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How to Build a Cohesive, Living Brand

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

How do brands stay relevant in today’s digital world? 

How do you expand your reach and increase social engagement? 

How do you remain relevant to younger generations while maintaining a strong brand identity?

By not compromising the integrity of your brand.

Building a living brand allows you to adapt to your changing audience and create an engaging content marketing strategy for new channels while maintaining a consistent mission, vision, and core values.

A living brand is dynamic and fluid. It moves with its target audience and the evolving digital landscape. 

Today’s consumers expect more—more flexibility, more options, more personalized experiences, and more performance. Brands across every industry must rise to meet these expectations and communicate who they are in a way that connects—and outshines the competition. 

Do you feel like your brand is out of touch with the younger generations?

If so, the following three tips can help you adapt and stay relevant while building an authentic living brand. But first, let’s define what it is and how it’s different from traditional static brands. 

The Living Brand: Defined

A living brand is an extension of its customer’s needs, wants, and values. It never asks its customers to change or identify with them.

Living brands offer a consistent brand experience for both internal stakeholders and audiences. The customer is always in control and determines how, when, and where they engage with the brand. 

Aria Agency Senior Art Director, Brett Maurer explains, “I like to use a tree metaphor to simplify the idea of a living brand. Think of the core brand positioning and its intent as the tree trunk. Then, living applications of the brand are the branches and leaves that grow away from the trunk and into new spaces. Though they’re constantly growing, transforming, and evolving, but remain firmly connected to the trunk. In other words, a living brand is designed to anticipate the unknown with the understanding that the brand itself is free to shift to make the most of any particular application or environment.”

“Conversely,” he continues, “a static brand demonstrates a cookie-cutter approach for every channel, buyer persona, and context. This system has tried to plan and design for any application that may be needed in the future.”

The Living Brand: Examples

2020 Yeezy collaboration with GAP

GAP is a well-known and established brand with a highly recognizable logo. Here we see that GAP gave up its logo entirely to the Yeezy brand during the collaboration. 

logo of GAP and YZY

2022 Balenciaga collaboration with Adidas

A brand anticipating a partnership may also consider mixing logos to get instant recognizability. For example, the now infamous Adidas and Balenciaga collaboration.

balenciaga adidas collab logo

The Living Brand: Why It Works

The scenario: Your brand colors are black and white. Everything is black and white, no matter what, because that's what your style guide dictates.

The problem: Black doesn’t convert well on platforms like social media. Instead of pivoting to a color that does convert well, so many brands overlook this critical performance data. They struggle with low-performing content as a result.

“A living brand should embrace changes in tone and color,” says Brett. “It makes your advertising remarkable, and worthy of consumer curiosity."

A living brand allows its brand identity to grow into new spaces to engage audiences on different platforms and achieve better results. However, they still create a brand system that is less reliant on specific aesthetics and more on clarity and consistency of message and intent. 

“Living brands change and grow to meet the changing consumer expectations,” says Brett.

3 Ways to Build a Cohesive, Living Brand

Whether you’re looking for a fresh perspective to engage Gen Z or a total brand strategy realignment, here are three tips to help you build a living brand that connects with your audiences no matter where they are.

  1. Stay relevant and engaging

Successful brands are often closely connected to their communities—online and off. They understand their audiences' pain points as well as what they need and want.

If your brand’s message and visual identity remain static, rigid, or unchanging, you may lose opportunities to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Living brands must pivot to remain relevant and engaging. You must adapt your message to be relatable and address the interests, needs, and concerns of your target audience. These changes help your brand stay relevant and connected.

  1. Adapt—but don’t change

A living brand is like an individual’s personality and style. It adapts depending on the channel and conversation, but it doesn’t change its core identity or personality.

A brand’s visual identity needs to be fluid and dynamic.

“When marketers want to evoke emotion or drive action, a living brand gives them the flexibility to adapt their brand identity to something that’s appropriate for the channel,” says Brett.

People don’t change who they inherently are when they dress in a suit for the boardroom vs. sweats and sneakers for a 5K. Your essence is the same, but you adapt as needed to different environments.

The same goes for a brand on a podcast vs Instagram. it’s still the same brand, it’s just dressed for the occasion. 

A living brand is also cognizant of nuance and striking the right tone on different channels. Living brand messaging uses a consistent voice but changes its tone depending on the audience and their specific pain points.

  1. Be authentically you

Creating a living brand means being who you say you are—everywhere and all the time. 

It means being honest and authentic.

Authenticity is communicated through your brand voice and visual language.

Show people who you are, don’t tell them. Demonstrate authenticity by staying transparent and allowing your audiences to see behind the scenes.

If you’re not sure what your brand identity is, it’s important to find out. Your brand guidelines are vital to creating a living brand that engages different audiences in different channels.

Create and Nurture Living Brands With Aria Agency

The digital era has accelerated how people discover, transact, and use products and services.

Most companies have a digital-first component and it’s often a potential buyer's first interaction with your brand. It’s essential to have a living brand strategy that allows marketers to adapt and evolve brand colors, tone, and messaging. This allows them to nurture target audiences across different channels.
If you’re short on time and resources, an experienced marketing partner can help lighten the load. Aria Agency has a team of seasoned marketing professionals that would love to help build your living brand. Request a proposal today.

Ready to explore a partnership?

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