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Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

Revitalizing A Damaged Brand


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.

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