Resurrecting Brand Innovation

Some brands just need a little dusting off and a fresh new pedestal to stand on.

Some brands just need a little dusting off and a fresh new pedestal to stand on.

I went to the Museum of Vancouver this week to see how their rebranding efforts are working. Kudos to Amanda Gibbs and the team there for kick-starting the transformation of a moribund institution, formerly known as the Vancouver Museum. It’s fresh and alive now, and the current show about Taxidermy, called Ravishing Beasts, was a sock-knocker-offer. As I walked through and looked at the stuffed birds and beasts, it occurred to me that not only was the reinvention of the museum a good branding lesson, but so too was the taxidermy on display.

Most of the taxidermy specimens in the show are from the permanent collection. They’ve been sitting on the shelves in the basement for years. No one really gave them much thought. They were there, but why that mattered wasn’t exactly clear.

Then some bright spark decided that this art form, which, the show argues, celebrates the lives of the animals and teaches us things about ourselves and our complicated relationship with nature, could be made relevant if seen through new eyes. Conceptual artists were asked to participate in presenting the specimens in new ways. Relationships between man and nature are exposed. Our ability to wipe out entire species is examined. All kinds of important stories are told. Suddenly, taxidermy is made relevant. Not just relevant, but important. It’s an artful twist.

In the race to innovate and create new exciting ideas for our companies, sometimes the answers are in the basement, just waiting to be seen through new eyes. What aspects of your brand could use a little dusting off and a fresh new pedestal to stand on? Perhaps you have excellent customer retention, for which you continually pat yourself on the back at year-end meetings and in your annual report. Viewed from a new perspective, this fact could become a central story for your brand in the year ahead.

What do you do well, so well in fact that you are blind to how important it could be for your company? Do you have more inventory than your competitors? Do you have a longer history? Perhaps the breadth and depth of your offering is unparalleled. Maybe your company was responsible for some aspect of the industry that is now the new normal, but at the time of invention was a radical new development?

The Museum of Vancouver (MOV) decided it was time to do something about how it was perceived in the market. They mined their past, discovered their value, and re-framed and highlighted the aspect of their brand that had always been there but was an untold story. They have become the institution that helps the people of Vancouver tell stories about Vancouver to other people in Vancouver. No one else is doing this. They are our central story repository. It’s nothing new, but it’s newly framed.

Both the Museum itself and the taxidermy show currently on offer are wonderful models for anyone responsible for marketing and branding. The secret to a successful future may already be part of what you do. Marketing and branding innovation aren’t always about looking forward. Sometimes, you need to look back.