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August 3, 2020

Changing Landscapes: How Brands Adapt

Jordan Mason

Brands are ever-changing. New trends are constantly emerging, and each month a different item seems to be flying off the shelves. Some brands do great with change and some do not, but it’s vital that brands adapt rather than hide.

L.L.Bean is an excellent example of a brand that has adapted to a new wave of interest in their products. In 2016, a surge in demand for the iconic bean boots shot up, as college students embraced them as something fashion-forward and comfortable.

As a company that has been around for almost 110 years, L.L.Bean is used to change, but it was founded on the basis of being a down-to-earth human-centered retailer. The majority of its products are made by hand, allowing them to stand alone amongst the sea of big-box retailers. So when the spike of interest in the products came in, it was time for them to reflect on their business model and what could change. There is a time when brands have to evaluate whether to change their business completely or if there are ways that they can simply make slight adjustments to what they have built.

Manufacturing became a new hurdle for a business that prided itself on handmade items. Quickly they had gone from making 100,000 pairs of boots a year to 600,000 and had to rapidly adapt their business while staying true to their roots. Instead of bringing in machines to create the product faster, they hired more people and opened more factories so they could continue to hand sew their products.

As the demand for the boots grew, L.L.Bean realized they were going to have to completely change the way they advertised this product. While word of mouth is always the best advertisement, a need arose for a larger push to advertise not only the boots but some of the other 20,000 products they sell.

Late in 2017, they announced their first televised ad campaign, centered around  the slogan, “Be An Outsider.” These advertisements showed consumers on an ordinary inside landscape, such as Christmas morning, but transported outside. It was a new outlook on the brand’s philosophy and truly what they stand for, being outside. 

After four years, “Be An Outsider” still features prominently in the L.L.Bean advertisements and is now paired with close up, personal shots of their handmade items. Showing how these products are crafted down to the stitch.

L.L. Bean was already a cornerstone of the outdoor retail industry and could have been content to stay put as the demands and market changed around them. Instead, they responded to change with flexibility and intentionality both in their production process and their messaging, while staying true to their roots.

No matter how long you have been in business, or how unique your selling point is, you must always be prepared to adapt and adjust. A brand is never finished, it’s just one long work in progress.