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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Change Direction – From The Brands That Did Exactly That

Cartoon representing a person and different paths that can be taken

Love it or hate it, change is part and parcel of business. People’s tastes, the competitor landscape, the economy – it can, and will, alter pretty fast. And, to thrive, you need to show more flexibility than an Olympic gymnast.

But it takes a brave soul to take what it’s known for, consign it to the history books and branch out in a new direction entirely.

If you or the company you work for are about to take that leap, take heart from these famous brands whose high-stakes gambles paid off big-time…

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1. Nintendo. Nintendo’s tale has more twists and turns than a Mario Kart racetrack. Originally set up by Fusajiro Yamauchi in 1889, it started life selling handmade playing cards. The market wasn’t exactly big, so the Japanese firm decided to get experimenting. From the Sixties the company changed direction several times, morphing into a taxi company, a hotel chain, a TV network and a food company. Then in 1974 its ambition and determination paid off when it dipped its toe in the video-game market. Fast forward to today and Nintendo is the richest company in Japan.

2. Twitter. It’s hard to imagine that Twitter didn’t burst onto the scene as a fully-formed concept ready to take the social media world by storm. In fact, it started out as Odeo, a network that was all about podcasts. But when iTunes started taking up a bigger slice of that particular pie, founders realised they needed to think fast and follow in the footsteps of companies that changed direction. Employees wracked their brains and came up with the idea of Twitter, the micro-blogging site we know and love today.

3. Wrigley. How’s this for a happy accident? William Wrigley Junior set up the company with grand plans selling soap and baking powder. He plied his trade door to door, packaging up his products with a free stick or two of chewing gum. It wasn’t long before he cottoned on to the fact the sticky stuff was more popular than soap, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Wrigley owns most of the big names you see in the chewing gum rack, including Extra, Juicy Fruit and Hubba Bubba.

4. Flickr. The famous photo-sharing platform started life as a complex online game called Game Neverending. The aim was to travel around a virtual map, interacting with fellow players and buying, selling and building items. The game wasn’t particularly well received. However, founder Stewart Butterfield noticed the photo-sharing element of the game was going down a storm. Soon after, he launched Flickr, which sold to Yahoo just a year later for a cool £18 million.

5. Tiffany & Co. These days it’s synonymous with sparkling solitaires in perfect blue boxes, but the famous jewellers was all about stationery and goods from the Far East when it started out in 1837. Over time it switched focus from humble paper to high-end jewels and silverware, and has never looked back. In fact, earlier this year the American favourite was acquired by the luxury conglomerate, LVMH, in a jaw-dropping $15.8 billion deal. Quite a contrast from its first day’s takings of just under five dollars.

6. Hasbro. Originally known as Hassenfeld Brothers, the firm was all about textile remnants until school supplies became their thing. It was their third bite of the cherry that landed them worldwide fame, though, and there’s a certain Mr Potato to thank for it. They launched the Toy Story favourite in the early Fifties and he was so well received they decided to make toys their trade. Smart move indeed.

Are you part of a company changing direction? Here’s how to make it a success…

Gather feedback like there’s no tomorrow. Only by getting a razor-sharp insight into what your customers want can you forge ahead with confidence. Staff feedback is just as important, too.

Make the change as soon as you can. As daunting as it may be, once you’ve made the decision to change, get your (detailed) plan together and go for it. It’ll save you time, money and effort in the long run.

Work out what’s coming with you. This isn’t about scrapping the lot and starting again. Work out what bits of your business work and weave them in to your new story.

Give careful thought to branding. A new direction will almost certainly require a new visual ID. It’s a bit like an accountant becoming an NBA basketball player – that smart suit just isn’t going to cut it.

Make sure the new venture is future-proof. Well, as future-proof as it can be. Look ahead to the next five to ten years – is there scope to grow? Where are you heading?

Need help building a strong brand to fit your new chapter? Contact us today.

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An award-winning strategic branding agency, Threerooms has spent over 15 years making brands stronger and businesses more successful. Whether modernising brands with meaning or crafting effective marketing campaigns, our amazing team is focused on delivering brand transformation while

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