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What is the shelf life of a brand strategy?


If a brand strategy is created well, then your brand strategy is something that should last for years, if not decades. There are three scenarios when I would change my brand strategy.

  • The first is if your target customer has changed in a meaningful way.
  • The second scenario is if my competitive frame of reference has changed or if my competitive frame of reference has evolved so that what used to be an advantage that I had over this competitor is now not an advantage anymore.
  • The third scenario is if my own business’s strengths have changed. Any of these scenarios would call for an update to my business’s brand strategy.

I can think of one business that recently updated its brand strategy, and this is a business where all three of these scenarios had changed. Uber launched with a brand position that was all about everyone having their own private driver, and their competitive frame of reference at the time was town car companies. Uber’s strength at the time was that they had a fleet of town car drivers who would use this app and it would matchmake them with these customers. Their previous position was “Your Own Private Driver.”

Now Uber’s position is “A Better Way to Get There.” In Uber’s case, their target customer had evolved from a person who uses a town car to a person who uses all kinds of transportation services. Their competitive frame of reference had also changed because now they’re not just competing with private town car drivers. They’re competing with cabs. They’re competing with driving your own vehicle and parking. Lastly, but probably most importantly, Uber’s own strength had expanded. Their strength was really about ubiquity. They now can offer this huge promise of a better way to get there, and it’s appropriate for this newly expanded target customer, and it’s appropriate given the customer’s frame of reference, which is other ways of employing transportation, and it’s especially relevant because their strength now allows them to go to this larger territory.

Having explained that about Uber, though, most of us are not in a scenario where we need to change our brand strategy. I find that most people tend to overestimate the need to shift their brand strategy. What might be happening is that the messaging needs refreshing. Look and see whether it’s the way that it’s manifesting that needs freshening up before going to the roots and examining whether the strategy itself needs to change.

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