Refresh.  It seems like a simple task. Hit a button on your browser and the page changes. Easy, right?  It isn't.  A refresh usually takes complex systems and or labored work to make real change.  The same can be said of the state of affairs around the world.  The arrival of the New Year has come and gone. While 2008 was a year of promises and hope, 2009 should shape up to be a year where we buckle down and begin the change required to refresh our world while achieving our sales goals.  It will take complex and fundamental change.

Dictionary.com defines change as: to transform or convert, to transfer from one to another, a transformation or modification; alteration.

What will you CHANGE this year?  From the environment, to the economy, to your health, to brand plans, to the way agencies work, we are due for rapid systemic change.  In a time when we face mass unemployment, a war, unrest in the middle east, rapid climate change and an impending economic depression, we have fallen in love with people and products that exuded authenticity and promised radical yet positive change. They have refreshed our outlook.

Why are so many brands retreating to their roots?
In focus groups, people are saying they want stability in unstable times.  Of course they do.  That seems logical. When we are shaken to our core we want the basics to remain the same.  Many brands are taking a step back, reflecting on their roots. Some will tell you "You can depend on us" - look at this Allstate ad.

This is a beautiful ad. (well written, acted and art directed)  "Back-to-basics" is a simple idea.  It reflects on the past, establishes trust and reinforces the brands strongest attributes.  Hey, who doesn't want to protect what they love.  However, it does nothing to get me to consider switching.  Nothing that says come with me, change something. It takes a practical approach to hard times. That is merely one example of a slew of brands who are missing out on what we desire.  The big opportunity is not that we have roots. It's what in our roots or brand DNA that can make change and refresh our world.

We still desire a Hero! Someone or something we can look to who will make us laugh, smile and refresh the outlook on the future.  Who needs another somber ad when watching Inside The Actors Studio on Bravo?  Don't most of us use TV as a cheap get away?

Don't be practical! Be emotional! Be a Hero.
While many brands retreat to their roots, the few products that exude confidence and show fundamental change will prosper. They will see sales of product.  Brand Managers need to examine our conversations to determine their Brand DNA.  They should ask themselves "What will inspire a moment of happiness?"  More importantly, "What in their brand will evoke an emotional buy it now response?"

A great example of a Refresh is Pepsi's 2009 launch of their new advertising and brand look.

Simple & smart.  Offers a smile. A pick me up.  It establishes a
different tone from the big celebrity-filled production numbers that Pepsi helped invent for my generation. Its a great happy-greeting-card to the world.  I like the music, by indie rockers the Apples in
Stereo
. The upbeat lyrics "And the world,
is made of energy/And the world is electricity." reminds me of the early British pop invasion after World War II. 

Picture 3

Many have been critical of the Pepsi refresh. They have said that it was jumping on a political bandwagon.  They are wrong. That is a short-sided view that seems to lack insight into what the audience desires.  In torrid times we need a smile. We need a dose of happiness. We are going to need a lot of energy to make a change.  What is brilliant and incredibly consumer-centric is that we buy things that make us feel good.  We always have.  We always will.  This is America.

Insight: When I need a pick me up, I want something that gives me a fresh, fun moment of optimism to get through the day.

The Idea: Pepsi. A Pick Me Up.

Picture 1

What is unfortunate is that the website does not live up to the happy innovation of the brand.  RefreshEverything.com began to show some promise when it was simply a refresh button.  Now it has been taken to the mundane.  It does not help pay off the promise. It's design is dated and done. The site would have been great before the election.  The idea that you are asking of the president seems off when, it should be about what are you going to do to refresh everything.  The design lacks the fresh simplicity of the product and does not allow me to share or spread the joy of Pepsi with friends. The site is a missed opportunity. Shame on their digital agency, this seems surprisingly off brand. A Refresh is needed.

Retreating is not the answer. 
One size does not fit all. Brand is about how I feel about your product.  Branding is about ubiquity, visability and functions; its about bonding emotionally with people in their daily lives. Only when a product or a services kindles and emotional conversation with the consumer can they realize their sales potential.

I think we will help support brands that offer us an opportunity to refresh.  A brand who is willing to get passed the practical and help us
act irrationally (emotionally) through entertaining function that facilitates the
change that our worlds need will realize revenue in a downturn.

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
—Henri Bergson

Be a change agent this year.  Begin to innovate it will lead to a Refresh!  Happy New Year!

ON: 2009 A Year to REFRESH via @jpenabickley