I’m rereading David Aaker’s excellent book, Building Strong Brands and in chapter 7 he goes over changing a brand, and the reasons why. He then counters them all saying that consistency is usually the best course (he’s not that didactic: he mentions KFC’s need to distance themselves from fried food. Hmm. Did that work?)
I had my aha of recognition when he mentioned this scenario: a brand manager is asked in a meeting with senior types what is he going to do about the fact that the brand has been flat the last three quarters. Will he
a) Say: I’m going to do the same thing as the last three managers?
b) Say: I have an exciting new plan to reinvent our brand!
The temptation for action is powerful, whether the change is needed or not.
So it goes with redesigns as well– it’s not the users who are bored with the design, it’s not the users who are bored with the brand, it’s the employees. And they decide on change.
The second whammy was my realization that most people determine that they are going to change before they realize how they are going to change.
This means companies have committed to change before they have determined if the change makes things better or worse. Then, six months down the line, millions of bucks in the hole, who is going to be the brave one who says “This is going to make things worse. Let’s not do it.” The same guy who said “I’ve got an exciting new plan?”
Of course there are may ways to avoid this trap: going in ready to get out, prototyping, testing with user groups, shorter change cycles, regular checkpoints to decide go/no go. But think of the last redesign you saw. Wasn’t more like “We’re doing a redesign AHHRRRRRRRRRRHHHHHHHAAAAAHHH” (my berserker imitation, excuse me).
At times like this I think of poor Levis, floundering to try to make themselves more relevent than the 501. All they did was weaken their claim to reliable comfortable real jeans, and take their changes with the piranhas of change: the fashionable set.
We, the ones who look at our site, our brand, our product ever day, we are the deadly ones. What our customers call comfort we call dull. We’re like a bored teenager that dies her hair blue over a long weekend. We must curb that energy, and point it toward extention and growth with care, rather than reinvention.