Why your business should consider changing its brand (and maybe take a risk)

Someone, a really long time ago, coined the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (Nerd alert: it was T. Bert (Thomas Bertram) Lance, Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter's 1977 administration.)

But when it comes to marketing, your brand might not have to “broke” to need a fix – or at least a tweak. It could be outdated, or it could suddenly be a victim of circumstance. Case in point: Ayds diet candy. In the 1970s, Ayds marketed itself as a tasty candy that was not only low in calories, it suppressed your appetite, helping dieters lose weight.

With an advertising campaign that featured a spokesperson who said “With Ayds, I eat less”, it didn’t go over so well when the AIDS epidemic emerged in 1981. Rebranding itself as “Diet Ayds”, unsurprisingly, didn’t do much to resurrect its image, and the candy quickly disappeared.

Sharing a name with a disease that killed millions is not obviously not good for business. Here’s some other reasons why you might want to change your branding strategy:

  • Your brand is no longer telling your story. Even worse, it’s never really told your story at all. What does your target market envision when they hear your brand? If you need a few moments to think about that, you may want to take even more time to think about changing your brand to exemplify what your business is about.
  • What your business is offering has changed. Your company may have started up by offering one certain product or service. Maybe you’ve expanded your services over time. Does your brand reflect your changes? Think Uber, which began as an alternative to taxis, but now also delivers dinner, with more services on the horizon. Keep your branding up-to-date so your customers know who you are.
  • Your target demographic has changed since you started your brand. Especially if you’ve been around a long time, your key customers may have aged out of your marketing. While your target is still the same age, their attitudes may have changed (think marketing clothing to teen girls: at one point it was about feeling pretty; now it might be about feeling empowered.) Your brand marketing needs to keep up with the times.

If you see the need to change your brand, here are some tips to do it successfully.

Take a risk. Nike provides the most current example by using Colin Kaepernick -- former NFL quarterback and the originator of the “take a knee during the national anthem” protest – as its newest face to promote its brand. Nike’s slogan, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”, is both on target and controversial. Some Americans were outraged; they uploaded videos of themselves burning their Nike products, bringing even more publicity to the brand campaign – and to Nike itself.

On the other hand, Nike’s social media mentions went up by 135 per cent after the ad debuted. If you believe in that old Barnum and Bailey adage – there’s no such thing as bad publicity – Nike’s new branding efforts were a success.

Challenge the status quo. Follow Dove’s example. Their Real Beauty campaign flew in the face of all advertising of beauty products, which promote, well, beauty. Dove’s campaign focused on real women, of all sizes – going against the grain of trying sell women on some idealized version of what they should be. The result: the Dove brand is growing consistently each year and continues to attract more households.

Update. Before 2010, Old Spice was a brand you might’ve bought for your father – or grandfather – for Christmas. After 2010, thanks to a brand change that saw the product being marketed as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” (starring hunky NFL-er Isaiah Mustafa), Old Spice enjoyed a brand new life as a brand new brand: definitely not your granddad’s soap.

What is your brand saying about you?





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