspective. It doesn’t matter if you are operating in a small market. Eventually, you will get there. Remember, branding decisions are long-term

Openness: Be a cool, easy-to-talk-to brand. Expand your sphere by engagements, collaborations, and personalization when it comes to your audience

Being rigid is only a dead end. In a world where everything changes in just a few clicks, old standards, and structured decisions will hardly work. It’s agility; evolution and fine maintenance of old and new that will help you climb the ladder. So where does all this lead you? Are you ready to make some changes or polish your existing brand guidelines? If you feel that your entrepreneur instinct is telling you to bring some changes, we, at Slangbusters, can read the cards for you.

— by Tasneem Baldiwala, Freelance Content Writer, Slangbusters Studio

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