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Part II: Changing Customer Perceptions About Your Brand.

You can’t begin the journey of changing customer perceptions without internal clarity, confidence and consensus on what defines your brand’s value proposition and why it will continue matter to people.

If your brand where gone tomorrow, would anybody care?

Assuming your brand team has the necessary internal clarity, confidence and consensus about what must change and where the greatest opportunities for success are found, there are only two strategic options available:

  1. continue to invest in the current brand

  2. invent a new brand

There are positives and negatives associated with both alternatives, but both will require lots of time, hard work and money. Let’s take a top-line view of these options.

Continue to invest in the current brand:

If the strategic decision is made to continue to invest and turn around an under-performing brand, one thing must be understood–what created initial success may no longer insure future success.

The key to successful transformation is how willing you are in helping consumers “unlearn” the associations they have with the current brand before you embed new associations and create more relevant experiences the target consumer segment cares about.

Iconic heritage brands that have abundant awareness but little relevance with a new generation of consumers are very difficult to change. Managers of iconic brands are naturally boxed in by the heritage the brand represents in people’s minds.

Along the way it’s easy to blur the brand’s identity and value proposition attempting to stretch its meaning and value to new consumer segments.

Starbucks is a great example of a successful turn around of an under-performing brand. After twenty years of ubiquitous expansion, the very thing that made the brand great was contributing to its demise.

In addition, the brand faced growing threats from unlikely competitors such as McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts who offered more convenience and lower prices. Starbucks responded by changing nearly every aspect of its operations and core store experience from the inside out.

Today the brand is once again enjoying the fruits of its leadership position. But it was a very expensive journey.

Invent a new brand:

In the long run, inventing a new brand from scratch may be a more prudent decision than attempting to change customer perceptions of an under-performing brand.

This is particularly true if the current brand’s positioning has boxed it into a market segment that has no future.

If the determination is made that the current brand associations by consumers bear too heavy a weight on the brand’s future expansion, inventing a new brand may be the only recourse for a fresh start.

Black & Decker faced this very challenge. As the market for consumer power tools began to get more competitive and saturated, Black & Decker brand owners decided to expand into the construction products market.

Of course, the construction professional perceived the Black & Decker brand good enough for sporadic odd jobs, but not the kind of product that could stand up to prolonged, rigorous professional use. No amount of product design or advertising would change this perception.

To enter this market, Black & Decker invented the DeWalt brand.

DeWalt has been an enormous success for Black & Decker. One of the benefits of this strategy is the Dewalt brand commands far higher price points. Plus a good part of the market doesn’t even realize Dewalt is even made by Black and Decker (and that’s just fine with Black and Decker).

To enter a new market, it may be necessary to invent a new brand.  By doing so, along with fundamental changes in product functions and features, positioning and pricing that are more attuned to a new target consumer segment, and you may be able to have the best of both worlds.

Changing customer perceptions about a brand’s value and relevance is dicey at best.  It’s worth repeating the process requires brand owners have a clear purpose and vision, the determination to stay the course, and lots of time and money.


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