In order to stay healthy, brands require a constant commitment to reinvention. Without continually finding new ways to deepen the connection to customers, faster moving competition will always win. The reverse is equally true: Rekindling brand relevance leads to accelerated growth.

Smart CEOs have always known this, of course. Throughout the C-suite, the need to innovate is a given. But the pace of disruption has changed due to a stream of new offers and technology emerging not just from the usual competitors, but also from unexpected players all over the world. Overnight, a well-positioned brand can become dangerously out-of-date. Within six months, it can become downright antiquated. (Want proof? Just ask executives at BlockBuster Video or Zynga.)

But continual reinvention requires a delicate balance. On one hand, businesses need to be proactive, vigilant, flexible and opportunistic. But successful brand transformations also require tactical precision. Brands need to carefully choose the transformations that will lead to the most sustainable growth.

While it may seem like the market is demanding change for change’s sake, those in the C-Suite must weigh the merits of moving faster against the need for intelligent investments that serve the entire company, not just a single brand.

Four Signs One of Your Brands May Be Ready for a Total Overhaul:

1. You Need to Find the Next Growth Wave

While people may love the idea of bowling, Brunswick was suffering from the reality of declining participation. Organized leagues were fading. Instead, people wanted a broader experience including food options that went beyond fried food, frozen pizza and vending machines. Prophet helped Brunswick launch a 21st-century take on the bowling experience, starting with ethnographic research not just at bowling alleys, but also at arcades, putt putt courses and water parks, enlarging the definition of active entertainment. We created a high-level brand identity and positioning that included food and service recommendations that invite guests to linger, spend more and expand the idea of fun beyond the strike zone. The new bowling experience launched in several locations in 2013, with plans to expand nationally.

2. You’re a Challenger, Not a Leader

Leading brands often feel the need to play it safe, reinforcing perceptions of “trusted brand” and “safe choice.” But over time that approach gets stale and creates rich opportunities for upstarts to “zig” when established brands “zag.” As the No. 4 player in a saturated market, T-Mobile was barely in the customer consideration set. But when we found that customers were so frustrated with their carriers they were willing to make choices on factors like transparency and flexibility instead of coverage and service, it became the foundation of a transformational approach. T-Mobile shifted from a functional brand with run-of-the-mill product and service into one that truly engaged the customer. It created a new category of one: “The Un-carrier.”

As a result, T-Mobile gained 1.1 million customers in the quarter following the announcement of its new Un-carrier strategy, the largest customer growth in four years. Fast Company named T-Mobile as one of 2014’s Most Innovative Companies.

Clearly, challenging pays off.

3. Your Category is Chaotic

A chain of health clubs with more than 1.2 million members across over 270 clubs globally was struggling in the mature and competitive healthcare and fitness market. Facing high churn rates and emerging players getting in on the action, they enlisted Prophet to help define a premium customer experience strategy and create unique touchpoints to create a winning long-lasting proposition.

Together, we identified the brand’s core assets, defined brand experience dimensions to guide our thinking and used these experience platforms to drive the development of a set of touchpoints. We developed a comprehensive roadmap for the future-state experience of clubs across the globe. Fueled by a strategy of prioritized touchpoints and tactics, the brand was fully equipped to outperform competitors in the world’s premium health club market. Once the redefined brand experience was rolled out, net promoter advocacy scores went from -11% to 17%.

4. You’re Underperforming

Even while Extended Stay America was recovering from bankruptcy, it still had the largest distribution of extended stay properties in the U.S, with almost 700 hotels and 76,000 rooms across 44 states. Despite this, their 5 brands were not nearly as well-known as some of their competitors. With increasing competition in the extended stay category, Extended Stay America worked to hone in customers looking for a shorter, extended stay.

It focused on one key brand as the North Star of its new strategy, and concentrated on transforming the customer experience, with overhauled employee programs, and a new visual look and feel. They didn’t define their new brand with a new logo. They centered their brand around what their guests wanted and needed – more amenities and better experiences. Extended Stay America realized that they want to be the place where guests get everything they need, for any length of stay — and a little bit more.

So they took the opportunity work with Prophet in order to be able to talk about their brand in a new way, and as a result Extended Stay America was seen in a new light. They chose to define a stronger brand strategy and better leverage their brand portfolio in order to gain success.

3 Key Principles That Guide Transformations

Each of these situations, of course, requires different approaches. But we believe there are three key principles that guide all such successful transformations:

1. Discover Your Relevance:

Leverage insights to define a transformative strategy around unmet needs. Discover your hidden assets that can be the linchpin of a new growth strategy grounded in a unique and ownable idea.

2. Force Reconsideration:

Reframe how customers view your brand in a way that makes competitors less compelling.

3. Activate For Results:

Once you’ve defined the strategy, focus on the experiential details that can shape perceptions, change behaviors and drive business impact. Specifically aligning the business model with this renewed brand expression leads to meaningful growth.

Final Thoughts

So if you’re ready for transformation, start exploring reinvention possibilities as soon as possible. In today’s fast-paced markets, brands that are standing still are actually moving backward – and getting eclipsed by competitors more eager to please your customers.

Interested in increasing relevance to consumers? Prophet assists companies with developing strategies that drive brand relevance.

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