Brand revitalisation: staying relevant amidst changing times


For most, the first association with brand revitalization would be that of brand failure. However, truth is that even the most successful brands had to go through the process of revitalization for bringing back the much needed renewed focus and energy to set the course for reaching the next level of brand growth.

Citing external factors as need for brand revitalization would be a unidimensional assessment of the situation. While change in market trends, competitor strategies and evolving consumer tastes are key reasons necessitating a change; internal forces like understanding the brand’s agenda, instilling core values across all consumer deliveries and employees belief in the brand play an equivalent role in shaping the brand’s fortunes.

Brand revitalisation is in essence management of brand equity, to ensure it continues to stay relevant over changing market conditions by seamlessly and effectively adapting to the change. The faster the adoption to change; the leaner will be the time, efforts and investments to be deputed in a revitalisation exercise.

The Revitalization Spectrum
Given the situation encountered and degree of intensity of the problem, brand revitalisation could encompass any of or a mix of the following:

• Change in brand name and logo
• New tagline or slogan
• Packaging
• Visual aids and corporate literature, design and signages
• Communication – On and offline
• Brand culture and experience
• Repositioning and change in promise, personality and tonality
• Redefining vision, mission and values
• Product modifications, new launches, extensions or enhancements
• New brand architecture
• New target audience and markets

Regardless of which of the above areas are a part of the revitalisation plan, there are few golden rules that should be adhered to for locking success of your revitalisation exercise:

Objective setting
The key to a successful brand revitalisation programme lies in clarity of purpose – what one aims to achieve through revitalisation. Assess where your brand stands currently and where you want it to reach through your revitalisation initiative.

Put down a list of key strategic questions that need to be answered to fill the gap and infuse the much desired fresh lease of life into your brand. Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures that you can use to evaluate the success of your revitalisation drive.

One of India’s most well-known brand Dabur underwent a revitalisation exercise in 2004-05 to appeal to emerging new consumers and equip the brand for the next level of growth. The objectives were to contemporise the brand, create a brand for the global marketplace and make it future proof.

It is in line with these objectives, that Dabur undertook the move of refreshing its long standing identity – the Dabur Tree. Both colour and form were modified to give it a younger look so that the brand conveyed the values of dynamism, pro-activeness and progressivism.

Along with the identity change, the brand also revealed a new tagline ‘Celebrate Life’ – in keeping with contemporary values of wellness and healthy living.

Not overlooking brand’s history
Before taking measures to add new pillars to the brand’s equity, it is critical to keep in focus the existing equity and evaluate future measures in accordance with the same. The rituals, icons, language, stories associated with the brand over time carry enormous value that can be potentially explored.

Brands which have been around for a significant time, have an existing set of consumers who are loyal to the brand. While trying to attract new audiences, it is essential that this set does not feel alienated due to a radical makeover.

A recent revitalisation exercise undertaken by the much loved coffee brand Starbucks, was rooted in drawing learnings from the brand’s history. In 1970s Starbucks as a brand had been about fun; something which over the years got lost and it was time to bring it back. Starbucks wanted the new logo and visual identity system to say as much about its future as it did about its past, which was creating genuine connections over coffee.

With its new makeover, Starbucks unleashed the ‘Siren’ – Starbucks’s iconic feminine figure connoting vivacity; to gel with young adults in the age group of 25-40. The siren had always been core to the brand, but had never been brought to the forefront, which this rebranding aimed to do. The rebranding thus unlocked the hidden value in the icon to convey the message in an empathetic manner.

The key thereby lies in striking a balance between keeping a respectful eye to the past and a hopeful eye to the future.

Stress on substance before packaging
The fundamentals of planning are strictly to be adhered to while undertaking a rebranding exercise. E.g. a new look and feel which is not rooted in a compelling story will fail to resonate with the consumer and something which they will easily see through; doing further damage to the brand.

Even a mere identity change calls for understanding competitive scenario, existing consumer beliefs and the brand’s realities, to put together a formidable plan that can be put to work.

Research can be used as an effective tool for facilitating the same. If a formal consumer research is a costly proposition at that point, make use of resources within the company – people who’ve handled the brand across functions and managerial levels, vendors and suppliers, channel partners etc to do a SWOT and situation analysis to set the right direction for the exercise.

Developing a sharp differentiation point
One of the areas to be really thought through in a revitalisation exercise is the need to establish a clear differentiation for your brand which will set it apart and give consumers a reason to choose it vs. competition. Lack of differentiation in itself could be one of the major reasons for downslide of the brand and falling relevance in the eyes of consumers.

Instead of playing safe, taking a radically different stand can help create a niche which every brand aims for and help insulate against competitive pressures. Once the point of difference is identified, the brand can then weave its product development and renewed communication in line with the same.

Fast food brand KFC post witnessing a downfall in late 2005, sprung back by taking a differential stand.

It bucked the trend among fast food outlets to talk about ‘healthy’ options and instead stressed its great product taste. The platform chosen for communication was ‘That chicken urge can only be satisfied with the irresistible, indescribable taste of KFC’.

The tagline was changed to become ‘You’ve got great taste’ and new meals were introduced to satisfy the taste buds of consumers and bring out the compelling taste of KFC. One which translated into a craving that had to be satisfied.

Creativity and imagination
Creativity is intrinsic to bringing about any change that will significantly create a stir and shift lens of perceiving the category and imagery of players. Innovation has been a key ingredient that has paved the path for many brands to assume unprecedented leadership position in dynamic market situations.

A brand that naturally serves as a role model for embodiment of creativity in its awe inspiring rise to the top is Apple. A company once on the brink of bankruptcy was spearheaded by its leader Steve Jobs into being one of the most enviable global brands by placing innovation at the centre stage of its business strategy and decision making.

The brand has continuously innovated with its every product launch – be it the iPod, iPad or the iPhone. The tagline of the brand ‘Think Different’ very aptly captured this philosophy of innovation.

Creativity has allowed Apple to assume iconic status and win a large base of loyal customers, who clearly distinguish its products from other technology brands, keeping faith in the brand with every new launch and are willing to pay a premium for owning an Apple product.

Use every touch-point to communicate with the consumer
After arriving at a clear differential promise, the next important task is to communicate it effectively to your customer set. For making the most of your marketing spends, it is essential that every encounter with the brand reinforces the message and imagery you want to create in the consumer’s mind.

Instead of reaching out to the most obvious mediums, use the consumer as a starting point and plan your communication to catch them in the right mood and frame of mind, using a host of conventional and new age mediums.

For example, an F&B brand need not necessarily invest production monies in an ad film to reach out to its target audience. With growing consumption of travel channels, an in-show feature can immediately catch the eye of your potential consumers. Food tasting events and fairs can be another effective medium to connect with your customers and get them to experience your offerings.

Themes, visual aids and promotions within your eatery can very easily bring alive your revitalised brand’s identity to your consumer set. Alongside, a story in the city’s leisure supplements can generate the necessary PR by vividly bringing out the uniqueness of your renewed brand. Credit card tie-ups are another convenient way of reaching out to the upwardly mobile consumer and getting the brand in their consideration set.

Today especially, having digital at our disposal has opened a whole new world of possibilities of engaging in an active dialogue with a captive audience, using a targeted approach. The access to websites or tools has helped brands in the F&B space to create awareness of their brands amongst consumers and even generate positive word of mouth through reviews, ratings etc. Also, creating a sense of urgency about indulging in experiencing the offering influenced by the reference circle visiting these places. Then there are deal websites for posting offers and discounts, thereby generating a clear call to action.

Getting internal buy-in
A revitalisation exercise should not ignore another key stakeholder set – internal consumers. All departments within the organisation – R&D, production, sales, should be geared to fulfill the new promise of the brand. Local teams must understand the reason behind the rebranding and how a consistent image will benefit them directly.

Its imperative to inspire those in the organisation to believe that the new brand future will happen and that they can help.
When McDonald’s undertook its rejuvenation exercise in 2005, it created a new on-boarding communication called “Learnin’ it. Livin’ it. Lovin’ it” to engage its people to collectively work towards fulfilling the brand’s goals.

A brand is not an end but a journey that needs to be planned and re-planned at every stage to keep it relevant to changing times.
Revitalisation should thus be viewed not as a post crisis corrective measure, but an on-going process to tap new opportunities emerging in the marketplace.

Done right, it can be a very rewarding exercise and scale your brand to new heights. 

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