Rebranding a company’s goals, message, and culture is hard — many have tried and most fail.
A successful campaign requires more than a revamped logo. It demands a vision that inspires customers, investors, and others to see the company in a new light.
Through savvy marketing and better quality control, some companies discovered new ways to revive their brands and in some cases, made them stronger than ever.
When Millard Drexler, the man who turned the Gap into a multi-billion dollar icon, showed up as J. Crew's new CEO in 2003, sales were plummeting.
Under Drexler's guidance, J. Crew rebounded dramatically, earning $3.8 million in 2005, its first profit in five years and between 2003 and 2008 revenues rose 107 per cent, according to the Wall St. Journal. In 2009, revenues exceeded pre-recession levels and same-store sales climbed 11 per cent.
Drexler re-energized J. Crew by rebranding it as a store that sells basics like tank tops and capris that are well-made with a hint of luxury (think cashmere sweaters).
J. Crew also got an extra boost from the first family: all four wore the brand during the inauguration festivities. In addition, the First Lady provided her own endorsements. When Michelle Obama appeared on 'The Tonight Show' and told Jay Leno that her yellow sweater, skirt and blouse were a 'J.Crew ensemble,' the company's stock shot up 8.2 per cent.
The Lesson: Offer quality products while always looking for new ways to meet customer demands. J.Crew's new bridal line reportedly came about after Drexler learned from a sales rep that customers were buying simple sundresses in different colours to serve as bridesmaid dresses.
Note: Private-equity firms TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners are in talks to buy J. Crew, in a deal valued at about $3 billion. The PE firms have the cooperation of J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, reported Bloomberg News.
Even if you don't know the name Burberry, you would probably recognise its trademark black, tan and red check pattern. Founded in England more than 150 years ago, the once small brand, which introduced the waterproof fabric gabardine and trench coats, has been embraced by celebrities, royalty and preppies alike.
Not too long ago, Burberry was at risk of being dismissed as frumpy and over-extended, however. It was even considered gangwear. Due to rumours that the Burberry brand was popular amongst hooligans, two pubs in Leicester famously banned anyone wearing the label.
New leadership and savvy product design are what transformed the brand into one of the hottest fashion labels, say retail experts. Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director since 2001, overhauled the brand with a mix of modern and classic looks that included a sexier trench coat and swimwear, and snapped up high-profile celebrities like Kate Moss and actress Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame.
An increase in Burberry's sales is proof that luxury brands are staging a comeback with shoppers, according to analysts. Sales rose 27 per cent to $747 million in the third quarter ended Dec. 31 and may expand 11 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 2012, reported The Market Oracle. Burberry has also been steadily expanding in China and built 50 stores in 2010.
The Lesson: Brands can be successfully revamped by adapting current styles while celebrating its history. 'Burberry is about heritage, but about making that heritage relevant for today,' said Bailey in 2009. 'You have to make sure what you do is right for the moment you live in. What makes things relevant? Without wishing to sound flaky, it's a sensitivity to the spirit we live by today.'
The blue-collar Milwaukee lager -- best known for being a cheap beer and the drink of choice among college students and hipsters -- popped up in China last year. Americans may not recognise their PBR, however, since the beer retails for a an eye-popping $44.
labelled 'Blue Ribbon 1844' (the year the Pabst Brewing Company was founded) the beer is different from its American counterpart, says the company, since it is a special brew of German malts and aged in oak whiskey barrels. It's brewed and sold in China by a distributor who licensed the Pabst name.
China is the world's biggest beer market, reported Euromonitor and thanks to a new craze for high-end alcoholic drinks among the Chinese rising class, Blue Ribbon 1844 seems well positioned to take advantage of the Chinese taste for expensive beers.
The Lesson: Adding a foreign tag and fancier packaging can make a brand more appealing.
Back in 1985, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was at risk of disappearing from highways when it almost went bankrupt. What saved the company, says Richard F. Teerlink, the former CFO turned CEO who championed the change, was a better product to match the well-known brand,
'In 1982, Harley-Davidson had no money of its own,' Teerlink told Harvard MBA students in 2003. 'We were $90 million in debt, and bankers weren't willing to loan us a penny. We had a good brand and loyal customers, but we weren't generating a profit because we didn't have a quality product at that point. We had to improve the quality of our product to be fair to the customer. If we hadn't improved the reliability of Harley-Davidson products, the company wouldn't be here today.'
The Lesson: Support your brand with a high-performing product and weed out inefficient management. 'Be aware of controls that are barriers to effectiveness,' said Teerlink.
Over the years, McDonald's has been increasingly weighed down by the image of being a low-brow and unhealthy restaurant chain. The documentary 'Super Size Me' both mocked and alerted the public to McDonald's food as a leading cause of obesity.
McDonald's has since then tried to rebrand itself as more health conscious with a greater variety of salads and other healthy meal options, in addition to offering lower-priced menu items. Under the slogans 'I'm lovin it,' which featured an original tune by Justin Timberlake, and the newer 'what we're made of,' families and young couples are seen enjoying their meals at McDonald's. The company is also going after the coffee crowd with its fancier and more expensive premium coffee.
Despite the derision of critics, McDonald's makeover appears to be working. McDonald's Corp. reported a 5.3 per cent rise in January sales at locations open more than a year, and topped the average forecast from analysts of 4 per cent, according to FactSet Research.
The Lesson: Pay attention to what the public says about you and respond with products and services that counteract those accusations.
In the late 90s, Target was seen as just another low-brow discount retailer, indistinguishable from Wal-Mart or K-Mart. By offering pared down versions of designer apparel and merchandise through exclusive deals with high-profile designers such as Issac Mizrahi, Mossimo Giannulli, Michael Graves, Fiorucci and more, Target began to stand out from its competitors.
Target is now the second largest discount retailer in the United States, after Wal-Mart. Its stores are in nearly every state and the company announced in January that it will be expanding into Canada with 100 to 150 Canadian stores by 2013.
The Lesson: Set yourself apart from competitors with high-quality merchandise at lower prices.
Thanks to former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa who told women to 'Look at your man, now back at me,' Old Spice is suddenly a new Old Spice. Since the first commercial launched a year ago, the 70-year-old brand's ad campaign generated tens of millions of online views and a new catch-phrase: 'I'm on a horse.'
Old Spice followed up with 186 related videos in which Mustafa directly responded to digital queries from bloggers and celebrities including Perez Hilton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alyssa Milano.
The company's efforts worked when sales of Old Spice Body Wash--the line touted in the Wieden + Kennedy-created campaign--rose 11 per cent over the past 12 months in 2010, and sales continued to gain momentum, reported BrandWeek.
Mustafa returned in the first of three new commercials promoting Old Spice's latest collection of sprays, body washes and deodorants as a 'scent vacation' in exotic locales (including a grass skirt).
The Lesson: A clever ad + smart use of social media can produce a fresh identity, even for a brand that many associate with their grandfather's deodorant. 'Old Spice didn't change its logo, it changed the experience,' said Marc Shillum, principal at Method, Inc. a consulting agency for brand designs.
In 1997, Apple was veering dangerously close to bankruptcy. Nearly 15 years later, stock prices have gone from $6 to $350 and the company is stronger than ever. What changed? By producing reliable and elegantly designed products such as the iMac, iPods, and iPads, Apple became a juggernaut in technology. Nearly every product released has been an instant hit, and every move Steve Jobs makes drives a media frenzy.
'Jobs is a technologist with the heart of an artist,' said Shillum.
Another thing that Apple does well, Shillum noted, is the way it articulates its brand from its products down to the store level experience.
'Actions underlie brands,' he said. 'Everyone from the CEO to a sales rep needs to understand the company's mission and be free to articulate it in their own way.'
The Lesson: Build creative products that are well-made and enhanced by beautiful packaging. Also, create a positive experience for customers as Apple has done with its stores.
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