While the ability to evolve is pivotal in facilitating the survival of brands and service providers, the physical process of change can be difficult to manage in an age of such rapid technological advancement. Despite this, however, there are numerous brands that have evolved considerably during the last decade and subsequently emerged as market leaders in their specific fields of practice. The Swedish furniture brand Ikea is one that embodies this philosophy, with its recent innovations having empowered citizens to fulfill their social and environmental responsibilities.

IKEA: How to Evolve in an Age of Social Awareness
While Ikea are best known for the design and sale of affordable furniture, they have also strived hard to evolve beyond the provision of a single, core product. This has been inspired by a vision to construct entire properties and cultivate individual Ikea communities, which the brand hope will be located in major international cities across the globe. The initial stage of this project saw Ikea collaborate with Oregon architectural firm Ideabox in the design of its first flat pack housing structure, which retailed at $86,500 and tapped into the growing social awareness that had developed among U.S. consumers.

With similar properties having already been created and built in the U.K. town of Gateshead during 2011, Ikea have since sought to fulfill the next stage of their commercial vision. This has begun to come to fruition in London, where the furniture retailers parent company have spent 25 million pounds to procure 26 acres of land in the region of Stratford. The intention is to build a self sufficient district that boasts approximately 1,200 homes, 480,000 square feet of office space, yoga studios, exclusive retail outlets and even a Marriott hotel. With this development already under way, the Ikea brand is already planning a similar construction project in Hamburg, Germany.

Google: Evolving in the Face of Market Competition
Like Ikea, Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) is another global corporation that has invested both time and money into realizing a long term commercial vision, and as a brand it has evolved consistently since its launch in 1998. That said, it is the intense market competition provided by social media giant Facebook that has proved pivotal in dictating the time frame for Google's recent evolution, with the result that the latter has launched a number of new products and services ahead of schedule. So while Google continues to earn the vast majority of its revenue through its core search engine function, it has also entered into the worlds of social media and publishing with tremendous speed and decidedly mixed results.

Whenever a brand or corporation evolves, there is a strong possibility that it will encounter new competition within the market place. The now long-standing rivalry between Facebook and Google provides a relevant case in point, as it gained significant momentum when the former superseded the latter as the worlds most visited online resource in 2010. Google has subsequently responded with a series of innovations, with those relating to social and professional networking among the most prominent. While some such as Google Buzz have failed, however, Google + has achieved relative success, which proves that the brand remain uniquely equipped to grow and evolve in the face of emerging market challenges.

Facebook: Following a Fast and Controversial Upward Curve
No brand embodies the concept of rapid evolution more effectively than Facebook (Nasdaq:FB), although the ascent of the networking giant also provides insight into the significant social and technological challenges facing ambitious organizations in 2012. Since its inception as a social networking resource in 2005, it has experienced unprecedented growth and evolved into a multi-purpose business tool with more than 1 billion active users. To put this statistic into some sort of perspective, an estimated one in seven members of the global population now consider themselves to be regular Facebook users.

The rapid and seemingly relentless evolution of Facebook has been blighted by controversy, however, while there are potential factors that may hinder its future growth. Earlier this year for example, certain employers in the U.S. were criticized for requesting social media log in details from potential candidates, which forced Facebook to issue a widespread and public condemnation of the practice. This is an example of how the co-existence of personal and professional accounts has the potential to cause long term issues for the brand, and alongside a falling share price it has encouraged some analysts to predict a bleak future for Facebook and similar sites. Whether this comes to fruition is another matter, however, and for the time being, Facebook remains the most influential and popular online resource in the world.

The Bottom Line
Brands such as Ikea, Google and Facebook embody the principle of continual evolution, while also providing insight into the issues facing companies who strive to change in the course of meeting both consumer and market demands. More specifically, their efforts in the face of adversity should serve as a lesson to all aspiring businesses, especially in an age where the global economy is providing a significant obstacle to commercial growth and long-term success.
At the time of writing, Lewis Humphries did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.

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