The secrets behind killer brands that know how to evolve

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Evolving Digital Branding

Transformational Trainer Adam Markel shares tips from his new book for successfully pivoting an established brand.

The greatest risk an established company faces is not a bad investment or a failed product launch, it is becoming inert. As with matter, the larger a company becomes, the harder it is to change direction -- yet change is essential for success, and innovative companies must embrace change and pivot to stay agile and keep growing. In his new book, PIVOT: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life (Simon & Schuster, Spring 2016), Transformational Trainer Adam Markel shares tips for successfully pivoting an established brand.

Markel is CEO of New Peaks, formerly Peak Potentials, and he speaks from his own experience. He was able to reinvigorate his company into one of the world's largest producers of human potential training workshops and seminars. Markel has experienced pivoting in his own life as well, as he ended a 17-year career as an attorney in Manhattan to pursue his dreams, after a health scare. It was then that he realized "Everything, including every company and brand, is either growing or dying."

Today, he dedicates his life to helping people and the brands they run grow. In fact, he sees the two as inseparably intertwined. "The keys to pivoting a brand are parallel to the steps individuals take to transform their lives. Each step begins with a vision," Markel explains. "What is your vision for your brand? What key marketplace demand will your brand fulfill that it isn't reaching? What is your dream for your brand's future? Vision can propel you past any obstacle, and is the key to pivoting a life, a company, and a brand."

Here are some steps Markel says successful brands must take to evolve:

Question Beliefs

"Beliefs are everything," Markel notes. "They create the reality around your brand and they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Examine your beliefs, and those of your clients, customers and stakeholders, regarding your brand. Look for limiting myths you might believe based on language. Beliefs often start with thoughts, such as: 'We can't ___, because ___,' or 'We have to wait for ____.'." Once you question your beliefs, you open up a space for change.

Let Go

"What attachments to the past no longer serve your brand?" Markel asks. "Toss aside those limiting attachments and start with a clean slate." Why is a clean slate important? "To pivot, we need to see clearly in front of us," he explains. "You can't pivot if you are looking backwards. But you also can't pivot if you are too attached to one particular plan for the future."

Examine Your Mission

Next, Markel encourages companies to reexamine their roots. "Ask, what is it about your brand's identity and mission that have made it a success so far? What aspects of that combination are no longer relevant and serving a useful purpose? What new realities of the market is your brand not addressing, and what steps do you need to take to fulfill those new purposes?" By spending time with these questions, new markets and different ways of doing business may reveal themselves. These opportunities can push your company to a new level.

Create Your Pivot Vision

Founders have a tendency to like new shiny objects, but the realities of changing course can be daunting. To avoid inertia, Markel suggests taking the time to plan whenever a new idea strikes. "When you have a new vision for your brand, you may feel a flush of excitement: 'Wow, wouldn't that be great!' Then just as quickly, the 'how-tos' begin dampening your enthusiasm, as you consider the practical obstacles that stand in your way. The fastest way to derail a pivot in its early stage is to start wondering how to accomplish it. Instead, shift your focus away from the potential obstacles and toward what you want to achieve," he advises.

Understand That Pivoting Is A Process

Finally, Markel notes that pivoting, like launching a new product, is a rigorous process with discrete steps. "Each step in the process creates the next step. Just because you can't see the next steps ahead doesn't mean they aren't there. When you are developing a new vision for your brand, this understanding allows you to become agile and respond to new realities both of changing markets and customer expectations. It's no longer 'business as usual', but a new conception about what your brand does and could do. Stay loose, and realize for every detour that pops up during the process, you must imagine a new way to accomplish your mission."

Being agile is not easy. As Markel says, "Every pivot requires an exchange, an investment of time, money, energy and emotion. Wherever you put your focus and your attention, you also place your energy, and your team's energy. Wherever that energy shows up, results will show up too. Just as a personal pivot involves discovering your deepest commitments, pivoting a brand requires that you examine the deepest values associated with your brand." Only once you do that, can you begin to imagine the new values associated with your company's retooled, revamped and revitalized identity.

Related: 10 logos then and now

10 popular logos then and now
See Gallery
The secrets behind killer brands that know how to evolve
Then (1997): Apple
Now: Apple
Then (1978): Nike
Now: Nike
Then (1975): Microsoft
Now: Microsoft
Then (1900): Shell
Now: Shell
Then (1900): Lego
Now: Lego
Then (1971): Starbucks
Now: Starbucks
Then (1953): McDonald's
Now: McDonald's
Then (1962): Target
Now: Target
Then (1957): Burger King
Now: Burger King
Then (1969): Wendy's
Now: Wendy's

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