When you thinking about the concept of branding, the phrase “adapt or die” might sound extreme. But if you asked Blockbuster, for example, they might say it’s extreme…ly accurate. Simply put, sometimes rebranding is necessary.
Times change. Consumer preferences are always evolving, and chasing the trends of recent years can leave once-proud companies falling behind more dynamic brands who are willing – even if reluctantly – to meet the market. It may too late for our favorite neighborhood video stores, big retailers like Toys-R-Us and Sears, but these should serve as a “how-not-to” example for brands that are on the precipice of failure due to their inability to rebrand.
In this article I’ll provide examples of brands that embraced change, and have survived because of it.
McDonald’s didn’t build its brand around the goal of serving up the healthiest food available. To be fair, they never claimed “healthy” as a selling point, but rather they relied on being quick, cheap, and tasty. That worked out well for more than half-a-century, as they grew to one of the most recognizable brands on the face of the planet (and remain so today). Unfortunately for Mickey D’s, the country became health-conscious in the mid 2010s, and the golden arches were made the scapegoat of a growing nationwide obesity crisis.
How they did it: McDonald’s couldn’t abandon the fast-and-cheap strategy, but they could adjust the items that they featured in marketing campaigns. No longer was the Big Mac the star, but salads, chicken sandwiches, and snack wraps were put in front of customers as a way to say, “we’re not just burgers anymore.”
The company hasn’t quite returned to the dominant force of decades gone by, but it has maintained resilient and profitable, and sometimes that’s all you can really ask for following a rebrand.
It’s hard to believe that Apple almost didn’t make it. The company’s surprising history reveals that the road to the top is never easy, and that adjustments are necessary in order to survive and grow. Before they made cutting-edge devices with the latest technology, Apple’s focus was on aesthetics. Steve Jobs famously said (read: supposedly said), “people will always want beautiful things.”
How they did it: Apple turned its attention to the products, of course, but they also began to place more emphasis on the brand itself. In sort of a rebrand “inception” if you will, the company started not just selling the products functionality or design, but actually selling Apple itself. Today, with a multi-trillion-dollar market cap, it’s safe to say this move paid off.
Lego’s marketing strategy in the 80s and 90s had devolved to “let’s throw things at the wall and see what sticks.” The dropping sales proved this wasn’t going to be sustainable going forward. Creativity had always been the hallmark of what made LEGO a household name, but that creativity needed to take a new shape in order to gain new fans.
The solution? Bring the pieces to life! Through various short films that inserted LEGO into the mainstream culture, the brand was able to get the attention of new and old fans alike. Chris McKay, animation supervisor on the Lego Movie said it best, “We wanted to make the film feel like the way you play, the way I remember playing. We wanted to make it feel as epic and ambitious and self-serious as a kid feels when they play with Lego.”
How they did it: LEGO went all-in on modernizing the brand. That meant adding animation, current events, and contemporary superheroes to its arsenal. It’s a great example of how even iconic brands need to continually reinvent themselves to stay at the top.
Burberry is synonymous with high-end clothing, in 2022 that is. If you go back a couple decades, however, it was associated with street wear, and was often labeled as “gang” attire. The founder of the brand, Thomas Burberry, didn’t fight the gang stigma. Rather, he simply decided that they have that market covered, and it was time to increase the appeal to different audiences like young people and of course, celebrities.
Perhaps the tipping point was the Kate Moss campaign in 2001. The A-lister was now the face of the brand, and the association between Burberry and “upscale” was never more apparent.
How they did it: Like any brand trying to attract the next generation of brand-loyal customers, Burberry turned to social media to execute their rebrand. Not only that, but they came out with updated brand assets like a new logo and monogram. Of course, these were introduced in the most elite way possible – at London Fashion Week. If that’s not a recipe for success, nothing is.
In a sea of department stores, Target has managed to assert itself as the top spot for the trendy, young, often-affluent, shoppers looking to get everyday items. The brand was able to capture this enviable audience by building its brand around two words: cheap and chic.
Way back in 1987, the VP of Merchandising recognized that Wal-Mart had captured the market with their low prices. The goal was to add something to differentiate their brand while also maintaining affordability. The new slogan, which was born in the early 2000s, says it all: “Expect more, pay less.”
How they did it: Target embraced their newfound “boujee” status (although it wouldn’t be called that for more than a decade after their rebrand. The store is commonly-referred to as “Tar-zhay,” as a tongue-in-cheek way to express its fancy-department-store persona. Target has also grown their brand by blurring the lines between high-end and affordable clothing. For example, they’ve partnered with several top designers who have created clothing lines that the average consumer can afford.
Target’s rebrand helped the company find its niche in the market. They’ve been rewarded with unprecedented sales and growth in the years that followed.
Rebranding requires planning, but even more important is action. If you’re ready to start executing your brand’s reboot with a new website, updated logos and colors, or a revamped content strategy that captivates your audience, get in touch today and we’ll help you get where you’re trying to go.