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Identity Before Strategy: Doom For Rebrands


Identity Before Strategy - Doom for Rebrands

Rebranding efforts are tricky things. Once in a very blue moon they can prove to be the turnaround that the management team was hoping for. Sports brand Puma, luxury brand Gucci and the gurus at Apple all provide notable examples of great brand revitalizations during the 90’s. The strategic lessons from these turnarounds do not emanate from what these brands did, but rather what they did not do.

First, they did not change their names or logos.

Second, they did not announce that they were about to save, reposition or do anything particularly radical to their brand.

Third, they were patient; each brand took a decade or more to turn around.

Fourth, they did it in-house without depending on identity consultants to assist them.

Fifth, they did not recruit senior thinkers from established consumer marketing companies to replicate branding strategies from consumer packaged goods (CPG); they did it their own, brand-specific, way.

Sixth, any changes in ad strategies and spend came years after the initial turnaround had begun.

A great brand strategy does not start with name changes, new logos, multi-million dollar ad campaigns or bold predictions from chief executives.

It starts with fixing internal problems. Quietly. It involves rebuilding a brand from the inside out and it takes many years.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, with access to the company coffers can commission peak-time ads and identity overhauls. This is the easy, unsuccessful way to rebuild a brand. Avoid the habit if you can.

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Denise Lee Yohn on November 13th, 2008 said

Amen! I couldn’t agree with you more — company leaders seeking to maximize their brand impact often turn first to the “usual suspects” – their logo, advertising, or pr. But these only express the brand. Companies that want to leverage the full value of their brand must express AND operationalize it. That is, the brand should drive the organization, guiding every single business task.

John Heaney on November 13th, 2008 said

Great post, though I’d like to add one other defining component that contributed to each brand’s success: authenticity.

I’ve worked with too many companies who want to reposition themselves in ways that are counter to their actual strengths and in direct contradiction to how their clients perceive them.

One manufacturing company wanted to position themselves as the leader in engineering and development when they were competing with firms that were 10 times their size, spending vastly more money on R&D each year. Rather than focus on their distribution strength and responsiveness, which was truly unique, they wanted to be something they weren’t. As you can guess, their effort to reposition themselves failed to gain any traction with the clients who all knew better.

Apple is authentically design driven and innovative. Puma designs fashion forward shoes. And Tom Ford revitalized Gucci with the glamour that it had lost. Each company focused on what it did best and then communicated their inimitable strengths through consistent design.

James on December 06th, 2008 said

Couldn’t agree more, but wonder how you would categorize Landor’s role in Federal Express becoming FedEx.

(If you believe Landor’s home page, they believe brand drives strategy, not the other way around.)

Martin Bishop on December 07th, 2008 said

I think Denise expressed what I and (hopefully) my colleagues at Landor also believe. That brand can and should be the driver of the organization, guiding all business activity. If your brand doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s just an empty promise.

Twitter: simplyk2mktg
on July 28th, 2015 said

I agree, except in terms of the logo. I think logos can be refreshed – I actually thought that Apple had changed theirs, but perhaps I’m thinking of more recent changes.
The logo can be updated – perhaps to include a new tag lock-up. To complete change it up – I agree, would be losing some of the brand’s equity and identity.
I’m also supportive of John’s authenticity comment. You need buy-in from your internal audience who will serve as the brand stewards moving forward, as well as truly resonating w/ your audience – if it’s not meaningful to them, you’ll either never gain them as a customer, or will potentially lose them.

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