The story of the transformation of Uncle Ben’s into Ben’s Original shows us how brands can be affected, through time, by changes in perception. What, for years, was a strong empowering heritage can quickly be seen as an irrelevant, outdated, or offensive origin. This raises a crucial question: how can a brand evolve without losing its identity?
Belgium offers a particularly interesting field of experiments when trying to suggest some answers to this question. For historical reasons, the Belgian health insurance sector is directly connected to politics and religion, with most of the private health funds referring very explicitly to Christian, Liberal, or Socialist roots, while the others are resolutely advertising their neutrality.
In this instance, the heritage defines not only the positioning of each brand on the market but also defines the market itself, forcing every actor to work around the outdated link to religious or political views. At first sight, that situation may seem beneficial to all the actors of the sector, as it empowers in some ways their respective brand positioning while ensuring captive audiences as well as high customer fidelity. However, a closer look leads one to think that it is actually more of a burden, as Brand Strategist Eliza Kowal-Bourgonjon
explains: “The fact that the sector competes within this historically defined structure leads to stagnation, as people tend to stick to their insurers out of habit, seeing few clear consumer-driven reasons to change. Now that the first player in the Belgian market has decided to abandon this mindset, it will be interesting to see how the sector will evolve in the coming years.”