To Reinvent or Not to Reinvent. That Is The Question!

The latest Bloomberg Businessweek has its annual “How To” section with a little bit of everything squeezed in.  Included is a paragraph by Lew Frankfort,  the CEO of Coach, on how to “Reinvent A Brand”.  It talks about how they are transforming Coach into a women’s lifestyle brand.  He offers the following headlines:

  • A transformation has to be careful, nurtured.

  • Understand your consumer and what motivates them.

  • Know your employees and what they’re capable of.

  • Do an enormous amount of research.

  • You’re never done.

I think Frankfort gets it right directionally, but perhaps with the benefit of a bit more space he’d be able to communicate important additional nuance.  

I’d say that the guts of a brand reinvention come from a sober, clear assessment of the most important variables associated with reshaping a brand; the brand itself, consumers and their perceptions of the brand and its category, and internal capabilities and resources able to be devoted to the project.

First, one has to understand what’s left of the underperforming brand to resurrect.  This has to be a particularly dispassionate exercise - doing as best you can to ignore internal attachments - to clearly understand what consumers think.  It is critical to assess precisely how much brand equity remains.   Basically, it comes down to, is there enough consumer equity available to “prime the pump” of a reinvention?

Second, obviously consumers evolve.  Once the Sears & Roebuck catalog was a staple of U.S. retailing.  Not now - because both the brand and consumer behavior evolved.  This analysis is less about remnant brand equity and more about where your brand fits generally with contemporary consumer behavior.  What void would the new brand fill?  What would it’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) be vis-a-vis the competition?  If the brand has already fallen on bad times, do consumers really want more?  What, specifically, has to be different about the brand (e.g. the product, marketing, distribution, etc.) to resonate with consumers today - where it did not in the past?  Etc.

Third, one has to assess what resources are available to execute a brand reinvention.  Given enough resources, even the Enron brand could be relaunched.  Of course, it would take A LOT of money and would it be worth it?  At the end of the day the decision to reinvent is a standard cost/benefit analysis.  Is there enough brand equity available to be leveraged to make it worth the investment required to resuscitate it.    What resources in the way of financial investment, human resources, internal management capabilities etc. are on hand to be devoted to what you've learned in your analysis of the brand and consumers?

So, you understand what current consumers think about your brand.  You learn where your brand fits with consumers and what the opportunity is to fill a void in their lives today.  Lastly, you put all of this in a strategic blender and see if you can make money from it.  If you believe you can, you go for it.  If not, you keep the brand mothballed.


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Tags: brand, positioning, reinvention, strategy


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