New generations come with new preferences, new technology and new ways of wanting to connect. Brands – regardless of their age or size – need to adapt to the needs, wants and desires of evolving audiences, and a constantly changing culture, without alienating existing audiences. But if you’ve already earned the coveted label of ‘iconic brand’, how do you evolve to appeal to new audiences, without losing what made you special or alienating your existing fans? What is the best way to change to ensure you retain your status whilst becoming a newly desirable modern icon?

We may think that in our world of progressive start-up brands, all bases are being covered for demanding and discerning consumers but – in such a globally diverse and competitive market – iconic brands are, in fact, more important and special to us than ever before. They are our beacons of recognition, consistency, and love, in an ever-changing and increasingly confusing landscape. We expect icons to change – they need to change – but when they do, they change our world. Our emotional reaction becomes the ultimate test and can make or break their presence and power.

Nowhere is the competition as fierce, and as complex, than in the diverse, eclectic and shifting landscape of our food industry. Not only do we expect better functional benefits but our need for emotional connection has never been greater and this presents a huge opportunity for our traditional and established iconic brands to both re-connect with loyal followers, through surprise and delight, and foster dynamic, yet meaningful, new relationships.

And when it comes to food icons, Cadbury has got to be one of the most recognised and beloved around the world. The challenge for Cadbury was to take a traditional icon and turn it into an experiential brand to connect with a modern consumer. But, with the confidence of who and what Cadbury stands for, the literal depiction of chocolate on their packaging could be removed, leaving space for a more joyful expression displaying different variants in the form of new and emotive characters – that could come alive across all brand touchpoints. In this way, Cadbury has moved beyond its recognised and established iconic cues – purple, white, Cadbury Dairy Milk – to create a more integrated brand world and more emotive experience.

We expect our icons to rise to new challenges but their leadership and success is, and always has been, defined by how they approach and create definitive change. And how they change is vital to how they connect with us now and in the future. Essentially, it’s about how brands look back to look forward, protecting and imbuing our icons with a sense of modern heritage and authenticity to underpin a new consumer sensibility as we seek access, and a sense of belonging, but with the option of individual choice and interpretation.

One of Britain’s best-loved and most iconic brands, but facing an increasingly competitive and changing world of savoury snacks, Jacob’s needed to broaden its reach and recognition as a modern and desirable snacking brand. By creating an emotive and impactful big idea – ‘Baked In’ – and amplifying the brand’s most-recognised and loved equities to create a modern, vibrant and robust visual identity – and a new geometric pattern of crackers to form a bold wall of Jacob’s on shelf – Jacob’s has reinvented its position as a contemporary icon and opened up a future world of appeal and opportunity.

A true icon never stops challenging and, looking outside of food to the audio sector, this was a critical issue facing Bang & Olufsen, an icon needing to rethink its existing offer and find a way to create bespoke experiences for an expressive generation of music lovers. Beoplay takes everything iconic about its parent – an emphasis on quality, performance, craftsmanship and design – and makes it accessible to a younger consumer. Where Bang & Olufsen is architectural, a piece of art to be beheld in the home, Beoplay is compact and contemporary, a piece of life to be taken with consumers to facilitate experiences, both individual and shared.

Cadbury, Jacob’s and Bang & Olufsen have successfully followed different paths of change but all these iconic brands have changed in the right way for their brand by answering these questions for reinventing icons:

  • What is your story? Find ways to re-interpret and re-express your story for new – and all – audiences.
  • What makes you, you? Use design to update, refresh and reinvent but always preserve and cherish the right parts of your equity.
  • Do you have a big idea? what makes brands powerful is a big idea that can be constantly reinforced, explored, magnified and evolved through its brand identity and evolving design.
  • Can you keep connected? True icons can live on, if their ideas remain relevant and connected and they use design to create new expressions.

Consumers’ desires change but your brand at the core should not. By staying resolutely true to who you are but reinventing with original creativity and vision, you will always evolve with, engage and be a newly desirable and successful modern icon for your consumers – for both today’s and tomorrow’s generations.