—David Mitchel, Vice President of Marketing, Norton Mitchel Marketing
Brands are similar to a living organism in the sense that they need to be cared for in order to demonstrate signs of vitality. In marketing, this is referred to as the product life cycle and it is a fundamental concept. Brands are developed, grown, and reach the state of maturity. Every brand manager wants the maturity stage to last as long possible and create enormous profits. A challenge comes in the latter part of the maturity stage. A brand must find a way to either revitalize in order to extend the lifespan of the brand or face an inevitable decline and eventual withdrawal from the market. Many brands have successfully revitalized, halting the onset of a decline, and others have unsuccessfully revitalized, damaging the equity of the brand.
Snapple is a brand that recently completed a successful brand revitalization. Snapple traces its history back to 1972. Throughout Snapple’s history, the brand has been positioned as one that produces healthy juice drinks and teas. Their motto has been “Made From the Best Stuff on Earth”. However, the Snapple brand was fading. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Executive Vice President Jim Trebilcock said “It’s one of those stories where people love the brand, but they kind of fell away from it and didn’t think it was as relevant.”. Snapple took quick action to make sure that the brand remained relevant. They changed the packaging and shape of the bottle. In the image, the Lemon Tea shows the new packaging. Snapple also made a brilliant decision to remove high fructose corn syrup in favor of natural sugar. This was a good move because there has been intense debate about the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of high fructose corn syrup. Aligning a brand with a controversial ingredient is a not a smart strategic move. Other changes included reducing calories in some of the products by up to 20% and altering distribution aspects, such as introducing 6 packs to go along with the standard 12 packs that Snapple offered. Company executives are saying that all the changes have amounted to a 15% increase in business for the brand in the first quarter of 2010.
Old Spice is a brand that has been revitalized over the last 20 years. Old Spice was introduced to customers in 1938. By 1990, when Procter & Gamble bought the brand, it was perceived as a declining brand popular with old men. In the two decades of Procter & Gamble ownership, Old Spice has been transformed into a brand that is young and vibrant. Old Spice decided to aggressively court males under the age of 30. Old Spice has used various elements of the marketing mix in this transformation. Over the years, Old Spice has expanded their product line moving into new categories such as body washes and body sprays. In terms of packaging, Old Spice products have a distinctive bright red appearance, creating differentiation. On the packaging, Old Spice branded products emphasize the quality aspects of the product. With regard to marketing communication, Old Spice has created numerous memorable advertisements, such as these, here and here, to appeal to the young male population. Finally, Old Spice’s pricing is generally appealing to young men. For example, in the deodorant category, Old Spice deodorants are generally at the lower end of the pricing spectrum. Men under 30 generally earn less money than men over 30. A low price strategy, combined with desirable product attributes, is a winning formula to attract young men to a brand.
Kotex is another brand that has been aiming to revitalize. Kotex has been in the feminine hygiene category for approximately 90 years. Recently, Kimberly-Clark, the parent of the Kotex brand, decided to try to appeal to a younger audience. However, Kotex did not want to lose its core consumer in the process. Hence, Kotex extended the product line, creating an independent brand called U by Kotex. Like Old Spice, U by Kotex has used numerous elements of the marketing mix to appeal to the target market. U by Kotex has tried to be innovative in its marketing communications (see here, here and here), satirizing the typical tampon advertisement. Additionally, the Kardashian sisters have also been involved in promoting the brand. This is a strong strategic move because the Kardashian sisters resonate with young women. Media channel placement has also been a focal point for U by Kotex. Much of the promotion of the brand has occurred in social media channels and online, which are sensible ideas when targeting an under 25 crowd. U by Kotex’s packaging is unique. No other tampon brand has packaging that resembles it, making it stand out amongst the competition. Pricing appears to be reasonably competitive. By creating a distinct brand to appeal to young women, Kotex introduces a whole new set of customers to brand while retaining brand equity in the main Kotex brand. If young women have a positive brand experience with U by Kotex and develop loyalty, they may eventually switch into the main Kotex brand as they age, ensuring the success of that brand in the years to come.
Not every brand successfully revitalizes. Gatorade is a perfect example of this. Much has been written in this space about Gatorade’s recent marketing failures (examples here and here). The impetus for Gatorade’s G re-brand was the fact that the target market of teens perceived the brand as antiquated. Gatorade’s brand revitalization execution is what failed and caused the well documented problems. However, Gatorade is not the only beverage to have a failed revitalization. New Coke is probably the most famous brand revitalization of all time. New Coke’s failure has also been well documented over the years and is one of the most famous branding cases. Coca-Cola had the sense to quickly pull the plug on the New Coke debacle. Along those same lines, Tropicana had a failed re-branding effort in 2009, when they updated the packaging. Tropicana did not make any product changes. The new packaging was not well received and the brand quickly reverted to the old packaging.
Pontiac is a brand that was never able to revitalize and paid the consequences. In 2009, General Motors announced that 2010 would be the final model year for Pontiac. Pontiac’s problems were primarily in the product aspect of marketing. Essentially, Pontiac didn’t make products that people wanted. Pontiac released a series of cars that weren’t well received by the market, such as minivans, the Pontiac Aztek crossover and the Pontiac Fiero. Meanwhile, Pontiac didn’t effectively extend the maturity phase of the car that it was best known for, the Pontiac Firebird and the Trans Am specialty version of the Firebird. It deviated too far away from what it did best and that ultimately caused the brand to be withdrawn from the market.
In successful brand revitalizations, brands often use multiple elements of the marketing mix to extend their period of maturity. A brand can change product features, target markets, packaging, distribution, communications, and pricing strategies. Brands that fail to execute the brand revitalization process correctly can confuse consumers, lose market share, damage brand equity and can be withdrawn from the market. The brands that alter the marketing mix most successfully are the ones that remain relevant over the long term.