How a Traditional Brand Can Stay Ahead


Digital technology has seen the rise of disruptive startups and the fall of incumbent businesses. Famously, big brands such as Woolworths, Blockbuster and Toys ’R’ Us have vanished from the high street. But how did these big brands who were once thriving manage to become irrelevant and lose their customer base? Simply put, they failed to focus on the customer experience and adapt to the changing behaviours of customers in their market.


A prime example of this is Blockbuster, who were killed off by the movie subscription model that Netflix started in 1999. This model has now become the norm for how we consume music and films, how we buy cars or even how we buy food. Another area that Blockbuster failed to address was its visual brand identity. Their logos, colours, fonts, tone of voice and advertising became out of date in the consumers’ minds. Design trends are moving quicker than ever before at almost fashion industry pace, and it’s vital to evolve to stay relevant.

Take a look below at the logo evolution of Marks & Spencer over the last 100 years.

Now, compare that to how Blockbuster looked when it launched in 1985 compared to when it became defunct in 2014.

Blockbuster logo, 1985-1996
Blockbuster logo, 1996-2014

Not a huge change there, I’m sure you’ll agree, as it decided to continue referencing old, defunct cinema tickets and a visual style that lived in the dead VHS era.


However, evolving your logo every 5-10 years isn’t going to magically solve all your problems. Nike haven’t changed their swoosh logo since the 1970s because it has built up so much brand equity, but their visual style evolves much more frequently so they remain relevant, inspiring and on-trend. The logo stays consistent, but they invest heavily in brand campaigns, advertising and innovation.

If you are a current market leader but are seeing disruptive startups or new technology changing the behaviours of your customers, here are three areas to invest in to remain on top:


Focus on your customers, not your competitors

If you focus on the needs of your customers, then everything else should follow. Look at not only how they interact with your business but how they use other products and services in their daily lives. If you can fit seamlessly around their behaviours – all the better. If you set out to improve the lives of your customers, you will build up a loyal fan base, which is incredibly valuable. If you have a product or service, the user experience and design need to be continually evaluated and evolved to stay ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing.


Review your visual brand identity

As we’ve seen with the likes of Woolworths and Blockbuster, their brands became tired, dated and in need of repair. Branding is something that needs to consistently evolve to stay contemporary and engaging to customers. You can also use new services such as Proquo, which gives you the ability to measure your ‘brand’ performance score against a competitor set. We use Proquo in combination with our branding expertise to give our clients actionable insights into how they can adapt their marketing communications or visual identity to appeal to customers in different ways. It’s all about knowing which levers to pull. Having a clear brand strategy will set in place the foundations for creating visual communications that are aligned to the business objectives.


Adopt an innovation culture

The most successful businesses in the world dedicate time and space for innovation or research and development. If you’re always listening, learning and testing, your product or service will improve. Embrace technology. Drive change. Reject convention. Google famously uses a 70|20|10 model. 70% of projects are dedicated to the core business. 20% of projects are related to the core business and 10% of projects are unrelated to the core business.

You may need to build an internal innovation team which could consist of researchers, product owners, technology experts, scrum masters, developers, UI, UX and service designers. Digital transformation teams can also be outsourced using a network of specialists, which in our own experience can often provide some of the best results.


So, by listening and caring about your customers and delivering what they need and desire will ensure you stay competitive. However, innovation and brand image will give you the edge. Standing still leads to losing out.