For brands to remain relevant, they may rebrand themselves to create a new persona among consumers or prove that they can keep up with the ever-changing marketplace. This can include changing a logo or slogan, introducing a new spokesperson, or redesigning retail locations.
Rebranding can be a tactic for struggling companies as a last-ditch effort to stay afloat, but it is also common among some of the world’s strongest and most popular brands. Showing a willingness to change and adapt helps to create positive opinions of a brand, in that they aren’t stuck in their ways and are listening to what their consumers want.
The benefits of rebranding can go from tangible metrics like increased profit to less measurable elements like improved brand awareness. It’s important to set a specific goal for your company before going through a major change like this. What specifically are you looking to improve? How can this particular change help?
These six well-known companies have gone through some of the most memorable rebrands of the 21st century (so far!). They each faced a specific challenge and made changes to their marketing efforts to ultimately grow their business.
Hostess could quite possibly be the most significant rebrand of the last decade, filing for bankruptcy in 2013 and disappearing from the market for eight months. We all remember the crowds of people flocking to supermarkets trying to stock up on Twinkies and Ho Hos; anything they could get their hands on. We thought Hostess was going to be gone forever!
But thank goodness for Apollo Global Management, a firm that is known for rebuilding and relaunching struggling brands. Prior to Hostess, they successfully remarketed Pabst Blue Ribbon, an affordable beer popular among younger consumers. Their goal was to keep the recipes and taste the same, but update the packaging to attract millennial consumers.
Before Hostess filed for bankruptcy, their products were primarily purchased by a middle-aged demographic who were buying snacks for their child’s school lunches. Through brighter and bolder packaging, Hostess products now stand out on store shelves and attract customers of all ages.
They also plan to introduce some new products that focus on the changing dietary needs of consumers. Gluten-free, low-sugar, and seemingly “healthier” options are expected to be introduced, but the classic treats we know and love won’t change. So don’t worry, you’ll still be able to indulge in the same Twinkies you loved as a kid.
It’s no secret that the largest big-box retailer in the world is Wal-Mart. It is such a massive company that competing with them almost seems impossible. But Target didn’t want to simply live in Wal-Mart’s shadow and hope to be profitable. Instead, they stepped out as a retailer of quality products at affordable prices. Their means of differentiation has always been not sacrificing quality to save a couple bucks.
But they needed to do more. In 2011, Target began teaming up with labels like Isaac Mizrahi, Missoni, and Zac Posen to bring designer fashions to the average middle class consumer. When the first Missoni line was introduced, their entire inventory was sold out the morning the styles even became available. They’ve since introduced other brands for men, women, and children, and have seen great success with all of their lines.
This was an effort to attract both price-conscious and luxury brand shoppers to its stores, whereas Wal-Mart generally just attracts those shopping for the best price. By opening themselves up to a wider target market, they aren’t in 100 percent direct competition with Wal-Mart. While they may never become the number one retailer, Target has effectively positioned itself in the market to appeal to almost everyone. And this is a differentiator they will be able to take advantage of for years to come.
To keep up with the competition in the coffee shop industry, Starbucks has gone through several logo changes in its nearly 45-year history. The most recent change occurred in 2011, where the text was taken out to focus on the mermaid in the logo. Their logo has become so well-known over the years that it was redundant to have their brand name in there, and it was also more difficult to see the image’s details with text around it. Removing the typeface has added simplicity and luxury to the brand, while focusing on their specific target market.
Starbucks’ audience is primarily business professionals, typically living or working in an urban environment and between the ages of 25 and 40. Their focus isn’t just on providing quality coffee and bakery products; it’s an entire experience. When you go to Starbucks, you’re greeted by friendly baristas (not “associates” or “cashiers”) that are passionate about their work. They ask for your name and oftentimes start up a conversation with you while you’re waiting.
The design and layout of the stores are inviting and modern as well. The retail store designs and website were updated in 2011 to reflect changes occurring with the logo. There are comfortable seating areas, fireplaces, and free Wi-Fi for those looking to get some work done while sipping their Venti Caramel Macchiato. By updating all of the visual elements simultaneously, they have been able to keep a consistent feel between their logo, packaging, retail stores, and online presence.
Burberry may be an iconic UK brand today, but it hasn’t always been that way over the past 150 years. It may be hard to believe, but in the early 2000s Burberry products were seen as frumpy, unstylish, and even as “gang wear.” There were a couple of bars and restaurants in England that would ban patrons wearing Burberry trench coats because they were associated with criminal activity in the country.
To erase this stigma, Burberry had to go through a major marketing overhaul. In 2006, Angela Ahrendts became CEO and placed an emphasis on brand consistency and centralizing where the products could be purchased. Prior to that, you could purchase their famous coats at one store, pet products at another, and handbags at another. By bringing all of the products into a single retail store, Burberry was much more in control of their in-store marketing.
Fast forward to 2014, when Christopher Bailey was appointed CEO and made his focus on reinventing Burberry’s heritage. He introduced designs that were both current but didn’t lose the classic feel that made the brand famous. Getting celebrity endorsements, like actress Emma Watson, helped eliminate the bad reputation that Burberry was trying to put in the past.
He also launched a digital marketing strategy that focused heavily on social media, and Burberry became the first luxury brand to reach 10 million likes on Facebook. Through these efforts Burberry has made its classic image relevant today, while putting any negative associations in the past.
It was probably one of the most iconic documentaries in generations. Super-Size Me, a documentary by Morgan Spurlock, showed the world the physical toll that regularly eating fast-food takes on your body. From weight gain to higher blood pressure and cholesterol, we all know by now that frequent Big Macs aren’t exactly a cardiologist’s dream.
McDonald’s and other fast-food giants felt the effects of this documentary and a shift in public opinion towards healthy eating. Luckily, McDonald’s didn’t ignore this changing sentiment and began introducing healthier options to its menu, like salads, yogurt, and fruit. They also feature calorie counts next to all of their products so consumers don’t feel misled about what they are eating.
By making these changes, McDonald’s has shown that they are listening to what consumers want and aren’t stuck in their ways. Sure, Big Macs and fries have been their top sellers for decades, but there’s no question that people are starting to think about the food they are eating and trying to make healthier choices.
Fast food has a stigma of unhealthy, processed, and fried foods, and of course you can still find all of these things in your favorite meals. However, providing more options puts the consumer in charge of their health. Unlike Super-Size Me, you do have a choice to turn down the triple cheeseburger and pick the grilled chicken salad. You can make healthier choices while still getting food fast and inexpensively.
This shift in McDonald’s menu has not only improved public opinion; it’s improved sales as well. Sales have increased year-over-year since the introduction of healthier choices. Their ability to act fast on changing public opinions has allowed them to remain the number one fast-food chain in the world, and it will probably stay this way for years to come.
J. Crew is another iconic American brand rooted in classic fashions and quality products. However, the early 2000s brought challenges to the luxury brand, as competition from Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and American Eagle began to heighten. They had to figure out a way to differentiate themselves in this highly-saturated market.
Through their rebrand, J. Crew made a dedicated effort to focus on the quality of the fabrics they use in their products rather than trying to compete on price. They also discovered that introducing a bridal line could further help them stand out. J. Crew launched a line of bridesmaid’s dresses in 2010 that could be purchased online. They also opened a retail store for this line in New York City, with plans to expand in the coming years.
Another major win for this classic brand was getting unexpected support from one of today’s style icons: Michelle Obama. She has practically become the face of the brand, wearing J. Crew’s famous sweaters in several media appearances. The association with such a well-known and powerful woman helps to personify the brand they intend to be. This emphasis on producing quality products is something not a lot of brands are doing today, as they try to cut corners and maximize profit margins. But J. Crew has stood by their new image and has successfully differentiated itself from a lot of its previous competitors.
These brands have all faced their share of challenges in recent years, and these are some of the largest brands out there. It goes to show that even a well-established company has to be willing to adapt to the changing needs of consumers. Whether it’s a desire to eat healthier, buy better quality clothing, or keep up with modern styles, many companies are faced with the task of appealing to changing preferences.
A rebrand is a common way to accommodate these preferences because it shows the market that you’re listening. Making any major change to a brand can be risky, so it’s important to thoroughly evaluate your options based on specific goals that you set. When done right, like these six companies, the benefits should greatly exceed the costs.