by Lynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) February was all aflutter with love and romance as Mzansi celebrated Valentine’s Day. But, for marketers, love is a daily occupation — building brand relationships is the ultimate love story of business. Successful brands create beautiful romances with consumers, creeping into our hearts and capturing our imaginations.

However, like any great romance, brand relationships are not static. We need to work at love — renewing the stories we tell, the bonds created and the reasons to keep entranced by the brand romance. So how do great brands keep relationships fresh?

Renewing the brand romance

Brands seeking to keep great love stories alive must grapple constantly with the challenges of brand reinvention. For the world’s most-loved brands, brand positioning is enduring but not unchanging. Relationships must grow and evolve to remain relevant and, especially as brands seek new generations of users, building these connections requires reminders, reinvention, and renewal.

Reminding consumers of the greatest moments of your brand romance

For a generation of drivers, Volkswagen holds a special place in our memories, having been part of great family holidays and epic road trips of our youth. But how does Volkswagen renew the romance for a new generation of car owners amid the emissions scandal? In 2015, Volkswagen introduced a new-generation Kombi, smartly reminding us of the most-iconic moments of what makes Volkswagen great, and refreshing the narrative of a legendary vehicle for today’s drivers.

Creating great family memories is a purpose as relevant in 2015 as it was in the ’80s, and the new Kombi is a beautiful update of the classic, speaking to retro design and modern classics —an artful reminder with the right ingredients to reignite love of loyalists while kindling a fresh romance with new users.

Reinventing your purpose to stay relevant in a shifting culture

The world is changing faster than ever before. Brands embedded in an epoch in culture need to be ever-watchful of how that culture is moving and evolving, and stay ahead of where the world is going.

Axe has been an icon of masculinity for guys looking to get lucky for decades — the Axe Effect transforming men instantly into babe magnets. But constructs of masculinity are changing in a radical shift away from the guy’s guy to a more fluid and inclusive idea of what defines male identity. Axe’s response is an equally radical reinvention of its identity with Find Your Magic, a new campaign that embraces shifting masculinity.

The campaign stays true to the core of what Axe is — the brand that gives guys the edge in attracting women — but reinvents completely its narrative to encourage every guy to embrace their unique self to be most attractive.

Credible from the brand that brought us every macho stereotype of the last 10 years? A big ask, but from a brand with a love story perhaps strong enough to handle the reinvention.

Renewing your story to stay fresh and unlock new opportunities for growth

Coca-Cola is a brand that has stood head and shoulders above the crowd with clarity of purpose and brilliance of execution anchored in “Open Happiness”. Yet, the brand has struggled globally to unify its proposition and translate brand love into committed usage. Enter “Taste the Feeling”, a refreshed global campaign that is an evolution of “Open Happiness”, with a fresh new look and a narrative that heroes the Coke liquid as the catalyst of a feeling of happiness.

Visually, it’s a fresh, modern renewal of the Coke story. Will it power the same phenomenal activation of the brand in SA? Brand-lovers can only hope so.

Lessons for marketers

For the brands consumers love today, constantly renewing relationships that fuel growth is never easy. But some guiding principles may ensure renewal becomes a springboard for growth, rather than the breakdown of a great romance:

  • Understand and amplify your most lovable assets. Specific insight into the distinctive assets that connect most powerfully with consumers anchors brand love and gives marketers the guardrails for reinvention and renewal, as well as the clues that will remind consumers of your romance. Get specific and know what foundations are strongest for new growth.
  • Know the purpose of your renewal. A deep understanding of your market landscape and laser-clarity on new opportunities for growth can shape brand renewal. Seeking renewal out of boredom can deliver undirected change. But renewal rooted in clear new opportunities — new audiences for trial, new markets to play in, new platforms for usage — can fuel real growth.
  • Keep execution fresh and of the moment. Love is built as much in brand execution as in positioning, and consumers fall in love with campaigns, activations, soundtracks and sensory experiences. Creating beauty in execution — from digital to instore — is the stuff of the brand icons we love most.


Lynne GordonLynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) is the managing director at strategic marketing consultancy Added Value. She learned marketing on the job and is fascinated by the streets of South Africa, where small entrepreneurs — untrained as marketers — apply the art and science of branding to their businesses.

Her monthly MarkLives column, “Homegrown”, explores everyday businesses and the lessons corporate marketers can learn from the streets of Mzansi. Share your own observations, photos and examples of marketing from SA’s roadside with @lynne_gordon on Twitter.

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