But there is hope ahead. Marketers at the ‘Shake up your category – how brands revitalise’ briefing held in London last week discussed how brands have and can be revamped and become relevant again in the context of culture and the economy.
1. Deeply understand the roots of your brand.
“If you are reinventing a brand and you are not [true to it] it doesn’t work,” said Vodafone’s director of brand marketing and communications Daryl Fielding.
She cited BlackBerry as a brand that had been successful in a business arena but that moving away from its roots to target consumers eventually proved costly.
“Finding the soul of a brand is crucial,” she added.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s director of marketing and audiences Holly Goodier said that when she worked on the launch of iPlayer in 2004, gut instinct was important.
“It is about making sure the gut is something we stay true to and that digital doesn’t innovate in a silo,” she said, adding that along with being a distribution channel, iPlayer is about “creating precious moments of time.”
Goodier is currently working on BBC3 as an online-only brand, a move that was announced in March.
2. Remember consumers don’t care about internal processes.
Consumers only see the brand, said Arif Haq, a senior consultant at Contagious Communications and former PepsiCo marketer. He warned that in large companies process can come ahead of the consumer.
“People get so fixated [on the process] that you forget to look up and think about the consumer. You get very good at managing internal audiences and getting approval,” he added.
During his time working on Gatorade at PepsiCo, he helped steer the brand away from “sexy, cool advertising” to talking about why the product is good at the time of consumer need, in the face of competition from the likes of Coca-Cola’s Glaceau-Vitaminwater.
He added that part of reviving a product is about managing what people do in their role, saying: “It starts by remembering what you are in the first place.”
3. Say ‘no’.
When it comes to knowing your own brand and building partnerships with others, marketers warn that you need to approach any potential tie-ups with care. Marketers need to ensure that they really understand their own brand values and are brave enough to turn down opportunities that don’t fit their approach.
Fielding says she takes a similar approach to partnerships at Vodafone. “You have to approach them with pride in your brand and not be over-awed by others,” she said.
4. Don’t forget the power of emotion.
Fielding’s team at agency Ogilvy & Mather (where she was managing partner) that worked on Unilever’s Dove in the early 2000s spent considerable time finding the right insight for the brand and reiterated that products can fulfill a fundamental human need.
“Women don’t think they are attractive enough” was the global insight they came to behind the “Campaign for Real Beauty”.
“Find the insight that can travel,” Fielding said. However, selling the idea to Unilever’s senior management team was a tough process, as not all were natural consumers of the brand. So the Ogilivy team made films of some of their daughters discussing body issues, thus tapping into the “power of the emotional sell”, said Fielding.
During her time at Mondelez as its vice president of marketing, a role she left in 2012, Fielding re-launched Milka across Europe, using an emotional insight that is about “sweetness and love”.
5. Remind yourself of marketing’s fundamental rules.
While new techniques and platforms are emerging, the basic rules of marketing remain the same, said Haq: “People haven’t changed, the fundamentals of being a human haven’t changed.”
Fielding added that she is “frustrated by this week’s marketing handbag”, urging marketers to consider basic marketing tactics instead of lusting after shiny new approaches.
Haq advocated considering the type of revitalisation a brand needs. It could simply warrant a refresh – – perhaps a new logo design; a re-energise, such as Ryanair’s current focus on customer service; or a re-pivot like Google’s acquisition of Nest.
“The challenge you are trying to solve will dictate the type of revitalisation you need,” he said.