CPG Leaders Should Closely Monitor Brand Relevance

July 24, 2020

NEW YORK, July 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- CPG leaders need to continually reassess the relevance of their time-honored brands—or else risk falling behind the culture curve, writes Gregg S. Lipman, Managing Partner at brand strategy and design agency CBX, in a column for marketingdive.com.

Backlashes can result from leaving decades-old brands in place even as culture evolves, cautions the veteran branding executive. "It's why we've seen the sudden reappraisal of longstanding brands such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's, Mrs. Butterworth's and Eskimo Pie."

In the July 21 piece ("Offensive brands are exiting stage left. What took so long?"), Lipman notes that offending brands have, in many cases, lingered at shelf far longer than they should have: "Isn't it shocking that it took a moment of such magnitude—hundreds of thousands of people all over the world taking to the streets amid a pandemic—for this reckoning to occur?"

Part of the reason, he explains, is that decision-makers are tempted to leave profitable brand equities alone, decade after decade. "But brands do not live in a time capsule," Lipman writes. "They're enmeshed in a dynamic society in which the way people think, feel and perceive continually evolves, and where culture continually morphs."

In the piece, Lipman offers a three-step process for evaluating brand equities, whether a color, icon, font, logo or mark, based on consumer perceptions:

  • The first step is to gauge its basic recognizability. "I know red's in the soda aisle," Lipman writes. "I can't tell you what brand it is or what flavor it is, but it's familiar."
  • Identifiability indicates a closer relationship between the consumer and the equity in question. Lipman uses the example of a consumer identifying red on the soda aisle with Coca-Cola. "When people can put a name to an equity, there's value creation," he explains. "Various brand assets can be developed and deployed to reinforce the brand's purpose and positioning such that the brand receives direct credit."
  • The third axis is relevancy. Key questions to consider: What is the implication of the particular brand equity in question? What mind states does it trigger in consumers when they encounter it? How does it make them feel? What are the positive and negative consequences of such choices?

This latter dimension is of particular importance with respect to the culture curve, Lipman notes: "If the product was launched at the 1893 World's Fair and its relevancy hasn't been revisited, be forewarned."

In addition to looking at consumer perceptions in the present-day, it's critically important to consider how they may change in the future.

However, to position tired brands for the future may require courage in the face of financial and other pressures. Back in the late 1990s, Lipman was part of a team that redesigned the pack for Children's Tylenol, replacing a dated, black-and-white drawing of a young Caucasian boy with an image that was more inclusive, nurturing and ahead of the curve.

Asking the client to ditch that black-and-white picture, which had graced the pack for years, was a gut-check moment, Lipman notes in the conclusion to the piece. "It was a childhood sketch of one of the company's most senior executives."

The full piece is available at https://www.marketingdive.com/news/offensive-brands-are-exiting-stage-left-what-took-so-long/581988/

About CBX CBX is an independent agency specializing in brand strategy and design services, including branding, innovation, packaging and retail design. Founded in 2003, the company currently employs nearly 100 creative and support staff at its New York City headquarters and Minneapolis office. Its client list includes Mondelez, Kroger, Keurig Dr Pepper, General Mills, Hain Celestial, and Merck.