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Crafting a timeless and long-lasting brand should be at the top of your organization’s priority list. Most people who launch a business or start a non-profit do not want it to last just one year. Instead, most of us want our work to endure and continue to reach future generations.

Establishing a timeless brand is a crucial part of making that dream a reality. But what do you do when your brand needs an update to help it reach the next generation?
Anne of Green Gables
Updating a brand is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Doing so can reap incredible rewards or become a blot of shame on your company’s reputation. (The infamous New Coke comes to mind as a great example of the latter.)

One of the most recognizable brands in popular literature is the Anne of Green Gables franchise. Make no mistake, this book isn’t just a book. It is a brand. Even the term “Anne of Green Gables” is trademarked and jointly owned by Prince Edward Island and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heirs.

Anne’s popularity was never higher in the 1980’s and 1990’s when Sullivan Entertainment released their classic TV miniseries versions of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea. Watching these videos are some of my earliest childhood TV memories and over the years, I’ve rewatched them many times and devoured all eight of the books that chronicle Anne’s life.

But, after two ill-fated remakes of Anne’s story in 2000 and 2008, the brand was starting to show some damage to its legacy. A new generation of followers arose and a director thought he could reach the new demographic by taking generous liberty with L. M. Montgomery’s classic stories. As a result, her true fans (myself included) couldn’t tolerate the disasters.

Now, 107 years after Anne of Green Gables was first penned, the brand is getting an update. A new made-for-TV version will air next year, but you can take a look at the new trailer for the film.
anne_of_green_gablesWill this attempt be successful or another bust? Only time will tell. Regardless, we can learn four crucial lessons about updating a brand just from what we have observed in the Anne of Green Gables branding saga:

1. When updating your brand, always go back to your roots.

Over time, your organization’s vision can get lost. The bigger and older you grow, the farther removed you are from remembering the “why” behind your start. We’ve even felt this happen to us to some degree here at DuoParadigms, and our company is only six years old.

When it’s time for your brand to get a facelift, look back to the past. Remember why you do what you do.

Consult the people who understand your history and can help envision your future. In the case of this new Anne of Green Gables venture, one of the prominent individuals behind the making of the film is Lucy Maud Montgomery’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler. She is unapologetic about being her grandmother’s “legacy guardian”.

“I have a very big job looking after my grandmother’s legacy,” said Macdonald Butler in a Calgary Herald article. “We’re ordinary Canadians with a very extraordinary grandmother and have a very important legacy to look after. I worry about it all the time.”

2. Make your new branding immediately recognizable and identifiable with your old image.

Google just updated their logo a few months ago, and although the font changed, the color didn’t. Imagine what would have happened the morning of the update if they had changed their font and colors. The social media world would have exploded with a collective “Huh?!” as we all struggled to come to grips with this new logo that infiltrated our online world.

One thing I noticed immediately upon watching the new Anne of Green Gables trailer was that as fresh as it was, it looked like it belongs and matches the perception we have of the brand. Using an opening sequence of the Cavendish cliffs was a brilliant idea by the filmmakers, as fans are accustomed to embracing the sights of majestic Prince Edward Island. Anne of Green Gables wouldn’t be recognizable if it was set in, say, Los Angeles.

3. Don’t change the heart of your message by becoming what you weren’t designed to be.

This is what ruined the film remakes in 2000 and 2008. Anne’s story was twisted and contorted into something that it was never intended to be. When you refresh your brand, it’s tempting to try to project it something “bigger or greater”, and while growth and expanded audience reach is important, don’t sacrifice the heart behind what you do for a perceived need to show “improvements”.

Instead, revisit the heart of your message and focus on how you can share that vision with a new audience. Don’t change the message, change the delivery.

4. Aim for new reach, but don’t overcommit yourself.

I must confess, after hearing about the new Anne of Green Gables film, I was horrified to think that movie makers were trying to tell Anne’s story in a paltry two hours. (Granted, I’m the gal who would love to see each one of the eight books turned into a six hour miniseries.)

But, after thinking about it more, I’m okay that the producers aren’t attempting something so extreme. It’s time to introduce Anne to a new generation, and this new generation has much shorter attention spans. If this film is successful, it can always open the door to other opportunities.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Aim for quality and wowing your audience, but be vigilant to avoid overcommitting yourself.

I’m excited to see how this new Anne of Green Gables film will add to the legacy and nostalgia of L. M. Montgomery’s literary masterpiece. I’m also intrigued to continue following the Anne of Green Gables brand, as it has shed insight into the branding process and how to successfully preserve and grow a brand over 100 years.

In your own branding efforts, launching an entire new line of services or products may not be sustainable, but you can go a long way by making sure your brand is up to date and continuing to add value. Occasionally adding new, relevant and valuable elements to your organization will not only enrich your current reach, but establish a legacy that will dazzle fans for years to come.

Aaress Lawless has ten years of experience working in the field of PR, and has been cited by many leading outlets including Microsoft, The New York Times, and CNET. Aaress is dedicated to helping you put God first in your business and will work with you to craft a public relations or web design approach best suited to your unique needs.

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Aaress Lawless

Aaress enjoys helping small businesses and ministries, having budget travel adventures with friends, and blogging about life lessons on Instagram.

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