Want to Change Your Brand’s Identity and Platform? Do it Thoughtfully
By Elizabeth C. Castro, vice president, O’Malley Hansen Communications
Give the people what they want. It’s the most basic of marketing strategies to ensure sales and success of your brands’ products. But what if your product isn’t catching on, despite what the early research indicated? You might start to consider that it’s time to change gears — everything from your brand platform, marketing and creative concepts and core messages. But what about the promises you made, the audiences you’ve already connected with and all of media spends? Well, it surely isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. Brands should consider the implications and create a thoughtful transition strategy. Here’s how:
Audit your consumers to learn what matters most
The very first step is to conduct a study to find out what drives your core consumers to purchase your products, what matters to them and how they might feel if a change was made. This can provide you some good insights that will support a change in your strategy.
The second step is to look at other like case studies of other companies. You might be amazed to find other brands that have made changes with little outcry from consumers. On the flip side, you might find brands that experienced consumer backlash. Regardless, these cases provide some important lessons for making a change. So find out about them and apply the learnings to your own strategy.
Finally, review your own communications, and consumer sentiment and responses. Facebook is a great place to start. For brands that have robust social media communities, find out what are the primary topics of conversation. A marketer might believe that the most recent campaign or a coupon giveaway matters most to consumers, but the conversations and responses to your wall posts may indicate that other factors matter even more.
Bottom line: Look at all three of these critical pieces of information to fully understand your audience and what drives them to select your product.
Do a cost benefits analysis
If the cost to bring your product to market is a major factor in your decision to change a brand platform, fully analyze the costs to determine if it’s truly the right decision. Changing materials or ingredients, as well as all of your external communications channels (e.g., website, POS, public relations, logos, etc.), could be cost prohibitive. Fully understand the costs for each of these items as well as the costs of your various agencies. Also determine whether these changes, while better from a cost perspective, will turn off consumers.
Bottom line: Determine if the short term costs will have long term benefits. If you can’t show this rationale, you might want to rethink your strategy.
Develop a thoughtful transition strategy
Understanding the landscape, the costs benefits and the potential response from consumers will help to guide your transition strategy. There are no fast and hard rules about how to develop your plan, but there are some key communications that need to take place should the situation warrant it.
First, start with retailers that carry your products. This is an excellent place to test your strategy. If retailers believe that your revamped product will still sell, you’re in a great place to socialize this change with others externally. Let’s hope that you’ve already done your homework to position this change as a benefit to retailers and consumers.
External communications, initially, could take place directly to consumers via social media channels. In fact, it’s the best place to test the waters and receive immediate feedback. If some consumers rebel, but you believe you can weather the storm, move forward. If there’s an all-out rebellion, think twice. There are some great examples of brands that made changes, only to revert back to their original formulas and logos after their Facebook communities exploded in outrage.
Finally, how and if you communicate to the media should be a significant part of your plan. Some brand changes that are small might warrant an update to your website. But others, especially by major brands, will require communication to the business media and trades. To start, select a top media contact that might paint your story in a positive light and offer them the exclusive. You initial story could help to set the right tone for subsequent coverage.
Bottom line: Talk to your key stakeholders early and gather their feedback along with way. It’ll provide you with an opportunity to adjust your strategy and proceed with caution before diving in head first with a strategy that could backfire.
Elizabeth Castro is a vice president at O’Malley Hansen Communications (OHC) in Chicago (www.omalleyhansen.com). OHC has developed social media strategies and manages Facebook communities for national brands. Elizabeth is the editor of The Communications Blog (www.thecommunicationsblog.com). You can follow her on Twitter at @Eliz_Castro and @thecommsblog.