Rock Your Brand

bill_pembertonBrands are living things. They are an evolving mosaic of memory and emotion in the minds of your market that must be continually cultivated to form a positive brand experience.

Like all living things, they are born, they mature, they age and they ultimately die—often to be resurrected in different forms. As with Hollywood celebrities, it’s sometimes a mystery why some brands are perennial stars and others crash and burn. Marketers are constantly pondering the secrets of achieving brand longevity – just as talent agents do for their stable of stars.

A look at some hard-wearing, time-tested brands may be instructive here. While we may consider the most successful brands as being fixed icons based on their unchanging promise to the market – the truth is quite the reverse. These brands haven’t endured because they are unchanging classics, but precisely because they did evolve in unison with a changing marketplace. Their brand promises tracked with public sentiment like heat-seeking missiles.


Throughout its evolution, the Coca-Cola logo has always mirrored the style of the times while staying true to the original.

For example, the advertising logos of Coca-Cola® and Ford® have changed little since 1950, yet the brands themselves both stand for deeply different values in the market mind more than 60 years later. In 1950, Coca-Cola was all about physical refreshment and socialization. If you remember the slogan “the pause that refreshes”—don’t admit it. Today it’s all about being hip, having fun, engaging in global citizenship, and sometimes just being happy in general.

The 1950 Ford automobile was about dependability and style. In 2013, Ford is still about style, but only in part. In a world where dependability and style are givens, Ford’s focus is now on technology, economy and social responsibility. Both Coke® and Ford are light years from where they started, yet both have endured because they evolved intelligently and organically. The only constant was their core value of remaining relevant to their customer base.

Today, Coca-Cola and Ford are senior citizens, the aging stars of the brand world. But they are the Mick Jaggers and Helen Mirrens of the marketing world – clearly dated but still unquestionably cool and attractive, and major brands in their own right. As senior living marketers, we should understand the principle at play here: attitude trumps age, every time. “Copping an attitude” may just be the elixir your senior living brand needs – and that attitude shift may need to be radical.

The brand promise that resonated with the World War II “Greatest Generation” reflected their attitude toward life itself—a sense of duty and self-sacrifice. All they asked of retirement was basic comfort and security. As we know, these aspects of senior living are now considered givens by the Baby Boomers—just as dependability is a universal expectation in buying a car today.

No matter when your senior living brand was born—one, 10 or 100 years ago—it must connect to market attitudes today and into the foreseeable future. That attitude is about extended, vital longevity in contrast to a weakening decline and lessened longevity. It’s about the difference between Geritol and Viagra. It’s more about testosterone therapy than breathing therapy.

If the Boomer generation has an anthem, it’s Mick Jagger’s “Start Me Up” delivered with all the swagger and energy of the Rolling Stones—now senior citizens themselves. Reposition your brand with that beat in mind. True, it will attract mainly the independent living segment first, but as they continue to age, you will maintain their loyalty through the continuum of care. So even when they need walkers and no longer feel like “Jumping Jack Flash,” they will still resonate with “Time Is on My Side.”

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