Revitalizing a brand is as much a science as an art. It requires retaining and enhancing valuable equities, sharpening differentiation, and refocusing positioning prompts prior to, and as a result of, altered market conditions, trends, fashions and consumer attitudes. Most important, it requires doing so without sacrificing the brand's established character.
Truly great brands, those that maintain market leadership and consumer love for 50 or even 100 years -- such as Coca-Cola, Green Giant, Campbell's, Lifesavers, Perrier and Maxwell House -- understand their consumers and themselves. They evolve alongside the market, recognizing the tenets and rewards of strategic revitalization. Balancing the old with the new, the best of brand past with the relevance of contemporary style, they remain meaningful and relevant across geographies, touchpoints and time. They are brands that win and are stronger for it.
While it is reassuring that a brand is relevant today, much more important is a brand's future relevance with tomorrow's most valuable customers. By actively monitoring changing consumer tastes and attitudes, and keeping core brand values in sight, a company can improve its brand to fit with evolving lifestyles. Well-developed brands have distinct personalities to which consumers relate and connect. Brand marketers must bridge the challenge of staying true to the product's character, while freshening its appeal. The key is to understand consumer behavior, determine the appropriate time to adjust the brand's image and identify what elements require change.
Losing touch. Despite a brand's historic strength or leadership, many marketers find themselves baffled at some point by flattening sales. Marketers need to stay abreast of changing distribution patterns, competitive pressures, pricing/margin erosion and loss of share, all of which signal a worn out and out-of-shape brand. For example, lacking media support for more than 10 years, Green Giant and its icons lost their luster and familiarity among consumers. To connect with a new generation of shoppers, brand consultants "awoke the sleeping giant."
The newbie next door is turning heads. Like an attractive stranger, often a new player comes to town flaunting its innovative appeal. Whether an existing brand has extended into a new category or a new brand is targeting your competitor's core customer segment, it's time to re-evaluate how the brand stacks up against the competition and emphasize the appropriate product strengths. Thoroughly investigate emerging opportunities and use this research to tune-up the brand.
Slowly turning up the heat so you don't notice the pot is boiling over. Many marketers constantly tweak messages and design and over time unintentionally dilute the brand. Instead, periodically examine brand messages to ensure they remain focused on the core brand promise.
Stagnating. New products are introduced now at break-neck speed. Many of these offerings will impact a long-time brand's performance. Traditional innovation methods often take months or years, but by simultaneously fleshing out brand concepts and positioning, identity, naming candidates, and structural and graphic expressions, marketers can take new brand and product ideation from concept to prototype within weeks. This type of turnkey approach helped Heinz launch, in only seven months, its powerful new intensely flavored Kickr's line targeted to adults. Kickr's parallels the Heinz colored ketchup success with children.
Staying with the clique. Many new target demographics are emerging. Tweens have greater discretionary income than ever before and Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic demographic nationally. Be alert to new segments of potential customers and learn how to communicate with them.
Stretching too thin. Many marketers jump on the product innovation bandwagon and introduce line extensions, specialty brands, and sub-brands without giving strong consideration as to how they impact the flagship brand.
Before overhauling a brand, it is critical to deconstruct and understand the brand's core equities to decipher the brand's language.
Consider Coca-Cola. When planning the most recent design and iconography, brand experts drew on Coca-Cola's powerful, established toolbox to capture the brand's unique multi-sensory attributes and revitalize its emotional appeal. Bolder, more contemporary graphics and a tilted signature coke bottle with a splash of soda bursting forth brought an experiential quality to the new design.
Consumers develop bonds with the brands they know and trust. But as with any relationship, the initial buzz can wear off. Then, a brand requires bringing the familiar into the future and finding that fine, but essential, balance between the art and science of brand revitalization.