Brand Repositioning, Revitalization and Rebranding Project

Brand Repositioning, Revitalization and Rebranding Project

Brand management is a long-term process that involves awareness of the unique challenges that confront the brand as it progresses across the different stages of its life. In other classes we consider how to “birth” resonant brands, how to nurture promising brands, and how to leverage brands for growth into adulthood, but what do we do with brands that have passed “middle age”? As brands mature, they can lose vitality and resonance that translates to declining share and sales. Mature brands can attract new users that dilute the very meanings that gave the brand life. Brands are often brought to profit by riding a trend only to find that they later are abandoned by it. If motivated, consumers can reposition our brands for us and take them into challenging new directions. The forces of culture are forever misaligning our brands, zapping brand meanings of their resonance, and making our brand positionings stale. Mountain Dew, Old Spice, J&B, Chrysler, Dove, Burberry’s, Accenture, BMW, Samsung, JC Penney’s, Macy’s, Talbots, Ducati, Canadian Tire, Northeastern University, the Republican Party, Phillip Morris, and China: in almost every product category we can point to once prominent and admired brands that fell into (and sometimes recovered from) this state.

For obvious reasons, managers generally prefer to fix stagnant brands than introduce new ones and brand stewards draw from a portfolio of strategies to turn stale brands around. Sometimes management tweaks the marketing mix or brand elements in make-overs that breathe new life into stagnant brands. Sometimes, they attempt a radical repositioning, fundamentally changing the target audience, product, competitive set, and the very meanings of the brand. Sometimes a total rebranding is enacted and the old brand is abandoned. Brand revitalization may be chosen over brand repositioning or rebranding, with updated interpretations of the brand’s central meanings and new cultural strategies to reinvigorate the brand. Whatever the “flavor”, repositioning addresses a challenging and complex problem that risks diluting hard-won brand equity and alienating or perhaps losing core users in the chase for new opportunities for the brand. Brands often get embedded in a particular generation that eventually ages out of the franchise, and as managers at Harley-Davidson, Eileen Fischer, or J&B would tell you, courting two generations is “tough.”

In this exercise, you will identify and present a case study in which a mature brand was repositioned (successfully or unsuccessfully) and in the telling and critique of the story of this brand at the cross-roads, deduct lessons and take-aways about revitalizing and repositioning brands. Why was the brand revitalized, repositioned or rebranded; what problem was management trying to solve? What was the repositioning strategy; what tactics brought the new brand alive? Was the effort sound and successful; why or why not? What lessons and take-ways does your case offer for repositioning brands?

The case analyses are due and presented in class on October 6. Cases should be prepared and presented in PowerPoint, with your presentations uploaded before class to the Course Resources folder, “Team Assignment: Brand Repositioning, Revitalization and Rebranding.” Visual material should be leveraged to bring your case alive. Teams will have 17 minutes to present; the class will engage 8 minutes of questions with each team. Strict time limits apply. To ensure executability within the allotted time frame, teams should plan on 10-12 slides for the presentation. Final reports can contain additional slides up to a 20-slide limit. Teams may also include associated notes pages to amplify the points in and logic behind slides. Supplemental analytic tables or appendices are accepted provided these are interpreted in and have inferences for the analysis presented in the report.

Readings that may support your assignment are referenced below:
Aaker, David (1996), “Resisting Temptations to Change a Brand Position/Execution,” The Journal of Brand Management, Vol 3, 251-258

Jacobs, Harrison (2014), “11 Major Rebranding Disasters and What You Can Learn from Them,” Business Insider, April 4,

Keller, Kevin (2013), “Chapter 13: Managing Brands Over Time,” Strategic Brand Management, NY: Prentice Hall

Wansink, Brian (2001), “Revitalizing Mature Packaged Goods,” Journal of Product and Brand Management, 19 (4), 228-242.

Brand Associations Exercise

Brand Associations Exercise

To have students elicit and analyze brand associations for leading global brands.

Materials needed:
White posterboard sheets with sticky stuff on the back (one for each student)
Markers (one for each student)
Brand logo printouts

How to run it:
Print out logos from the Interbrands Top Brand survey. Paste each logo to a whiteboard sheet and hang all of the sheets around the classroom. Be sure to have enough brands to work on so that each student can be standing at a sheet. Hand each student a marker and have him/her go to a sheet.
(20 minutes) Students should start with one sheet and then work their way around the room trying to hit as many brands as possible. While at a sheet, they should quickly write down anything that pops into their head about that brand – thoughts, feelings, people, words, phrases, etc. in bullet form. If students get to a sheet that is already filled in, they should place check-marks next to things already on the page that represent their thoughts about the brand, i.e. things that they agree with. If they disagree with something that is already up on the sheet, they should put an X next to it. Then, they should add anything new that occurs to them about the brand. Let students get to at least 10 different brands in the exercise.

(20 minutes) Come back together as a class and discuss what is up on the sheets.

Start with general questions:
Was this hard or easy for you to do? Why?
What patterns do you see across brands?
What differences do you see across brands?

Then, get more specific:
What kinds of brand associations are there? Probing for functional, emotional, attitudes, identity-related, user-imagery, etc. Also probing for positive vs. negative. Can reference Aaker’s brand association article here entitled “Beyond functional benefits”.

Where do brand associations come from? Probing for marketer-authored vs. consumer authored, culturally shared vs. idiosyncratic, heard vs. experienced, inherent to the product/service or created through storytelling (advertising and other marketing communications).

Which brands have few brand associations? Why? What does this say about these brands? Differentiate between low brand awareness (i.e. brands like Cisco, HSBC which are unfamiliar to most students) and weak brand meaning. Point out that certain brands (i.e. Cisco, SAP) are leading global brands, but they have very low awareness and meaning for a student target market, but great strength in their own B2B target market.

Which brands have many brand associations? Why? What does this say about these brands?

Brand Meaning and Personality Exercise

Brand Meaning and Personality Exercise

To have students explore and analyze brand meaning and brand personality using a variety of market research techniques.
Materials needed:
• Exercise worksheets for each student (see attached)
• Each student needs to work with a particular brand – if they are working on projects for the semester, they should use their project brand.

How to run it:
Group students into pairs and distribute the worksheet below.

Tapping into Brand Meaning Exercise

Team up with a classmate and explore brand meaning through the following exercises. As you go through the exercises, think about which ones are offering the most interesting insights. Take turns talking about each of your brands using the different techniques.

1.) Free Association
Ask your partner to write down ten things that pop into their mind when you say your brand. If they have no trouble doing so, ask them to write down five more.

2.) Brand Association Prompts
Ask your partner to fill in the blanks for the following statements:

When I use this brand, I get ________________.

The job that this brand does for me is ____________________.

When I use this brand, I feel ________________.

When I use this brand, I am ________________.

When I use this brand, the type of people I relate to are ________________.

3.) Brand Personality Projection
Ask your partner to answer the following questions and probe with follow up questions to understand their answers and uncover deeper meanings:

If your brand was a person, who would it be?

What demographic traits would it have?

What activities would it enjoy doing?

What personality traits would define it?

What kind of lifestyle would your brand enjoy?

Who would be your brand’s best friend?

If you could have a conversation with your brand, what would the two of you talk about?

What kind of music, movies, television shows would your brand enjoy?

4.) Sensory Techniques
Uncover the sensorial properties of your brand by asking the following types of questions. Remember to probe to understand the deeper brand meaning behind your brand.

What does your brand smell like?

What does your brand sound like?

What does your brand feel like?

What does your brand look like?

What does your brand taste like?

(30 minutes) There are four exercises on the worksheet. Pairs should run through each exercise for each of their brands.
(15 minutes) Come back together as a class and discuss what happened in the pairs.

• Which of the four market research techniques did you find most (least) valuable? Why?
• Which market research techniques would be most valuable to a brand manager? Why?
• How did the type of brand meaning elicited vary across market research technique? Probe for functional vs. emotional, facts vs. attitudes, culturally shared vs. idiosyncratic, marketer authored vs. consumer authored, etc.
• What did you learn about your brand that you didn’t know from your own experience? What surprised you?