There is a cycle at work here.
1. Brands start out by targetting a core group of customers
2. As the brand increases in awareness and popularity, it starts to appeal to mass consumers outside its core group of consumers
3. As the time goes by and the brand proposition looks increasingly generic and old fashioned, the brand upgrades its look & feel and try make itself look younger and cooler.
4. As competition intensifies in their category, the brand understands that the only way to guarantee future growth is if they target young users.
Catch’em young and they will serve you for decades – that has been the mantra that brands live by. From Nescafe to Gap to Telenor – all brands upgraded their look & feel to make them more appealing to the 16-24 target segment. Disney just took the game even further. To prepare a new market for their products in an increasingly alien market like China, Disney has opened an English language teaching school in China which teaches chinese babies how to speak English by using cool Disney items (Mickey Mouse etc.) as props. To them, thats how you create a new market that futureproofs your business.
But there are three interesting reverse trends and opportunities thats coming out of it. Marketers need to be careful of this youthful makeover trend as it works as a trap as well.
1. As all brands are upgrading their look and repositioning themselves for youth, the brands that remain consistent without going through changes might all of a sudden become very successful. In an increasingly uncertain and changing world, the brand that remains true to its core proposition, look and feel – can become the anchor of stability that consumers may end up liking. Amul can be a great example as the core look and feel of the brand stayed the same for a better part of 25 years.
2. As all brands appeal to youth, the ones that are targetting other segments (i.e. Corporate, Senior Citizens) might profit by focusing in a relatively uncluttered field. Harley Davidson is increasing their business by steadily focusing on the increasingly older Harley users. While the whole telecom market was looking at youth, Blackberry slowly created the smart phone platform by focusing on executives.
3. As all brands try to attract youth by making their look and feel cooler; all brands may start to look pretty much the same; like all youth whose starting to look more or less the same with their messy hair-do, low cut jeans and converse snickers.