In the headlong race to stay competitive, it can be easy to take your brand for granted. But part of keeping a brand sharp is posing questions about its present and its future. Asking “what if…” can force you and your team into some frank discussions, but they can often bear substantial benefits in the long run. Here are a few “what ifs” to ponder:
What if we were starting our brand today? Forget the past for a few minutes and think about the present and the future. If you were starting up your brand today, would it be exactly the same? Or would you look to make some adjustments to its message or even the name? In 2007, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be dropping the word “Computer” from its official name and broadening its focus as a consumer electronics company. At the same time, Apple introduced the iPhone and the smartphone revolution kicked into high gear. Even though you could argue that an iPhone is a computer, Apple saw that the term was ultimately limiting and cast it aside, a classic example of less-is-more if ever there was one. If you were starting your brand today, would it have the same name? Would it offer the same products or services? Would it target the same markets?
What if another brand tries to compromise your position? A simple, memorable brand position is great, but not if it’s easily duplicated. Quiznos grew rapidly by focusing their brand on toasted subs. It was a hugely popular distinction from the cold subs sold by Subway and mom and pop delis around the world. At its peak, Quiznos had more than 5,000 locations. Then Subway put small toaster ovens in their stores that could duplicate the Quiznos USP. With no answer for Subway’s move, sales tanked and Quiznos eventually filed for bankruptcy. It now has less than 800 U.S. locations. Subway didn’t copy the Quiznos brand with their mini ovens, they simply neutralized the edge that Quiznos had built their brand around.
What if our industry changes? Look no further than the digital world and huge brands like Kodak and Blockbuster that were unable to adapt quickly enough to changes in their businesses. Blockbuster was caught flatfooted in the switch to online delivery and was quickly knocked out by Netflix. Kodak tried to develop a digital camera but failed to be competitive. Both brands stayed committed to their existing business model for too long and couldn’t catch up to newer, more innovative brands. One company that did adapt its brand to a changing digital world was IBM, which went from selling high-end typewriters to developing the first PCs and laptops, and then shifted to large-scale computing solutions serving businesses.
So take some time to ask a few what-if questions about your brand. What would you do differently to deliver a great brand experience? Would it have the same brand name? What products or services could you throw out and what would you keep to polish and focus on? Asking these questions now could help you prepare for the future, which, as always, is right around the corner.