When things have been going poorly for an organization and they seek a fresh start, (perhaps upon emerging from a national epidemic), the impulse is often to rebrand. However, in a Marketing Week piece, Mark Ritson, argues for a revitalization rather than rebranding.  Ritson argues that even if you feel public perception is so bad there is a need to start over from square one, there is actually quite a bit of solid foundation you would be abandoning in a rebrand.

Rebranding – in which we not only attempt to change the perception of the brand but also its name and livery – is an even more unpalatable option. Take all the disadvantages of repositioning and then add the massive additional disadvantage of losing all awareness, salience and familiarity, and then having to build them from scratch, and you begin to glimpse the enormous fallacy of rebranding.

What he suggests in terms of revitalizing the brand is to go back and investigate what people valued to highly when the organization was at its apex. After speaking with loyalists, analyzing what made the organizational brand so great and distilling that down to a few simple concepts or imperatives to pursue, figure out what that means in the present time. (my emphasis)

Step three, don’t reproduce the executions and approaches of the past – despite their proven impact. Time has moved on. Instead, ask what these key words or imperatives demand of you in 2022. That question is crucial because, although you don’t change the DNA of a brand when you revitalise it, you do have to acknowledge one of the core paradoxes of branding: consistency demands change.

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If your beauty brand is all about health and nature, plastic packaging with a picture of waterfall and a product packed full of parabens might have worked once upon a time. But wake up and smell the future! Doing the same thing, over a long period of time – ironically – often makes you ultimately inconsistent with your stated brand position.

If you need to refute the “that’s how we have always done it” statement, that last sentence above it what you need. Maintaining the promises you have made to your customers/community requires changing what you do.

Upon examination there is likely to be an inconsistency between the mandate to broaden an audience base and the insistence not to make changes to the thing that audiences want. Scrapping that program that everyone says audiences want may not be necessary, but changing many details related to its execution will likely be required.

In his piece, Ritson uses the UK National Lottery as a case study of how the program went from being perceived as a benefit to worthy causes to just another way to gamble. It is worth noting that while Ritson says he regards some of the advertising pieces the National Lottery did as absolutely brilliant, the underlying message of selfish greed was dissonant with was valued about the National Lottery at the height of its past popularity.

This  is a reminder not to confuse advertising, no matter how good it is, with branding.

Though certainly, advertising spending is important to brand creation, but the focus of the advertising is what is important long term.

Compared to the rest of the gambling category, The National Lottery was underspending on advertising. In the short term that meant better profitability and more money for good causes. But in the longer term it indicated this once powerful brand would lose share and status in the UK.

And there was a further, final problem. Not only was The National Lottery underspending on advertising, it was investing solely on shorter-term, product-based game activations. There was no budget for brand building and the opportunity to communicate what The National Lottery ultimately did for society.

About Joe Patti

In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats (buttsseats.com) since 2004.
I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)
I am currently the Director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University. Across my career I have worked at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.

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