To change or not: Is your image working for you?

I am always intrigued by the number of TV advertisements that promise a whole new look, feel or image simply by purchasing their product. But is a new image really necessary to stand out from the crowd? And when it comes to business, is there a right time or wrong time, right way or wrong way, to change your business image, especially when you’ve invested heavily in the current one?

I am always intrigued by the number of TV advertisements that promise a whole new look, feel or image simply by purchasing their product. But is a new image really necessary to stand out from the crowd? And when it comes to business, is there a right time or wrong time, right way or wrong way, to change your business image, especially when you’ve invested heavily in the current one?

Several months ago, I pondered these questions as I decided to visit my favorite local restaurant, which had recently undergone significant renovations. Curious on both a personal and professional level, I decided to see for myself if the new identity would impact my experience and influence my decision to remain a loyal customer.

Engaging the companionship of two close friends, also regular customers, we arrived on Saturday night. I was shocked by the total transformation that had taken place when I stepped inside the newly painted doors. Our once cozy family-style restaurant had been replaced by a trendy, city-style restaurant du jour. With stark, contemporary décor and cold, uncomfortable furnishings, it seemed a dichotomy of its former self. Not unattractive in a cold, architectural way, it was clear the owners had spent a great deal of time and money creating something completely new.

Ordering our favorite dishes — luckily they were still on the menu — our conversation turned to our new surroundings. One friend commented that she thought the décor was “interesting,” and if she’d never eaten there before, she probably wouldn’t have paid it much mind. The other aired her disappointment that she could no longer smell the tantalizing aromas that had always wafted from the kitchen. I decided I would reserve my overall impression until after the food had been served.

When my plate arrived, I was relieved to see that the dish looked exactly the same. Hoping to revisit the past, I closed my eyes and reverently placed the first bite in my mouth. My taste buds applauded and I breathed a sigh of relief. Things were as they should be until I opened my eyes and was catapulted back into reality.

No matter how much I wanted to engage in a familiar memory, it wasn’t possible. The new surroundings had a direct impact on my dining experience, and I knew I would probably not return.

During our goodbyes, the conversation naturally centered on our visit. I think it is safe to say all of us were disappointed. “I just don’t get it,” said one of my companions, “Why did they have to change when it was fine the way it was?” “Maybe we weren’t the kind of customers they really wanted,” said the other.

Working in the field of marketing and public relations, these comments resonate with me. When a client comes to me believing that changing their image will somehow change their business success, I always ask them to evaluate several things before they make such a giant leap. “Would a complete image change help reposition your business or will it negatively impact the existing customer equity you already have?” “Are you looking to increase sales by attracting a different type of customer or can you add to the bottom line by simply improving the customer relationships you already have?

If, as a business owner, you can’t answer these questions without a deep conviction, my suggestion is to look before you leap. Do some research, survey your target market, and determine what resources are needed to move you forward. You may indeed need to undergo a complete image change or you may just need to update the one you have. So when it comes to “change or not to change,” the simple answer lies in the question; “Is your current business image really working for you?”

Susan Burnash owns Purple Duck Marketing in Kirkland. Her company focuses on marketing, public relations and video production for businesses and nonprofits. Visit her Web site at www.purpleduckmarketing.com. Susan can be contacted by phone at 425-896-8959 or by e-mail at susan@purpleduckmarketing.com.

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