Brand Life Stage 4: Adulting

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Willoughby Design



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Brand Life Stage 4: Adulting

The single most important thing every brand must do as it comes of age.

Fourth in our Brand Life Series, we are taking a look at brands that are all grown up. The identity system is complete, there are standards in place, the marketing is humming and business is growing. The brand has gathered fans, some of whom are telling their friends, and engagement is increasing.

The first instinct is to enjoy the moment and hit cruise control, right? Wrong.

Introducing: the Adult Brand.

Don't Muck it upIt’s that simple and exceedingly complex. Let’s discuss.


Apple, Nike, Warby Parker, McDonald’s, Peloton, Yeti.

Think of a strong, beloved brand and you’ll realize that it does not stray from its core standards. Blood, sweat, tears and money have been spent liberally to create a foundation that is multi-layered and meaningful. Whether an iconic brand or a popular new-ish one, when brands carefully guard and nurture the core principles and personality that anchors their identity, the result is neither stale nor static.

All of these brands are well known both for their consistency and for their courage to bring new products and ideas to market. Some fail and learn from their mistakes (hello and goodbye, McDLT), but when they succeed, that success is possible by knowing and adhering to their brand.

The biggest mistake that we see adult brands make is when leadership strays from what made them successful in the beginning. The brand may become diluted or try to evolve too soon and both are confusing to customers. Even more detrimental is when the creative team gets “bored” and starts introducing new, unrelated brand elements too quickly.

We get it, the struggle is real and adulting is hard. The line between consistency and the agility that keeps fans engaged is a delicate balance. But if you stop investing in supporting your brand or lose confidence in your brand and stop following your own brand standards, you will lose the trust of your customers and they’ll move on. When a brand has a solid foundation, and the nerve to try new things while staying true to its brand promise, the results get noticed.

As we have said before, brands, like people, move through life stages. As we continue our Brand Life series, we will be addressing life stages that most adult brands face at one time or another. Events like marriage (mergers and acquisitions), children (creation of sub-brands) or a mid-life crisis (pressure from challenger brands) and even death  (RIP).

Willoughby has been helping brands imagine their best lives for more than 45 years. From start-ups to established brands to brands in crisis, we’ve navigated it all.

Where is your brand in its brand life? Visit our Brand Life page to learn about all of the stages.