Retaining the Old in the New: The Crucial Role of Familiarity in Brand Rejuvenation, Innovation and Change Management

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Retaining the Old in the New: The Crucial Role of Familiarity in Brand Rejuvenation, Innovation and Change Management

When companies try to innovate or make organisational changes, they often run into a problem: people don’t like change. This isn’t just about being stubborn; it’s about feeling safe and comfortable with what we already know. This is where making new things feel a bit familiar can really help.

Imagine you’re trying to introduce a brand-new tool at work. If this tool looks completely different from anything people have used before, they might be hesitant to even give it a try. But, if you make sure this new tool has some similarities to the tools they’re already comfortable with, they’re more likely to use it. This is because the familiar parts make the new tool feel less scary. This also applies to consumers when you introduce innovative products to them – a totally different product will create bigger hesitancy to try.

There’s some psychology behind why we like things to feel familiar. One reason is something called the "mere exposure effect." This is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to develop a preference for things simply because they are familiar with them. If you’ve seen or experienced something multiple times, you’re more likely to feel positive about it. This is why seeing a bit of the “old” in the “new” can make changes feel less daunting.

Another concept is "cognitive ease." Our brains like it when things are easy to think about. Familiar things require less effort to understand, which makes us more comfortable with them. When introducing something new, linking it to familiar concepts can make it easier for people to grasp and accept.


Change Management: In managing change, it’s helpful to mix the old with the new. For example, when a company changes its work process, keeping some of the old steps the same or using familiar terms can make the new process easier for employees to accept and follow. This doesn’t mean you can’t introduce fresh ideas; it just means you blend them with something known to ease the transition.

Innovation: This approach isn’t just for inside a company; it works for customers too. When selling a new product, connecting it to something familiar can make customers more willing to try it. This could mean designing the product with familiar features or advertising it in a way that reminds people of something they already like.

Brand Rejuvenation: When a company decides to rebrand, it’s like giving itself a makeover. This could mean changing the logo, the colours, or even the name. However, completely overhauling a brand’s identity can be risky because people have built a relationship with the brand as it is. This is where the importance of familiarity comes into play. In rebranding, keeping a touch of the familiar can make the transition smoother for customers. Some useful tools such as Distinctive Brand Assets framework can help to identify which aspects of the brand should be maintained and which aspects can be rejuvenated.

It’s important, though, to find the right balance. Rely too much on the familiar, and you might not make enough of a change to matter. Change too much at once, and people might resist because it feels too unfamiliar. The trick is to introduce new ideas in a way that feels comfortable and safe, using familiarity as a stepping stone to acceptance.

In summary, making new things feel familiar is a smart way to get people on board with change. It’s about finding that sweet spot where the new and the old meet, making the unfamiliar feel comfortable. By understanding the psychology behind our preference for familiarity, companies can better navigate the challenges of introducing innovations and changes.