BRANDS IN TRANSITION BRands in tRansition
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BRands in tRansition: CReating tHe RigHt CoMMUniCations MiX
AN MWW WHITE PAPER FAll 2012
© 2012 MWW GROUP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | WHITEPAPER | FALL 2012 1
BRANDS IN TRANSITION
Public Relations, in its many forms, should be an essential strategic discipline within a company’s 360-degree brand marketing framework. Public Relations carries the greatest impact when it is folded into a larger plan that integrates a well-defined brand message across all marketing and communications activities. This holds particularly true for brands in transition.
© 2012 MWW GROUP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | WHITEPAPER | FALL 2012 2
BRANDS IN TRANSITION
Brands in TransiTion: CreaTingTherighT CommuniCaTionsmix
This short whitepaper explores how Public Relations can fulfill a critical role in keeping the brand message on target and the value that the discipline brings during times of transition, as well as when other marketing priorities have wavered.
Every brand and company faces hurdles at some point that challenge their ability to either maintain the original brand promise or continue to define it with the original core customers that helped build the brand. Indeed, moving your brand from one place to a new position is often required to stay in business. For example, the Amazon of ten years ago is not the Amazon of today. Oil companies mostly recognize the need to find new sources of energy across the board, invest heavily in this area and now position themselves as energy companies. Subaru traded on its all-wheel drive capabilities for years – but when that became less unique and distinctive they deftly transitioned to a car company built around active and outdoor lifestyles.
In particular, brands that need to move from a niche positioning to create more mass market appeal, or established brands that need to drive higher short-term sales due to competitive pressure, are particularly vulnerable to losing the equity of their brand. Category leaders are especially susceptible to the slippery slope built on successive small concessions that slowly undermine the perception of the brand.
These small changes over time are often irreversible and premium positioning is slowly ceded to new entrants or fast moving competitors. Oftentimes these changes are necessitated by the cold reality of the bottom-line, but even in the most competitive spaces there are means to replace lost brand equity with new assets that can build a better brand for the future.
© 2012 MWW GROUP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | WHITEPAPER | FALL 2012 3
BRANDS IN TRANSITION
ouT WiTh TheoLd,in WiTh TheneW
The key is that for every point of brand equity that is ceded, a new asset is introduced. These new assets can take many forms, but they need to pass muster on the following points:
• Are they relevant?
• Are they distinctive?
• Are they ownable?
Relevant brand assets are, by definition, ones that add value to the customer experience or brand perception. Distinctive and ownable
assets keep brands from looking stale or appearing as “me too” brands.
These are important points, because
if a brand is ceding its position on something that was once relevant, distinctive or uniquely owned it has lost a significant competitive advantage.
Consider Kodak as an example, it never lost its distinctive or ownable brand assets – but it did lose its relevance during its failed brand evolution. By missing the opportunity to replace relevant brand assets with something new it surrendered its position in the world of photography.
On the other hand, Amazon has continued to create new relevance in
distinctive and ownable ways that have
not eroded its overall position. It is this creation of new brand assets that has allowed Amazon to let go of some of its original core equities without diminishing the overall brand. This
is the roadmap for brands that need to transition. If you need to let go of something that isn’t working from a bottom-line perspective, you need to find a new brand asset to replace the old one.
Changes in the marketplace demand brands constantly evolve and create a
new brand vision.
© 2012 MWW GROUP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | WHITEPAPER | FALL 2012 4
BRANDS IN TRANSITION
The roLe of puBLiC reLaTions
So where does PR fit into the mix?
Brand transitions are difficult and changes in philosophy or a brand promise usually don’t take hold overnight. Practically speaking, the introduction of a new product, service, brand promise or other core asset or function requires trial and uptake.
A brand moving off of its former position almost invariably needs to rebuild – and most often with two sets of consumers: old ones it is hoping to retain and new ones it is hoping to develop. This is a brave new world for all parties and in response, communications strategies generally move from brand building, maintenance and investment to driving awareness and trial.
This is where a double-edged sword begins to develop: the full range of former brand assets are no longer applicable and new brand assets need to be communicated. Awareness campaigns need to focus on a minimal number of intuitively understood components of the new offer (leaving some legacy attributes out of the equation), and the primary focus of new marketing efforts will be on promoting trial.
So how do you effectively promote trial without losing the soul of your brand?
What follows are two examples of what not to do and one example of how to get
© 2012 MWW GROUP, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED | WHITEPAPER | FALL 2012 5