Exploring Radical Brand Makeovers

Brad VanAuken The Blake ProjectOctober 30, 20062332 min

Exploring Radical Brand Makeovers

Conventional brand repositioning wisdom is to alter the brand’s position incrementally from the established position, playing off of current assumptions about the brand. It is usually a very tricky and subtle exercise that requires deep customer insight. And yet, some brands have radically altered their brand’s meanings, so much so that the ‘before’ and ‘after’ target audiences are completely different. Following are two examples of this.

As a baby boomer, I remember Abercrombie & Fitch. It was a very traditional, outdoorsy, hunt club oriented brand. It felt a little bit like L.L. Bean or Orvis. Today, it is a completely different brand. It is hot and sexy and targets teens. In fact, not too long ago it was in the news for the controversy around its featuring semi-nude models at the entrances to its mall stores. At one time Reebok was known as an athletic shoe brand targeted at young women and aerobics. Today, it is successfully re-targeted at the inner city hip-hop generation.

How do some brands get away with such a radical transformation of target audiences and brand meanings while others struggle to appeal to different markets? For instance, McDonalds was not successful with its adult-oriented Arch Deluxe menu item and Volvo has had limited success with its performance (versus safety) based models.

I believe that brands that are successful with these radical transformations are successful for a number of reasons:

•They are forced to change direction due to their brand’s declining core markets.

•They completely reposition the brand. They do not try to extend just portions of the brand into new market segments. There are no stretched, inconsistent or multiple brand meanings. The meaning is radically and permanently altered.

•They ‘bet the future of the brand’ on the repositioning. That is, they carefully plan, invest heavily in and flawlessly execute the new position.

•The marketing strategies and tactics completely change to address the new target audiences.

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Brad VanAuken The Blake Project

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