Rebranding A Dead Or Flatlining Brand

Marketers at HP, Motorola, Shinola – brands that have successfully rebranded – and elsewhere are finding that the great challenge and greatest opportunity facing marketers today is how to sustain brand relevance and consumer delight.

Brands that need rebranding

There is a graveyard of seemingly dead-on-arrival brands at headline companies like General Motors, Kraft Foods, PVH, Johnson & Johnson and elsewhere. Many are finding that the middle of the road is where you get killed, and that changing technologies and evolving consumer social patterns can put even legendary name brands on the side of the road.  These brands that rebranded have bought themselves a life extension. 

Rebranding a Brand

Today’s innovators will discover, as renaissance architect Bramante did as he renovated Constantine’s cathedral in Rome into the splendor that became St. Peter’s, that each enterprise requires enthusiasm, a curious and open mind, as well as a willingness to experiment.

Here’s how you can reinvent, redesign, reconfigure and recreate a brand or brands that seem to be going the way of Oldsmobile, Conran’s, Roll-O-Dex, Blockbuster, Tower Records, Polaroid, and others.

(Editor’s Note: Also read mycity4kids rebrands as Momspresso)

1. Rediscover your brand’s reason for being. 

Even brands that have been sideswiped by changes in consumer buying patterns, product functionality, or 21st century technologies, may still have consumer-relevant reasons for being.

That reason to exist may be as generic as Quality. Or invention. Terrific taste. Or terrific service. But these can still be handholds for future success.

For example Motorola, the company that built quality radios 75 years ago can still build quality mobile phones today. That heritage is a legacy that can be the foundation for pride among current employees and customers.

Often, you can find that reason buried in company history: as Trout and Ries described 40 years ago, some companies simply forget what made them successful in the first place. Sometimes they just need to go back to it.

2. Define your zealot consumers. 

Finding and defining your true customer is not always easy. But doing so is essential (even for brands enjoying their glory years on the bell curve), as brand zealots are the core of your business.

What defines a zealot or advocate may vary according to your product or industry—it may be defined according to purchase volume, or their number of visits per month—but it is essential to find out who they are and where they are.

Then dig into the Why? What is it about your product or service that thrills these the advocates and keeps them coming back? What things do they celebrate? What passions do they have in common with others? What terms do they use to describe themselves and/or your product? How and why did they become enthusiastic advocates? What is it about you that inspires and delights them? What positive associations do they have with your product/service? What negative associations do they have? How do they feel you are different, unique or surprising from your competitor(s)? What do they never want you to become?

Since these findings describe your ideal consumer, you can now look for more of them.

3. Define your brand assets. 

Napoleon once said, “In war, one sees one’s own ills and not those of the enemy.”  Even brands in a coma can have valuable assets. For example, the creation mythos that describes how the company started. This is an asset. Your brand also has iconic assets that help define it: the logo, colors, textures, symbols, sounds, smells, taste, and other defining factors. Many brands also have rituals that define how the product is used, or differentiated processes in how it is manufactured.

Once you have defined your brand assets, decide which assets are still relevant and resonate with your current brand zealots. You’ll want to keep any and all assets that glue zealots to your brand, as they will continue to be the core of your P/L.

(In other words, if your core consumer keeps coming back to shop during traditional weekly store discounts, you don’t cancel those weekly sales as your first endeavor in rebranding the brand.)

If you are starting from scratch and your only brand asset is a name—like the refreshed Shinola company, create an aspirational goal. (For Shinola, that goal is a revitalized Detroit.)

Making certain that brand zealots are satisfied, discover what barriers hold back your potential zealots. Then mindfully design new assets that will resonate with and attract your potential zealots.

Potential zealots are the low-hanging fruit that will grow incremental business. The trick is to design new programs that will entice them and help them become inspired brand advocates—without losing existing zealots.

4. Brands that have successfully rebranded discover their relevancy all over again. 

Start at the beginning. Create a refreshed brand narrative that strategically outlines your re-enabled reason for being in the marketplace.

Utilize and promote your refreshed brand assets. To counter the 2008 housing crash, Restoration Hardware created an entirely new esthetic and started spending more in design. Fig Newtons refreshed their packaging with a new fruit-based color palette—and introduced a new line of Boomer crisps to help make them one of the most fruitful new products on the cookie aisle.

Remember that today, more than ever before, brands are belief systems that attract others who share your beliefs. They become communities supported by publicly inspired advocates who surround your brand on dozens of social media, with preferential likes, visits, reviews, and purchases. If you’re not surprising and delighting your consumer at every point of contact during this refreshed initiative, you’re failing.

(Look at failed attempts at rebranding!)

5. Create your new future by rebranding. 

Even brands that seem out of date, irrelevant, and barely resonant with consumers can be re-imagined, reconceived, and reconstructed using this simple, regimented path. Rebranding a brand is guided by time, merit, and funding.

(Also read: Journey of mGage to Karix)

Published with permission from Thinktopia (a brand that rebranded as Primal)

Last updated: 30 June 2021

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