Is your Brand Having a Midlife Crisis?

By David Sauter, CEO

Published: March 4, 2022

An all too familiar pattern occurs for those of us who are lucky enough to have made it to midlife. We suddenly forget who we are and what we stand for. At the very least, we reassess those value systems. The same thing happens to brands. Every brand goes through a brand life cycle, similar to its human counterparts. 

The early years.

A brand is just getting started, full of optimism and ready to take on the world but far too ignorant to feel the fear that keeps the older brands up at night.

Next, you have the cocky adolescent phase.

Real money is coming in; the brand is starting to get a taste for real success. It’s time to make some moves and take some risks!

Oh, no! Here comes the news radio and yacht rock.

In this next phase, a brand is reaping the rewards of their risk-taking and now has some substantial investments. All this overhead means no more crazy risk-taking; it’s time to start “adulting.”

Typically a midlife crisis happens between ages 40–65. We find that brands tend to reach their ‘crisis’ stage when they reach about $500MM to $1B in revenue. The transition from first-generation family owners to second and third generations can add to these turbulent times. The brand that once spent money on cool technology upgrades is paying consultants to label staplers on desks. (This is for real, ask us sometime.)

At this phase in the brand life cycle, we’ve seen lots of crazy. We’ve watched brands who have long-established who they are in the market suddenly wig out and hire a big city branding agency to create an expensive “brand study” to tell them who to be in a printed and bound document. For some reason, there is a permanence with print that provides executives a sense of stability. This “brand study” usually accompanies a logo refresh because what better way to tell the world you’re not falling behind (while falling behind) than with a snazzy new logo.

So what is the cure for all this uncertainty and chaos? The cure isn’t found in jumping on the latest NFT trend or advertising in the Metaverse with no strategic plan. The cure is to get back to the basics. Start caring about your customers and look around you at how you treat those who are helping you. Are you putting the screws to your people and vendors to reduce every expense, or are you investing in relationships? Do you have an outside expert helping you create brand development strategies? The truth is, there are no shortcuts. Clever ad campaigns can’t save a brand with foundational flaws.

Where to start:

  • Consider what stage of the brand life cycle your company is in.
  • Take inventory of what is important to your organization and your brand.
  • Measure your marketing conversions against your priorities to ensure alignment.
  • Have a strategic planning document to guide your decisions. 
  • Invest in people and infrastructure.
  • Document the essence of your brand using brand style guides, content guides, brand personas, customer personas, etc., in a digital format that can evolve with your brand.
  • Determine where your competitive advantage lies in the market by consulting experts for an outside-in view as well as gathering insights from your team and clients.
  • Create a refined vision for your organization’s future by focusing on brand development strategies. 

If this all sounds scary, you’re in luck! We’ve been down this road many times with very large companies through every phase of their brand life cycle. We have boardroom-tested brand development strategies that can get your brand feeling like its young self again. 

Not sure what phase of the brand life cycle your organization is in? Need help creating brand development strategies? We’ve got you covered. Give us a call or fill out the form below.