Can a brand create a lifelong relationship with the consumer?

Can you have a life-long love affair with a brand? The answer is ‘yes’. But, like any relationship, it takes work.

It’s a story of attraction, lust, adultery and commitment. There’ll be that first, head-turning, attention-grabbing excitement at launch, when everyone desires it. Then there’s the bedding in, when the initial ‘disruption’ has dissipated and there’s a danger of it becoming a bit stale…then, if handled badly it’s suddenly ‘old hat’ and people get turned off.

So who has achieved cradle to grave loyalty and how have they done it? Well, Coca-Cola is a brilliant global example. It’s rolled with the times and kept its message fresh while retaining its famous identity and place at the top of the pops. In the health obsessed 80s when everyone was wearing Lycra and sweatpants and feeling the burn, how could something so full of calories survive? Diet Coke! Pop Stars promoted it. Girls on roller skates quaffed it in the sunshine and the consumer had a guilt-free treat to enjoy from a brand they could trust. Coca-Cola has outlived many of its customers and will be fuelling the fun of generations to come because it knows how to adapt without losing sight of what it is.

Brand Birthday: January 29th 1892. Net income, 2013: $8.584 billion – not bad for a 123-year-old.

The Mini is a good example of something that has kept its place in people’s hearts for more than half a century. It was a compact little run-around that became an icon of the 60s. People remember it with fondness because it was an affordable first car for many - it was popularised in iconic films like The Italian Job. Cute, reliable, affordable, inoffensive. The Mini is loved by everyone from ageing petrol heads to career girls-about-town. Its design has changed, evolved and adapted neatly to what necessitates a cool car in the 21st century. Today, it’s not so much an affordable first car, more one to aspire to. Its appeal has endured because its brand owners have stayed streets ahead in looking at what customers want. It’s still a Mini but these days it makes a statement too. For people who are going places a Mini says ‘I’ve arrived’.

Brand Birthday: August 1959. Re-invented more times than Madonna, but retains a cool Britannia vibe, despite being owned by a German company.

OK. I’ve only touched on two brands because this is a blog not a book and, quite frankly, I’d rather be working on your brand than wittering on about other people’s. But let me leave you with this, if I may…

Think of all the brands that have been around since you were born. Are they the same as they were when you were a kid? How did you feel about them then – and now? What keeps you coming back, or what has switched you off? A brand is born out of customers’ perceptions and direct experience. It can’t be forced – it must evolve, gain pace and stay one step ahead. A brand can’t be defined by a single clever advertising campaign but if every campaign beats to the rhythm of what a brand is, where it wants to be and who it is talking to, it can excite, affirm and intrigue – and be worth its weight in gold.

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