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What Is Brand Evolution and How To Do It Right

What is Brand Evolution and How to Do It Right

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For many small businesses like yours, the key to growth, longevity, and market dominance is the ability to evolve. What works today may not work tomorrow, as market dynamics, consumers’ needs, and preferences constantly change.

So, if you want your small business to remain relevant to your target audience, smooth and consistent brand evolution is not just critical, but essential. This includes modifying your logo, slogan, product line, or simply anything that adjusts your brand to modern trends. 

Many brands have undergone drastic transformations over time. Your favorite Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Pepsi have all modified themselves in recent years. The reason? To stay relevant to audiences. 

In this post, I will cover some essential branding evolution insights to help you understand this concept:

  • Brand evolution explained in detail
  • Why and how evolving your brand might be the best strategic decision for your small business.
  • Some evolving brands that wowed the world
  • Brand evolution strategy and process, including logo evolution examples
  • Difference between rebranding and brand evolution
  • Brand evolution tips

What is brand evolution?

Brand evolution is developing and changing a brand over time according to consumer preferences, market conditions, and business goals.

Brand evolution can involve slightly tweaking a brand’s visual identity or completely overhauling its core values, products, or services. The main objective is to strengthen a brand’s connection with its target audience, increase its relevance, and give it a competitive advantage.

The evolution of a brand isn’t rapid. Instead, it happens gradually, starting with small changes and growing larger over time. These modifications impact your audience’s perceptions and purchasing behavior in the long run. 

Simply put, brand evolution ensures you are updated with the latest industry trends and market conditions.

Related: Small business branding guide

Benefits of brand evolution

As a small business owner, the first thing you might think before undergoing brand evolution would be, “What exactly will I gain from it?”

The benefits of successful brand evolution are phenomenal, especially if you want to build a timeless brand like that of Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Burberry, etc.

Here are just a few of what your business will benefit from evolving to meet changing customer needs.

1. Maintained relevance

There is something Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Levi’s, and other top timeless brands have in common – they have maintained relevance over the years. 

Maintaining brand relevance comes from understanding changing customer needs and preferences and evolving to meet them. By evolving your brand, you can adapt to new trends, technologies, and customer needs. 

This can help you stay relevant to your target audience, ensuring your brand remains appealing and valuable.

Customers align with brands that understand their needs, take their side on social or political issues, and continuously deliver on their promise of effective customer experience. Click To Tweet

2. More differentiation

Brand evolution creates your unique identity, helping you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. 

Updating your brand’s look, messaging, and values can change people’s perceptions of your company. You can improve your brand’s overall image by communicating that you are modern, innovative, and forward-thinking.

This can help you to stand out in a crowded marketplace and attract more customers.

3. Enhanced brand loyalty

Customers will not think twice before leaving a brand that does not meet their needs and preferences. In fact, customers are 2X more likely to buy first, stay loyal, and advocate for brands they trust.

That in itself is a huge reason why you should definitely evolve your brand over time. It assists you in delivering what your customers need, making them return to your brand for more.

4. New market opportunities

One of the most lucrative benefits of brand evolution is appealing to new audiences and expanding your reach.

Most brands launch with a single product, service, and/or messaging. However, as they evolve, they expand their product line, services, and/or messaging based on recent consumer behavior and market trends.

Brands like Apple, Google, PayPal, and Abercrombie & Fitch are good examples of companies that started with a single product and evolved.

Apple, for instance, started as a computer manufacturing company and later diversified into phones, electronics, watches, etc. In fact, the company was founded in 1976 but did not make its first phone until 2007. 

Today, Apple is one of the best luxury phone manufacturers in the world, with a 24.1% global mobile market share. If that’s not motivating you to adopt brand evolution, I don’t think anything ever will! 

5. Unified brand experience

Sometimes, brands lose focus of their identity as they evolve and add more products or services. This can cause branding inconsistencies, rough customer journeys, inefficient business processes, and a significant loss of customers.

Successful branding evolution brings uniformity to your brand’s identity, business model, products, and services. It ensures consistency across channels, including visual designs, texts, colors, etc. We will check out some logo evolution examples later in this article.

Benefits-of-Brand-Evolution

Brand evolution stages

The evolution of a brand comprises six stages, including:

1. Unbranded goods

It is the initial stage of branding evolution. A brand markets and sells its products without a logo or name. Since they have no brand name, they are priced cheaply and have major quality concerns.

Such brands include unbranded cereals, pasta, and dry fruits at supermarkets. 

2. Brand as a reference

At this stage, the products are marketed under the manufacturer’s name. Such items are considered trustworthy, as customers can easily search for them, learn about them, and ensure their quality.

Some examples include Apple, Colgate, and Samsung.

3. Brand as a personality

This is the stage at which brands choose a “human personality” as their identity. It is done through effective packaging, advertising, and promotional campaigns. 

For example, we know who Steve Jobs is. He is the man behind Apple. Similarly, we all are familiar with Mark Zuckerburg – the mind behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The same goes for Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder.

4. Brand as an icon

At this stage, a brand steps up its game and transforms its logo into an icon or symbol with a meaningful concept. Customers then recognize the brand with this logo/icon, and it becomes their identity. 

One of the best evolving brands at this stage is McDonald’s. Its iconic “M” is the first thing that comes to mind whenever someone talks about fast food. The same is the case with Apple. We instantly think about the “bitten apple” when someone talks about an iPhone or iPod. Apple is another one of the great logo evolution examples.

5. Brand as a company

When customers start recognizing a brand, they want to learn more about the company and understand its offerings. That’s when brands establish two-way communication with customers to engage them efficiently. 

Tesla is an excellent example of branding evolution at this stage. It popularized the “electric car” concept to the extent that people only think about Tesla whenever they think about sustainable vehicles.  

6. Brand as policy

Your brand is the true representation of your company. At this stage, companies ensure that their brand (the messaging they put out in the front) aligns with their practices, culture, and policies. 

Consumers prefer to connect with companies that adhere to ethical values and policies. TATA is an excellent example of such a brand.

Brand evolution examples & strategies

Many business owners think brand evolution is only about logo design or color changes.

The below logo evolution examples may make you think like this, too, but here is a reality check before we move forward: A brand evolution strategy goes beyond visual modifications.

This journey takes different shapes, from updating visual identity to changing messaging to appeal to a new generation or a larger or more defined customer base.

Many brands have revamped their logos, added new products or services, and changed their color or messaging to respond to evolving consumer preferences and behaviors.

Here are some examples that show the evolution of branding:

Logo redesign

A brand is much more than a logo.

That being said, a logo redesign is one of the first things that comes to mind about brand evolution. It is an excellent way for evolving brands to communicate minor changes to their target customers.

Instagram is one of the best logo evolution examples. The platform is known for its iconic camera image logo. It has kept it the same but made minor changes over the years to consistently meet customers’ visual appeal.

In 2016, Instagram updated its logo to a more modern design with a simplified camera outline and bright, gradient colors. 

Brand Evolution Examples - Instagram logo change

Even today, Instagram stays true to its brand identity and competitive positioning as a visually-driven social media platform that encourages self-expression, creativity, and community building.

Another example of evolving brands is Pepsi. From just the text (Pepsi-Cola) to the iconic red, blue, and white ball icon with a small text (Pepsi), the brand has undergone some serious work. 

Pepsi logo redesign

When discussing evolutionary branding, how can we forget BMW? Although the brand has retained its iconic blue and white wheel icon, it has refined its colors and made it more modern and sleek. Here is an excellent logo evolution example:

BMW logo redesign

It is important to maintain your core brand value proposition no matter how much your brand's visual identity evolves over time. Click To Tweet

Brand color change

Burberry shows us another typical example of how brands evolve.

The company was initially known for its iconic check pattern but has undergone several brand color changes as time and purpose demanded. In the early 2000s, Burberry’s products had countless counterfeits, prompting the British luxury fashion brand to undergo a series of brand evolution processes.

In 2018, the company introduced a new, modernized logo and changed its brand colors from beige to a brighter, more vibrant blue.

Brand Evolution Examples - Burberry color change

Isn’t it a newer, more refreshing outlook?

Product diversification

Product and service diversification are other forms of brand evolution.

For instance, Apple started as a computer company producing personal computers that are small, convenient to use, and inexpensive. 

Over time, it evolved from just a computer manufacturing company to a consumer electronics company with products such as the transformed MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple's product diversification

Shift in messaging

If the brand values remain unchanged, a company can modify its messaging to communicate better. 

Changing brand messaging is a brand identity evolution technique smart businesses use to stay relevant to their target audience while breaking into new markets. That’s known as the evolution of brand management.

This is evident in how Coca-Cola has evolved from a brand focusing on the product to concentrating on the customers’ emotions and experiences. Initially, their messaging centered on marketing Coke as a medicinal drink.

Coca-Cola brand evolution example

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

But today, Coke is marketed as something more than soda. With Coca-Cola’s current messaging, a Coke translates to just one thing – happiness.

Sharing a bottle of Coke with someone means sharing happiness and extending a hand of friendship.

CocaCola Ad positioning the drink as a drink for happiness
Source: Peter Phan.

If you are curious about how these brands evolved their businesses smoothly, read on to understand the evolution process to do it for your brand.

Brand evolution process

Brand evolution is the series of steps to grow and adapt to the changing market demands, consumer behavior, and industry trends.

The process can vary depending on the specific brand and its goals. The stages include brand assessment, brand evolution strategy, identity design, marketing, and management.

Here is a general step-by-step brand evolution process:

1. Conduct a brand audit

Start by reviewing your brand’s current position in the market. For that, assess your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It will help you identify areas where the brand is strong and where it needs work.

It all starts with answering all your ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what.’ Doing so will define your process and direct you toward achieving your goals best. 

Some questions you should be asking in your brand audit include:

  • Is my brand messaging confusing for customers?
  • Does my brand messaging align with the current market trends?
  • How can I differentiate my brand from the competitors?
  • How can my brand speak to the market and new audience?
  • Is my brand flexible and future-proof for expansion?
  • Does my brand story reflect the company’s values?
  • Does my brand create a memorable impression on the audience’s mind?

2. Refine your strategy

Based on your brand audit and target audience analysis, develop a comprehensive brand strategy for evolution to maximize and improve the brand.

A few key elements of a brand strategy include your brand’s positioning, messaging, visual identity, and communication channels.

If you have not created a brand story before, do it now. 

Find a new story to tell to your audience that keeps your messaging fresh and engaging for your consumers. It should also be personalized for your audience, attracting leads to your brand and boosting your reputation in the market. 

You need to have a vision of your brand’s future and build a roadmap to achieve that vision.

An efficient brand development strategy is a crucial step in the evolution process, helps guide future brand activities, and fosters brand consistency. Click To Tweet

3. Refresh your brand design

Once you know the current state of your company and develop a brand evolution strategy to improve it, the next step is to create a visual identity to communicate the changes.

Some brand imagery examples to refresh include tweaking brand logos, color palettes, typography, and other visual properties that make your brand recognizable. 

If you are familiar with business color psychology, you know that specific colors impact consumers differently. 

For instance, red indicates warmth, intensity, and excitement; green represents health, harmony, and peace. Moreover, blue shows calmness, responsibility, and friendliness, and yellow symbolizes happiness, excitement, and hope. 

You should decide what emotion you want your customers to feel while interacting with your brand. Then, redesign your brand’s message and brand evolution strategy to align with your brand’s vision. 

4. Create relevant messaging

The next step in the evolution of a brand is to communicate the brand messaging pillars and your brand adjectives to your target audience through various marketing channels.

Advertising, social media, and email are some key avenues that you can use to show your target audience the changes you have made to your brand. 

One critical aspect that many brands overlook here is “personalization.” Nowadays, customers expect personalized treatment from the companies they interact with. They don’t just want a buyer-seller relationship but a strong connection.

So, whether you use emails or social media advertisements, ensure your promotional messages aren’t too salesy or pushy. You must develop an authentic messaging or narrative that establishes personalized consumer connections. 

5. Monitor your brand evolution

Once you have worked on your brand evolution strategies and implemented the changes, you should keep tracking them to see how your audience responds. This is an essential and continual process. 

If you have done all the work correctly, your brand acceptance, loyalty, and engagement should grow after the brand evolution process. 

Track your brand’s success using metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, email campaigns, and sales. This will help you identify areas for improvement.

Remember, this is not a one-time process. You should keep monitoring the progress of your brand evolution and make adjustments to your branding strategy. 

Brand Evolution Process for Small Businesses

Rebranding vs. brand evolution: What are the differences?

Rebranding vs. brand evolution can be confusing for small businesses. 

You are probably curious how brand evolution differs from rebranding, a term you are likely used to. Maybe you came across the term – brand evolution – while searching for rebranding.

Both terms represent changes in how a brand looks, interacts, and presents itself to its target audience. However, there are a few differences:

  • The extent of changes. Rebranding completely overhauls a brand’s look, messaging, products and services, and internal processes. Brand evolution or brand refresh, on the other hand, refers to the subtle changes in how a brand looks, acts, and presents itself.
  • The purpose. Rebranding occurs when a brand wants to repair a bad reputation, move into a new market with a new target audience, or employ a new management that feels things should be done differently. Brand evolution changes are made in response to customer feedback, design trends, and slight changes in internal processes.
  • The process. A rebranding is usually a drastic process, whereas brand evolution is a smooth transition to a more refreshed brand identity while keeping the core brand values and story the same.

Big businesses usually hold a launching event to announce brand changes and inform the target audience about what to expect.

The difference between rebranding and brand evolution is in the depth of the changes made and how long the process takes. Click To Tweet

Difference between rebranding and brand evolution

Small business brand evolution tips

Brand evolution can be challenging, especially if you are a small business working on it for the first time.

Here are some helpful tips:

1. Know your target audience

It would be difficult to evolve your brand according to your target audience’s needs and preferences if you do not understand them.

Before starting the branding evolution process, conduct market research to understand your target audiences’ interests. This will make it easier to meet your customers’ needs and preferences.

This will ensure that your brand evolution process is going to be effective.

2. Stay true to your core values

As you evolve your brand, it’s important to stay true to your core values and mission. Ensure that any changes you make align with your brand’s purpose and don’t compromise its integrity.

Related: Brand purpose examples

3. Update and improve your online presence

It is essential to update your websites, social media accounts, and other online platforms to reflect the changes in your brand identity. Do this uniformly across all your online platforms to ensure message consistency.

4. Be open to feedback

Before you launch your brand evolution process, get feedback on the proposed changes from stakeholders like your customers, employees, or other people related to your industry.

You need to understand how your brand changes could be perceived and, if necessary, make changes based on that feedback.

5. Be patient

Brand evolution takes time and effort. Be consistent and patient in your efforts, and you will be able to create a strong brand identity that resonates now and in the future.

Is brand evolution right for you?

Brand evolution is crucial for small businesses looking to stay competitive and relevant in an ever-changing market. 

It goes beyond tweaking your brand logos and color schemes to create an attractive brand identity. Instead, you must continually evaluate and refine your brand to better connect with your target audience and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Embracing branding evolution as a continuous process will position your business for continued growth and success.

Have you worked on a brand evolution exercise for your brand before? How did you do it? Share your stories!

Brand Evolution: Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

What is the brand evolution?

Brand evolution changes a brand over time according to consumer preferences, market conditions, and business goals. It can be slightly tweaking a brand’s visual identity or completely transforming its core values, products, or services. 

What are the elements of the branding evolution process?

The branding evolution process includes logo redesign, color change, product diversification, or a shift in massaging. 

What are the steps of brand evolution?

The brand evolution process includes conducting a brand audit, refining your strategy, refreshing your brand design, creating relevant massaging, and monitoring your brand evaluation progress. 

What are the benefits of evolving a brand?

Evolving a brand ensures relevancy, differentiation, and brand loyalty and opens new market opportunities. It helps brands connect with their audiences, attract more leads, and achieve a competitive edge in the market.

How does rebranding and brand evolution differ?

The rebranding includes drastically transforming a brand’s look, messaging, products and services, and internal processes. It helps brands improve their reputation and enter a new market. On the other hand, brand evolution refers to the subtle changes in how a brand looks, acts, and presents itself. It assists in responding to customer feedback, design trends, and changes in internal processes. 

Christopher Iwundu

Christopher Iwundu

Christopher ‘Positive Equator’ Iwundu is a freelance SEO content marketing specialist with over five years of experience. He works with B2B and B2C business owners looking to generate and convert leads with content marketing.

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David
11 months ago

The Instagram app icon is classic. It went from 3D to flat because all mobile buttons went flat. It was a sad day in logo land.
Another classic example of brand evolution is Starbucks. Have you noticed how that logo has changed over the course of the past few decades?

Ryan Biddulph
11 months ago

All smart tips here Christopher. Being different in branding terms to serve and stand out is so key yet few muster up the courage to walk off of the blogging and branding beaten path. Goodness knows I have at times LOL. Sure it feels uncomfortable to do things differently. But that is why we all have our unique gifts, talents and paths to walk. We all have specific jobs to be truly helpful, to craft stand-out brands and to be of best service but need to listen to our intuition for guidance. If you ignore the intuition you will fit in, your brand never evolves and no one will notice you. Not because you work little, or, offer a poor brand experience per se, but because you looked past the small, still voice that guided you to have fun and stand out.
Ryan

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