How to Successfully Transform a Brand
There are a lot of ways to change a brand, from packaging, word usage, or even launching an absurd campaign that completely disrupts a consumer’s expectations.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
If you haven’t seen an ad, then you’ve probably at least read an article or two about the evils of high fructose corn syrup and its possible connection with the rise of obesity. This type of publicity resulted in a decline in revenue for corn farmers and the manufacturing companies of high fructose corn syrup. Today, you might have a difficult time spotting this ingredient in any of the items in your kitchen. That’s not because it went away, it was merely renamed as “fructose or “corn sugar” to help distance the ingredient from the negative feelings consumers had when even hearing the words “high fructose corn syrup.”
The Lesson: Choose your name wisely. This method is a bit of a shell game, but if you need to distance yourself from negativity, it can’t hurt to start with a name change.
Post was seeing a steady 2% decline in sales over an 8-year period on one of their oldest cereals known as Shreddies. However, there was an idea to turn it all around (literally). The cereal company presented the world with “new” Diamond Shreddies, which was the same cereal but turned slightly to look like a diamond. Post knew consumers would be smart to this “change,” so they ran commercials asking people to take a side in the “squares vs. diamonds.” Consumers were even encouraged to vote for their preferred shape. In the end, the campaign resulted in an 18% increase in market share during the first month of the promotion.
The Lesson: Embrace the absurd. Disrupt expectations, and people will stop and take notice.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Blue Ribbon is typically in the category of “go-to cheap party beer.” However, in China, it is considered a high-end beer selling for $44. How did they achieve this? Well, there are a few differences between the American version and the version sold in China. First is the brew itself, which is a unique brew of German malts that is aged in oak whiskey barrels. Second is the packaging. The sleek bottle design looks less like a beer and more like a high-end liquor. The final part is the name – Blue Ribbon 1844. Much like the packaging, this name sounds less like a frat party beer and more like a rare fine scotch that should be reserved for special occasions. Blue Ribbon 1844 has seen tremendous success in China’s growing demand for expensive beers.
The Lesson: Perceived quality is still quality in the eyes of the consumer, it just depends on how you cater to the market in which you’re presenting your brand.
There’s a difference between being cheap and being price conscious. One has a far more negative connotation, which is the problem Walmart was having with their slogan, “Always Low Prices.” This made the mega-chain seem like a cheap shopping alternative, and again, no one wants to be called cheap. To fix this perception, Walmart changed their slogan to “Save Money. Live Better.” This shift places a far more positive filter on Walmart’s ability to offer merchandise at a significantly lower price than their competitors by focusing in on the quality of life aspect of saving money. Overall, the campaign was a success and kept Walmart going strong even during economic downtimes.
The Lesson: Focus on the benefit to the consumer on a personal level, not just on their wallets. Asking someone if they want to save money will result in a head nod, but asking if they’re going to “Live Better” will result in a far more enthusiastic answer.
Twix recently launched a campaign that is not unlike the Shreddies campaign listed above – making consumers choose between the left or right Twix as their favorite. Like the cereal diamonds, this is an attempt to bring about brand awareness through an absurd concept while also embracing the absurdity in ads, commercials, and even labeling packaging as “left” or “right” Twix bars. The numbers are still a mystery as to the overall success of the campaign, but you can’t deny the attention it’s bringing to the brand, including a petition on change.org to force Twix to stop the campaign. The petition closed with only nine supporters (for perspective on how these petitions typically go, the “Stop Black Friday from Creeping into Thanksgiving” petition has 82K supporters). So Twix’s campaign has, so far, successfully walked the fine line creating a conversation that gets people talking to the point they start online petitions, but hasn’t annoyed enough people to garner any support for that petition. That’s a step above other brands that have attempted to do the same.
The Lesson: It’s ok if a few people don’t like your campaign. You will always run into people that find absurd commercials annoying. It’s inevitable. Focus on the big picture of your campaign when measuring success.
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