The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Today on Branding Strategy Insider, another brand strategy question from the BSI Emailbag. Jim, an Executive Director at a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Washington writes:
“I work for a nonprofit organization that needs to rebrand. I am getting resistance from the board and a major client. Do you have any advice to help me get the buy-in I need to accomplish this without alienating critical stakeholders?”
Hi Jim, thanks for your question. Given the potential resistance to the rebranding effort, I would start with a survey of key stakeholders to determine how they are feeling about the organization and its brand including the strength of its unique value proposition, its traction against competitive organizations, any concerns, etc. Without being too biased or leading, help the organization’s stakeholders come to their own conclusions by getting them to think about the issues that could be solved by a rebranding effort. I wouldn’t initially talk about rebranding.
I would then share the results of the survey and create a discussion around it. If people begin to see the need for some changes, I would then talk about brand strategy refinement. If the discussion starts out as a strategic discussion, it avoids the issue of people’s attachments to specific brand identity elements. I might then conduct more customer research to determine organization and brand perceptions. Using all of this input, I would conduct a consensus-building brand positioning workshop with key stakeholders. The result should be a new brand positioning statement including the brand’s essence, promise, archetype and personality.Read More
My colleague, Brad VanAuken made this excellent observation about rebrands. “Identity systems are designed to encode and decode brand information to and from people’s brains,” he said. “If you change the system, the associations may be lost and will take a long time to rebuild.”
Always that dichotomy. People like what they know. And we live in a changing world. While brand managers often struggle with the timing and implementation of an identity change, I’m far more interested in the specific motivations behind why brands choose to change how they visually express who they are – because that’s where I believe things can really go askew.
If the motivation is wrong, then the rebranding will be wrong. By way of proof, a great article from Business Insider examines recent rebrands that have hit the wall at speed. Two clear principles emerge:
- Be clear about who you are and stay true to that. The very essence of identity I would have thought but it’s amazing how many companies still think they can convince people they’re something they’re not by changing their brand identity. No amount of focus-grouping with the youth-set (or anyone else for that matter) is going to make your brand something it just isn’t. Same goes for changing the name to make it more street. If you’re not a street brand, you’ll just ring hollow.
- Don’t cover up. An identity that seeks to hide the truth isn’t a rebrand, it’s a revisionist attempt to hoodwink investors and consumers. Might have worked before we were all connected and had digital memories. Doesn’t work anywhere near as well now.
So how should brands go about choosing to rework their identities? My cardinal rule: before you make any changes, think about the consumer. Change your branding only if it will make the identity more fascinating and relevant for them (not because the marketing team is bored or a competitor has changed so it’s time to follow suit).
10 reasons why you would change a brand identity:Read More
Regular readers of Branding Strategy Insider know we welcome and answer marketing questions of all types. Today, Ely Portillo, a business reporter from the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina asks…
"Hi Derrick. I'm looking for some insight into why a retailer might change its branding. Lowe's (formerly "Let's Build Something Together" and now "Never Stop Improving"), has had several quarters of disappointing results, especially in comparison to its main adversary, Home Depot. What is the potential of a branding shift to help boost sagging sales and shift the terrain versus a larger rival?"
Ely, the potential can be quite great if the new effort is better aligned with un-met customer needs than the competition. Often, when sophisticated marketers are faced with greater competitive pressure or a new economic landscape they turn to their customers for help in tightening the focus — drawing on deep customer insight to create greater value. The power of brands lies in focus. Lowe’s new tagline very well could be a response to a better understanding of its target customers through brand research.
"What else is generally required of a retailer to successfully carry through a re-branding campaign, besides a new tagline and ads?"Read More
To be successful at repositioning your brand, you have to create higher meaning and aim higher. Aiming higher requires outward thinking and learning from the marketplace.
Over the past two years, we have been engaged with a variety of consumer products brands whose managers are seeking new opportunities to grow their brand’s value. In all these engagements, I have noticed a common thread among all of them – consumers no longer care about them because they have lost their compelling meaning in the consumer’s mind. One thing is certain– once a consumer’s mind is made up about a brand, it’s next to impossible to change it. The decisions facing brand mangers and marketing executives regarding how they deal with our ever-evolving market landscape usually comes down to three options:
- continue to invest in the existing brand meaning
- create a sub-brand
- invent a completely new brand
All of these options have advantages and disadvantages, more so if the brand is also facing dramatic challenges in distribution. The driver underpinning all these options is change. Brands are dynamic. They have their cycles and they run their course. What’s hard for managers to grasp is when to move on.
This is particularly true if the brand was once a leader. Market success always creates size, power and a false sense of security. Over time, this creates an unrealistic view of the external reality, and a lack of urgency to correct course in maintaining relevancy among consumers.
Brand managers naturally become inwardly focused and they tend to miss seeing new opportunities or competitive threats. Complacency becomes the norm and the brand’s compelling meaning in the minds of consumers gets blurred and sales drop.
Breathing new life into a tired brand.
As I said earlier, repositioning your brand requires elevating its meaning into a new mind space that consumers really care about. This has very little to do with the brand’s functions and benefits. It’s about creating a new meaning, usually one that is based on highly simple yet emotive ideas. These emotional drivers are what people care deeply about and determine their preferences and purchase behaviors.
In his book “Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis” fellow BSI contributor and legendary marketing guru Jack Trout outlines a great example of how a brand can aim higher in its positioning and create a whole new meaning for a new consumer segment. I’ll paraphrase the story from his book:
An Irish cider brand commonly sold in large plastic bottles at discount prices, and consumed by vagrants on park benches successfully repositioned itself as a premium drink in the British market. Struggling with declining sales and losing distribution, the brand owners decided the dowdy cider was in need of a dramatic makeover. Here were the simple and obvious ideas in the brand’s higher repositioning:
• reduce the alcohol content to the same as most beers
• intensify the apple flavor
• ditch the plastic jug and use fancy pint bottles
• stop selling it on tap in pubs and bars
• jack up the price
• and most importantly, market the beverage to be poured over ice, whereas traditional ciders are usually served at room temperature.
Putting the cider in bottles elevated the brand, not only because of the price increase, but also because consumers could now hold the product and its new image in their hands (much harder to do with a draft beverage). This also opened new and more premium channels of distribution. The idea of serving it over ice was based in part on the fact that many Irish pubs had poor refrigeration. New packaging and messaging encouraged consumers to pour the cider over ice. This simple idea resonated with consumers in an evocative way which changed the meaning behind the brand, and differentiated it from other alternatives. Within a year the brand enjoyed sales increases of 260 per cent.
How you can aim higher to reposition your brand.
If you are faced with reinventing your brand, the problem you face will most likely be obvious, the solution to the problem will be obvious, but many don’t trust the obvious. Somehow many people believe a good idea has to be clever, mysterious or layered in complexity. The best ideas for repositioning brands are simple. If the core idea behind your brand’s meaning isn’t simple and obvious, it won’t stand a chance in the over-crowded slush pile of a marketplace in which your brand must reside.
Simple ideas are self-evident, which is why they work so well. Positioning is the art of sacrifice. A brand can only stand for one compelling, radical differentiating selling idea. The trouble with simple ideas is they have no appeal to the imagination and are easily over-looked. We are naturally drawn to the more clever and ingenious ideas. Resist this temptation. Aim your thinking higher toward the simple, obvious differentiating idea that elevates your brand to a new meaning people really care about.
What’s obvious to you about the future of your brand?
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
Think of it as “Extreme Makeover, Aquatic Edition.” Asian carp, scorned as inedible and hunted down as vanquishers of native species, are being taste-tested under new names on menus from south to north.
The background: Asian carp were imported to the southern U.S. in the 1970s to suck up scum from catfish ponds. But they’ve become monsters in the eyes of many as they have migrated North. They can grow to 100 pounds, multiply like guppies, and tend to leap crazily out of the water, bruising and breaking boaters’ bones.
The fish got a lot of attention once they migrated up the Mississippi River and broke through an electric barrier designed to keep them out of Lake Michigan.
State and federal governments have doled out millions of dollars to various agencies to eradicate them. But too little attention has been given to a rebranding solution: Eating the Asian carp out of existence, or at least making a dent in the population.
▪ It began in Louisiana, where wildlife officials rolled out a promotion dubbing the fish the Silverfin, and enlisting chefs to create recipes for the tasty white meat of the bighead carp and silver carp, two dominant invaders. “A cross between scallops and crabmeat,” declared one seafood chef.