The fear factor: Why brands dread change
Ibrahim Lahoud, strategy director at Dubai and Riyadh-based consultancy Brand Lounge, explains why brand owners may worry about adopting change as well as how brand experts can overcome these doubts.
Rebranding anxiety is catalogued in the manual of brand development under the 'Change Apprehension Syndrome' (just kidding!). While it is quite understandable at first glance, delving into the psyche of brand owners who uncover the need for change reveals a different perspective.
As professionals, we recognize that the need for change often stems from outdated branding, lack of projection power, and changes in raison d’être, or M&A. However, brand owners may find themselves hesitant to take action due to four root causes of fear:
- The uncharted territory of change
When a brand reaches a tipping point and must change or fade, a dual fear factor forms. If it decides to remain as it is, losing to competitors is inevitable. If the brand chooses to embark on a radical change, the outcome, however strategically validated, remains unknown to a certain extent. That is not great news for brand owners.
- The fear of acceptance
Even if a change perfectly aligns with a brand's mission and vision, and is translated into verbal and visual manifestations academically, there are no guarantees of adoption by its audience. We are emotional beings, and acting rationally is more of a skill set than innate. Besides, when it comes to customers, ‘rational’ and brands don’t cut it, do they?
- The challenge of adoption
While accepting is one thing, adopting a change can be challenging. Adoption is when a brand – not a product – becomes an intrinsic part of our ecosystem. That means engineering a brand that will appeal to the existing audience as well as a new one, and mind you, both are immensely disparate at times.
- Return on branding (ROB)
Cost is every brand owner’s pet peeve. While the development investment is high, deployment is the real trauma. Let’s not forget that brands are about generating business and profit, and these can only come from a well-planned rollout. Given the three reasons above, what’s the guarantee of a solid ROB?
Having analysed things from a customer’s perspective, how should we address their apprehension?
- On fear of change
Customers who fear change are probably not the right customers for you. Businesses, and therefore brands, are built on taking calculated risks. I stress calculated. Branding is the most calculated risk. Why? Because, for the zillionth time, we buy brands, not products! So where should we recommend our client invest?
- On acceptance
Steve Jobs once said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them." And boom! This statement made Apple the first trillion-dollar company in history. We are not in the business of acceptance. We are in the business of innovation. Innovation drives acceptance. A rebranding exercise that projects innovation will always be the iPhone of any brand.
- On adoption
If we change our understanding of ‘acceptance’, we will realise that adoption is an implication. No one imagined that you could live in someone else’s home for a week until Airbnb told you that you could.
- On ROB
“You give peanuts, you get monkeys”, right? How much is too much? Ask your clients. It seems strange that this is the hardest part to sell. Branding is a capital investment; it is where it all starts or ends horribly. Driving a brand through strategy is the safest road to ROB, one that every customer can understand.
And that is why branding is not just a logo. It is the sum of a calculated risk, an innovative projection of change, an implication of adoption and the safest road to a solid return on investment through strategy.