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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Revitalizing A Damaged Brand

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Brand Strategy Zicam

Today on Branding Strategy Insider, another brand strategy question from the BSI Emailbag. Malcolm from Rockville, Maryland writes: 

"I’m an editor for a trade magazine covering the pharmaceutical and consumer health care product markets. I’m working on a story about a cold product brand, Zicam, that has had some big trouble in the past few years and is launching a marketing campaign to turn around the brand.

Problems for the Zicam brand, marketed by Matrixx Initiatives, began in 2009 when the brand’s top-selling products – intranasal gels – were recalled and discontinued after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there was a problem with the zinc in the gels causing anosmia, loss of smell.

So, Matrixx Initiatives loses huge revenues and faces class action suits about Zicam, but stays afloat, is taken private and now is launching marketing to turn around sales. The marketing positions the product as best in shortening the duration of a cold when used at the first sign of a cold, or the first sign of the “monster” of a cold coming on. Now to my questions.

1. Shortening the duration of a cold, the new tag line of Zicam, is not a product category that I’ve seen before. What are the chances for Zicam or any brand to drive sales with marketing based on a category that might be new to consumers? Do brands run a risk of turning off consumers by claiming the lead in a category consumers might not be familiar with? 

Creating a new "category of one" brand can be a very effective branding strategy as there is only one brand that can address the need(s) represented by the new category. In fact, this is the ultimate branding strategy, to become a "category of one" brand. Having said that, the need represented by the new category must be real. That is, the need must resonate with people as a powerful latent need. In this case, the need is to substantially reduce the impact of the cold from the very start. I would think that this is a very real need. If it is not a need to which people can immediately relate, then the brand would encounter a long and expensive uphill battle to communicate the new category to people so that they "get" what it is all about, with a lower probability of ultimate success.

2. Also, the marketing makes reference to and includes images of a monster, as in “monster of a cold.” While that’s a good turn of a phrase, monsters are not uncommon marketing symbols, icons in the consumer goods product market. Are the chances of Zicam’s monster to stick out in consumers’ minds diminished by a glut of monsters in the marketplace? 

I don't think so. I think monsters are powerful icons evoking powerful imagery in our minds and they may be the best marketing representation of a cold. Like the germs of a cold, people want to slay monsters. 

3. Finally, when a brand goes through a tremendous marketplace upheaval such as Zicam’s recall and discontinuation of its top-selling products, how does the brand get a new image? Will creating a new category of product — best in shortening the duration of a cold – and presenting a monster with the brand, make consumers forget the problem products and give the brand another chance?

This depends on how widespread the awareness of the problem was, whether the new target market has that awareness, and whether the problem still exists or whether the company has demonstrated that they have mitigated the problem. If awareness of the problem was very high and the negative impact of the problem on the brand was devastating, then it might be wise to change the name under which the formulation is marketed.

Remember, marketing is not about products, but perceptions. We share more on changing brand perceptions here.

Thanks for your questions Malcolm.

Do you have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

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