Brand revitalization

Changes in consumer tastes and preferences, the emergence of new competitors or new technology, or any new development in the marketing environment could potentially affect the fortunes of a brand. In virtually every product category, there are examples of once prominent and admired brands — such as Smith Corona, Zenith, and TWA — that have fallen on hard times or, in some cases disappeared. Nevertheless, a number of these brands have managed to make impressive comebacks in recent years, as marketers have breathed new life into their customer franchises. Brands such as Breck, Dr. Scholl’s and Fanta have all seen their brand fortunes successfully turned around to varying degrees.

Reversing a fading brand’s fortunes requires either that it “returns to its roots� and lost sources of brand equity are restored, or that new sources of brand equity are established. Regardless of which approach is taken, brands on the comeback trail have to make more “revolutionary� change than the “evolutionary� changes.

Often the first thing to do in turning around the fortunes of a brand is to understand what the sources of brand equity were to begin with. Are positive associations losing their strength or uniqueness? Have negative associations become linked to the brand? Decisions must then be made as to whether to retain the same positioning or create a new positioning, and, if so, which positioning to adopt. Sometimes the positioning is still appropriate; it’s the actual marketing program that is the source of the problem because it is failing to deliver on the brand promise. In those instances, a “back to basics� strategy may make sense, as was the case with Harley – Davidson.

Harley Davidson

Founded in 1903 in Milwaukee, WI, Harley-Davidson has twice narrowly escaped bankruptcy but is today one of the most-recognized motor vehicle brands in the world. In dire financial straits in the 1980s it desperately licensed its name for such ill-advised ventures as Harley-Davidson cigarettes and wine coolers. Although consumers loved the brand, sales were depressed by product quality problems. Harley’s return to greatness was begun by improving manufacturing processes. Harley also developed a strong brand community in the form of an of an owners’ club, called the Harley owner group (HOG) which sponsors bike rallies, charity rides, and other motorcycle events. Harley Davidson has continued to promote its brand with grass roots marketing efforts and finds itself in the enviable position of having consumer demand exceed what it can supply.

In other cases, however, the old positioning is just no longer viable and a “reinvention� strategy is necessary. Mountain Dew completely overhauled its brand image to become a soft drink powerhouse. As its history reveals, it is often easiest to revive a brand that is around, but has just more or less been forgotten.

Mountain Dew

Pepsi initially introduced Mountain Dew in 1969 and marketed it with the countrified tagline “Yahoo Mountain Dew! It’ll Tickle Your Innardsâ€?. By the 1990s, the brand was languishing on store shelves despite an attempt to evolve the image with outdoor action scenes. To turn the brand, Mountain dew updated the packaging and launched ads featuring a group of anonymous young males — the “Dew Dudesâ€? — participating in extreme sports such as bungee jumping, skydiving, and snowboarding while consuming Mountain dew. The brand slogan became “Do the Dew.â€? The brand’s successful pursuit of young soda drinkers led to Mountain Dew challenging Diet Coke to become the number three selling soft drink in terms of market share by 2000.