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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

When To Save Or Abandon A Troubled Brand


Brand Strategy SAAB

We are happy to answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today's question comes from Karen, a Marketing Director in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes…

"We have a decision to make regarding the fate of a specialty brand of hardwood flooring. It has been in the market for the past two years — failing tremendously. I am stuck on whether or not to start the brand over or to rebuild it. I personally feel that the brand has a reputation in the industry as a serious failure. Anytime anyone discusses it, they almost laugh about it. I think it would be smarter to abandon the brand and start over with a new brand. What do you suggest? Rebuild or start over?"

Thanks for your question Karen. As you have indicated, your options are to reposition/re-launch the brand or launch a new brand. Either way, it will require a significant communications effort over time to build awareness or change perceptions. And, it is far easier to build brand awareness than it is to change brand perceptions with marketing communications.

I would measure top-of-mind and other unaided brand awareness within your brand’s product category by your brand’s target customers. I would do this blind (coming from a third party, not your company) to get an unbiased read. Further, I would measure brand perceptions: (a) top-of-mind, open ended question (“Thinking of brand “XYZ,” what comes to your mind?), (b) against a battery of brand and product category attributes and benefits (close ended) and (c) against a battery of brand personality attributes (close ended).

If the brand has low or very low awareness, you have the flexibility of repositioning/re-launching the brand or introducing a new brand. If the brand has moderately-high to high brand awareness and significant negative associations, it would be better to launch a new brand. If the brand has moderately-high to high brand awareness and mixed or positive associations, while you could still launch a new brand it might be worthwhile to reposition/re-launch the existing brand so as not to walk away from its awareness advantage. Given what you have shared with us, I am assuming that the brand would not have predominantly positive associations, so this is not a path we need to go down (though, if it did, it would be best to stick with that brand).

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