Department Store Rebranding: Mandatory

Department Store Rebranding
Merchandise is too crowded

Why talk about department store rebranding? Because the department store market and the retail industry needs a complete reset (read a detailed market study of the entire retail category here). Department store chains are closing stores.

Malls are empty, traffic is down 5.8% from last year nationwide. Consumers spend their money on experiences (hold that thought), such as dining or travel rather than shopping. And too many retailers count on bountiful holiday sales to save their year.

Department Store Rebranding What the retail industry truly needs is clear: Department store rebranding— a complete rethinking of the model.

Department store rebranding is the highest priority. Change is needed. Without change, retailers that depend on sales from their brick and mortar locations are irrelevant.

It is worse and more desperate for major department stores. They will become extinct. This is especially the case for the legacy department stores. In a nutshell this is the entire argument for department store rebranding. Change now or die.

Amazon in particular and the web in general is the new normal for shoppers, dominating the retail industry. Amazon dominates by being an online portal for items ranging from electronics to toys to apparel. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not purchased through the online giant.

Department stores. What’s next?

Department Store Rebranding So what are retailers to do? More specifically, what are department stores to do? There are all sorts of tactics they can employ to stem the plunge of market share. But they will fail.

Department store rebranding from the ground-up is a needed strategic decision and not just a tactical one. Without this complete overhaul of department store rebranding initiatives and the total repositioning this means the vaunted old brands are finished.  And finished soon.

We’ve dissected many retailers, including a report written for the Retail Customer Experience which encourages retailers to merge their in-store and online personalities.

We’ve also said “stop trying to be everything to everybody”. But tactical changes won’t save department stores. They need strategic change. They must redefine the value proposition for the target shoppers and convince them that their brands are relevant.

Department store rebranding restores relevancy.

Department Store Rebranding One way you recapture relevancy in a market — and even succeed — is rebranding. Department store rebranding pulls them out of the ditch because, done properly, they are meaningful to target audiences. And the store is more important than simply restating product or category benefits.

Without that preference, no tactic or strategy can ensure the brands future success. If you are a department store, rebranding is the only way you can survive.

Rethinking is more than just rebranding department stores and their messages.

Department Store Rebranding Rebranding department stores is more than just a new name, logo and tag line. It is fundamental change— real changes in operations and structure. Changes implemented to magnify and support the new brand strategy.

Even traditional rebranding does not go far enough. Retailers must rethink everything.

The market, especially those large department stores like Macy’s, Belk’s, JC Penney, Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Sears, Debenhams, Meijer, Von Maur, Boscov’s, The Bon-Ton, and the like, are sliding into irrelevancy and, in many ways, are already irrelevant to the new shopper.

Department Store Rebranding Shoppers vote with their dollars. And the department stores feel like they have passed their own time limit on this earth.

Right?

Probably right. Department stores: Be something different than what you are today. That’s how you survive. The ongoing sales promotions and specials that you rely on don’t do the trick. Black Friday won’t save you.

Their stores are overcrowded with product, there are no sight-lines, crowded shelves does not say variety rather it creates a feeling of being hurried. As a result shopping for apparel is boring at best and harried at its worst.

Department store rebranding for experience.

Department Store Rebranding Remember, earlier on when we spoke about consumers spending money on experiences? Shopping in department stores is mundane and it does not get the pulse rising. Part of department store rebranding is to revitalize the experience and make it deeply personal.

It’s especially problematic for women. There is more selection and yet more difficulty in finding clothes that both fit and are appealing.

Men walk into a store, know their inseam, waist, arm and neck sizes and, voila, there is a suit. As a result, men are free to purchase based on the look, style, price and brand. They find what is available in their size and they buy it. Minor alterations are acceptable and easy to accomplish. Many times, off the rack is a real phenomenon.

Department Store Rebranding
The problems at Macy’s are systematic of the retail space.

Women shop on size and department, which varies by store and by brand. Go into a Macy’s, for instance, and find a size 4 that’s a size 2 at another department store. It’s even worse than that. Shoppers shop in that same Macy’s, find a size 2 that fits and another size 2 that doesn’t.

That variation in experience is confusing and…dull. Women look at overcrowded and jammed racks in poorly set up departments. And all this to find a garment that appeals to them aesthetically.

As a result they are forced to search the jammed racks for that design or style in their size – even though they know that label size is no guarantee of proper fitting. This means they try on everything and sort through all sorts of retail disappointment. This is not an experience. It is a nightmare.

That’s not shopping, either. It does not translate into purchases. That’s solving the Pythagorean theorem.

An example of rethinking everything at department stores.

Department Store Rebranding Large department stores must rethink everything, from their brand to their operations to really rebrand effectively. Rethink the in-store experience. Attract more women shoppers. REAL preference is job number one.

Ladies apparel is a $225 billion business; so preference, not just dropping in, is immensely profitable and increases relevancy in a dying industry. It is optimal to make the department store the destination. And not just for Christmas.

Is the solution transitioning to on-line?

That still raises important business facts. Department stores own large amounts of real estate. They have expensive long-term leases. What does it do to profitability if the great department store chains are forced to retreat and rely on web sales only?
Can they survive that sort of apocalypse? There is another answer. There has to be.

Department Store Rebranding and AmazonIf the Amazon model IS the future then bankruptcy and chapter 11 is the interim step to treading water and waiting for the merciful euthanasia. Any numbskull can suggest the move to on-line sales.

The problem is it won’t work with the current structures. Department stores desperately need an answer that lets them protect the brick and mortar investments that revitalizes shoppers today and in the future.

Success leaves clues. Shoe department retailing.

Department Store Rebranding
Shoe departments hold the clues to success

So back to the problem of finding the right fit. That is not a problem when shoppers shop for shoes or handbags. Consumers easily see what’s offered without the clutter, find the style they like in the right size and are off with it.

Shoe sizes are universal. The shopping experience is positive. Shoes are displayed on roomy racks and displays and the shopper scans all the shoes (including style, color and form) and then the shoe salesperson bring the shopper the shoes in their size.

Funny how simple it is. How civilized the experience, despite being in the morass of other crowded and jammed departments of clothing.

Department Store Rebranding Why can’t women’s apparel be like that? Department stores rebranding is possible building on that successful model.

Rebranding requires retailers to rethink their stores operations and how technology is utilized. Sadly, the highest level of technology in retail today is a copy of Amazon’s model. Order online and pick up.

But apparel is a different animal, especially in women’s apparel. The sizing of women’s garments is useless. A standard that unifies sizing everywhere sounds like the big answer. Is it?

Yes, absolutely. The sheer amount of returns because clothing does not fit is an issue for Amazon too. There is no regulatory agency to govern sizing so that changes takes real effort from the industry.

Use digital tailoring software. Make the experience personal.

Department Store Rebranding Instead, we recommend retailers of women’s apparel adopt the sizing structure that works in the shoe department model. That is, just use measurements. Display style samples and have sizes in the back warehouse.

Even that is unmanageable because women, unlike men, don’t share a basic shape.

However, the playing field changes as shoppers provide a profile of their exact measurements. Can high-end apparel stores  digitally measure the consumer and privately store those measurements in a private file? Of course they can.

Is it then possible to alter custom fit clothes to their specifications? Yes, but that is not the best model. Executing that on a mass scale so a Macy’s or Dillard’s use it is a challenge.

Department stores can afford to automate it. Do it digitally.

As a customer visits your store for the first time, direct them to a private dressing room and digitally scan their measurements. Their exact measurements are stored in their personal and branded app.

Department Store Rebranding
Use technology to customize customer service

As customers shop in the newly designed departments with newly redefined department titles based upon lifestyle rather than the traditional Juniors, Petite etc., departments.  Shoppers can look at every offering, all displayed in a size 4. They now shop by cut, fabric, color, brand and style. Not size because only one size needs to be on display (just like the shoe department model we discussed earlier).

The convenience of their smart phone is utilized, They scan the code of the item of interest and the app stores the choice. The store is no longer jammed with every offering in every size. The result? The branded experience of shopping is civilized.

The racks are not crowded and the styles themselves are highlighted. The retailers use their merchandising skills to highlight offering. Suddenly, there are sight lines in the department store and an opportunity for the retailer to practice their skill at displaying wares and merchandising.

How it benefits you.

Department Store Rebranding
High-End stores have the right merchandising model

Here’s how this complete department store rebranding works. Simplify the offerings on the store floor much like high-end retailers. Customers actually see the garments in lengthy and leisurely glance. Consumers develop a digital profile on their measurements that is part of the retailers database. Because you know them and they now know you, a relationship is established.

When they return to the department store, consumers open the app to say they are in the store and what, in general, they are looking for.

Department Store Rebranding If the garments are bar coded by actual measurements, then a warehouse employee gathers those garments in real time from the back warehouse (remember the shoe model) that actually fit that customer.

When shopping is done, the shopper tells the app and are assigned a dressing room. The promise is that, in 10 minutes, everything they scanned will be in their dressing room and in their size.

Better yet, customers could use the app to say they are coming to the store and to get their personal rack ready and pre-placed in a dressing room.

Think about this. If implemented, it creates a preference for the department store brand (which reflects the change in the retail experience) and a database is established to enable more effective buys from designers and better PERSONALIZED service (read how affinity programs fail here). The customer chooses if they want the clothing in the dressing room or if they require human assistance.

The newly branded department store experience.

Department Store Rebranding
It is about the experience of shopping

The new experience reconfigures the department store experience and decreases the display space and increases the warehousing. It requires an investment in logistics and warehouse systems.

But the new department store is now an adventure in experience and we know that customers covet that. The department store rebranding process combined with new thinking provides new preference.

Think it’s not possible? Amazon can do it, and Amazon is the retailer that terrifies the rest of the industry. The online retail giant, who just announced plans to open brick and mortar stores, is threatening to take over the entire industry while its players stand still and watch.

Amazon transports product anywhere in the world overnight. Is a tight logistics system that creates in-store logistics providing results in 15 minutes impossible? Believe that and you are doomed.

The future in department store rebranding is in personalized automation.

Department Store Rebranding All it takes is an automated, software system that makes it easy to find the right clothes at the right time from your warehouse space. It, therefore, allows the shopper to buy and shop based on taste, style and color, just like they do with shoes and handbags. It means sales improve because shoppers see the entire inventory.

Plus, in the spirit of discovery, the store adds a few surprises— a few alternatives for that shopper based upon the customer profile and design preference. All of this accomplished by an algorithm.

Department stores, don’t get caught up in — “That can’t be done.”

Department Store Rebranding Change or die. That’s the simple truth. This is just one idea. The point is that department store retailers, whether they are in apparel or not— let go of age-old habits. Dead brands are full of leaders who once said, “That can’t be done.”

Department store retailers must do two things. 1) Consider a total rebrand because few retailers position the brands against the competition and as a result are not meaningful enough to target audiences. (Here’s how we rebrand for our clients.)

2) Rethink everything. Ask the right questions in brand research that goes beyond simple usage and attitudes. The current model is a rapidly dying one. And given the current trajectory, there will only be room for one of the major department stores.

There is a third strategy retailers can adopt (and many are). Do nothing and watch Amazon destroy your business. But, as in most things, victory belongs to the first mover.

 

Read more about the retail market and department stores here:

Amazon and Black Friday

Macy’s loses importance

Another retail casualty the CEO of Stein Mart

Macy’s National Hiring Day

Macy’s should have known better

Which retailers will survive?

Retail in a nutshell

The blinding of Sears and JC Penny

Brookstone needs rebranding

Staples is not fixed

Promotions and Millennials

Bad experiences at Best Buy

Why Sports Authority Died

What about Black Friday?

Amazon Prime Day 

Here are some articles and blogs on REBRANDING

Rebranding GlenGuard

Grocery Rebranding and Amazon

Rebranding of Mastercard

Rebranding Electrolux

Rebranding is all about mindset

Rebranding Steven Colbert

Rebranding Constantly

Stealing Share. Rebranding Experts.

Choosing a rebranding company. The rules.

Rebranding Newspapers. Finding new importance

Analyzing a brand for rebranding opportunities

Changing brands in today’s fast-moving environment

Embracing brand in an environment of change

The world is changing rapidly and with it so are the tastes and preferences of consumers. New products, brands and technologies are creating entirely new demands from consumers. New wants and needs emerge while others wane. Everything from Brexit to the eminent failure of the Airbus A380 to the global Pokemon Go craze demonstrates just how malleable the preferences of consumers of all stripes really are.

Taco Bell now serves breakfast and McDonalds serves breakfast all day. One can go into the store and buy hard cider, hard lemonade, hard root beer and hard cream soda. Some cars now drive for us, refrigerators take pictures of their contents and your bed tells you how well you slept the night before. Consumers today thrive on the newest and latest, and enjoy inundating themselves in noise under the guise of making things easier. The only constant is change.

Changing brands
Changing brands is a difficult proposition.

As the pace of change continues to hasten, what are companies to do? Should they be as malleable as the preferences of consumers? Should they be changing brands?

To properly answer that question, we have to once again remind ourselves of the difference between a company’s businesses and its brand. The business piece is easy. It’s what you do. In short, it’s the services you provide or the products you sell. Nike’s business is to sell athletic apparel and GEICO sells insurance.

Changing brands, the decision

Changing brands is a little more difficult. For some companies, brand is simply a logo. For the smarter company, it is the amalgamation of everything, including all operations. But that’s only part of the equation.

When brand is executed as it should it should be, the totality of everything an organization does comes in to play. This goes from R&D to customer service to sales and marketing to HR and everything in between. Understanding this is key to succeeding in an era of change, not just riding out the storm.

Brands too often today are responding to the nearly overwhelming changes in the market by drifting, often too far, from what has made them successful. We call this brand drift and, in a business environment where change is the rule of the day, it can be the wrong thing to do. Let the business adapt, innovate and change as market conditions demand organically.

This is not to say that good brands should avoid investing in monitoring their brand equities. Far from it. Brands should constantly be making sure, especially in times of great change, that their brands continue to be influential and resonate. Because in these times, consumers seek safe harbors. That is true of all human beings.

At Stealing Share, we create brands derived out of the beliefs and aspirations of your target customer, making it truly is a reflection of who your current and prospective customers are or aspire to be. If your brand does not truly do that, then changing brands is needed.

In this rapidly changing business environment, if you continue to do the good work of making sure your business has adapted to changing market forces, then we can help you create or modify your brand so that, no matter how much tastes change, your customers and prospects will remain true to your brand.

A market study in the era of Peak TV

The winners and losers of Peak TV, and what Apple TV can do about it

We are living in the world of Peak TV, a term coined by FX President John Landgraf a few years ago – and he was right in many ways. We are living in an unprecedented era in which the TV options are more varied, more accessible, better overall and just plain more.

In 2015, there were a whopping 409 original scripted series, which is double what was produced six years ago and is now a record. 2016 promises to top that.

Landgraf coined that term because he believes the industry can’t sustain that kind of production. There are only so many eyes watching screens so how can more than 400 shows exist and networks continue to succeed?

For the first time, networks are taking on the challenges of Peak TV by viewing themselves as brands rather than simply deliverers of content. If you’re just a collection of shows without a guiding principle then you won’t succeed. That’s true in television and it’s true in any business.

How do networks figure out their brand? How does it affect which shows a network airs? And how can brand aid in the battle against (or co-exist with) the streaming giants of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu?

With most of us waiting breathlessly for a groundbreaking Apple TV to fix this problem, what are the networks doing now and what should Apple TV look like? What is the future of Peak TV?

The streaming networks changed everything

Let’s start answering those questions by addressing the elephant in the room: Streaming networks. They have significantly changed the landscape because it took the power from the networks and gave it to viewers. No longer would consumers be beholden to what the networks offered and when they could see shows.

The viewer emerged as the one in control.

Netflix
Netflix changed the way we watch TV.

Consumer control is now the way of the world. The days of being told that you could only watch a limited offering at a certain time are gone. That is the single biggest reason why the streaming networks have succeeded.

Sure, their offerings have often been stellar. But that’s only a small part of it. Netflix, which started as a mail order DVD rental service, didn’t really take off until it jumped into streaming with content that was early seasons of current and past shows from other networks.

You might even remember the outcry when founder Reed Hastings planned to split the two sides of the Netflix business into two different brands, causing fears among Netflix customers that their subscriptions were going to double. Hastings backed off.

The success of Netflix was in giving customers control, thus positioning TV networks as out of touch and even arrogant. The idea that you could only watch what you wanted under somebody else’s rules created images of TV execs sitting in their offices and smoking cigars like Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Netflix also structured its services as subscription based instead of on a pay-per-view basis. I’ve always thought that one of the reasons Apple has struggled with its online services is because it is not subscription-based. In music, Pandora and Spotify have overtaken the industry because they’re subscription based. When Apple finally released a subscription-based Apple Music, it was too late. (That and other problems.)

Subscriptions add the illusion of control because, subconsciously, the viewer (and listener) believes they are watching (and listening) for free. When you charge on an individual basis – like what Louis CK did recently with his critically acclaimed series Horace & Pete – many commentators were outraged that the comic would charge per episode. How dare he?

The advantages of being a cable network

Before we go any further, let’s put this out front. We’re not going to examine the broadcast TV networks: NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. Those networks still air shows that get high ratings and bring in tons of money even if their ratio of failure is enormous. In fact, they are the ones hurting the most from Peak TV.

We’re more interested in the networks that have upped their sophistication, matching the tastes of the television watching public and critical landscape. Let’s focus on the cable networks.

Within them there are subsets. There are the prestige networks like FX and AMC (for my money, the two best networks on TV). Then there are the niche players, ranging from a powerhouse like ESPN to The Food Network, Bravo and Nickelodeon. We’re not going to get much into the niche networks but just note: They should not be ignored. HGTV’s Fixer Upper, for example, is a ratings juggernaut.

A third subset is the premium channels like HBO and Showtime, which have a different delivery and payment system than the rest.

What are the advantages to each? For FX and AMC, they have each created a prestige brand based on the success of its shows. Breaking Bad and Mad Men made AMC. The Shield provided liftoff for FX.

Peak TV
Two shows that lifted the AMC brand.

Both networks then became known for high-level, gritty programming that led for FX to roll out Justified, The Americans, Fargo and The People vs. OJ Simpson. All are terrific.

AMC had original programming before the double whammy of Mad Men (July 2007) and Breaking Bad (January 2008) gave it the identity it has now.

What’s interesting about each is that they both started as niche programmers. AMC was the place for cheesy moves from the 70s and 80s. AMC, after all, stands for American Movie Classics. (Although its definition of classic was different than mine.) FX was the place for special effects-laden action movies that had completed their theater and premium channel runs. (The name FX was actually supposed to mean FOX +, of a sort. But the movies they aired suggested otherwise.)

Therefore, each had to overcome pre-conceived notions about themselves.

To do that, each rebranded itself with an actual meaning. AMC rebranded under the theme of “Story Matters Here,” which immediately set it apart from both its past history and other networks. (The less said about its current theme, “Something More,” the better.)

FX added the theme of “There is No Box” (meaning, think outside the box). Soon, the programming each offered fulfilled their promises – that they were different and better.

Could they work as a streaming service? Well, each has a streaming app today and they are two networks that most rely on so-called second-day ratings, meaning viewership measured by DVR recordings, cable on demand and streaming from their apps. Sure, it could work as a streaming service.

Peak TVBut part of the advantage of being on a cable (or satellite) system is increased awareness and brand recognition. You have the ability to promote your new shows during commercial breaks of your current ones. While cutting the chord is becoming increasingly popular, only about one in seven Americans have actually done it.

There’s another advantage that needs to be addressed. The Internet, specifically, the online press. The critical TV landscape changed when some sites, like the now defunct Television Without Pity, began recapping shows that aired the night before. Those recaps started out as funny jibes (the recaps of Survivor on TWP were freakin’ hilarious) but have now become serious journalism.

Any website that covers TV in some fashion now has re-cappers – and that includes The New York Times.

While those re-cappers do write about the streaming shows from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (AV Club is probably the most robust of them all), it’s what has aired to the nation the night before that gets the most ink and attention. There’s a different immediacy when recapping the day after most viewers have watched that program.

In the age of Peak TV (or, as Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman rephrased it, “Too Much TV”), generating that kind of chatter and momentum puts you in the current zeitgeist. Google how many sites are still trying to find ways to recap Game of Thrones weeks after the last episode of Season 6 and you’ll get my point.

The premium channels

The dominant premium channels are HBO and Showtime, with subsets also succeeding (Cinemax, owned by HBO, and Starz). Their advantage is that they are compensated directly from the cable subscriber, a kind of Netflix with a middle man (the cable system) and a regular programming lineup.

Considering what we have examined before, premium channels would seem to have the best of both worlds. You have subscribers (like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon). You have the advantages of being on air (like FX and AMC). And, in the case of HBO, you also have a standalone streaming service available without a cable subscription.

The HBO model is the best in the industry, but you’ve got to wonder. In this era of Peak TV, does the future of HBO really look that bright?

I’d say yes because HBO built its business on the shoulders of the best brand in the business. “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO” was brilliant. It was a stronger version of AMC’s “Stories Matter Here” because it more clearly explained that HBO was different and better.

HBOIt also gave the network brand permission to do anything. It could do drama, comedy, documentary (it has the best documentary division on TV), comedy specials and movies. HBO is so good at branding that its theme for HBO GO, “It’s HBO. Anywhere” speaks to the control issue that streaming currently owns.

HBO has a model to follow, but there is another issue to consider.

The relationship between content and brand

As part of our brand relaunch process, we do a brand audit. This exercise looks at everything the brand does, both physically and emotionally, so we can be sure the brand can fulfill the promise. One of the values we examine is brand-product relationships. Do the products themselves follow the brand?

Brand AuditFor example, if the brand promise is about simplicity, do the products of the brand make things simpler for its customers? If they don’t, we tell the company that they shouldn’t create that product because the brand will become less believable. Do it only if it fulfills the promise.

How do the current networks stack up?

The interesting one for me here is AMC. “Story Matters Here” has directed the network to develop a menu of tough, interesting dramas. They may be of varied quality, but there’s no doubt that Preacher, Hell on Wheels, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, The Night Manager and Turn came from the same network. That’s not say they have the same style or storytelling angle, but that they fulfill the brand promise.

It’s when they networks away from their promise (if they even have one) when they struggle. For example, what does A&E stand for? Who is the A&E viewer? A&E stands for Arts & Entertainment, although the network has long dropped that association.

It has the successful Duck Dynasty (although it’s not as successful as it once was), but its lineup is littered with The Wahlburgers, Escaping Polygamy, Storage Wars and Bates Motel. The problem A&E has is that it doesn’t have a brand promise that can direct its programming. With that lineup, I don’t even know what that promise would be. This is a network in dire need of a rebrand.

Apple TV

Here’s what we know. Streaming networks have given back control to the viewer and probably started Peak TV in the process. Sophistication is in (even in comedy). And having a brand promise that is fulfilled by your programming is the road to success.

Visibility and preference win the day.

In reality, the way to create a successful network is the same process in creating a successful brand. You find the value that has the highest emotional intensity in the market (through quantitative research) and align your brand with that intensity.

The streaming services have done so well because their own models are aligned with a belief that had been increasing in intensity ever since Apple introduced the iPod: I believe things turn out better when I’m in control. That intensity has gotten stronger in the era of Peak TV.

The one thing missing in the TV landscape is a focused brand promise that is clearly stated and differentiating. Even with the positions of HBO and AMC standing tall, no one has clearly stated who the viewer is when they are watching that network.

Let’s make an assumption. Let’s pretend quantitative research demonstrated that the highest emotional intensity among viewers was the difficulty that FX President John Landgraf stated. That Peak TV means there’s too much good TV.

So how does Apple TV (or something like it) capitalize and align itself with that belief? Since we’ve been waiting years for Apple to fulfill the deathbed promise of Steve Jobs that he had “figured out TV,” we’re going to state what Apple TV should be.

It should be a portal that allows you to build your own network. Apple collects all the access to your channels and develops your own, customized network where you add shows and requests in one place. I’m not just talking about shows that appear on your cable system. It would include Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. That is, you would build your network with streaming networks, cable networks, premium channels and broadcast networks combined into one portal.

This may sound like something similar to a DVR, but not if you had the ability to have one search engine, program your networks, categorize your shows and, mostly importantly, see yourself in the brand itself.

You simply tell Apple TV (through Siri, I imagine) what you want to watch now and in the future, and it pulls it up in an interface that you control and program.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the future of TV is apps. It’s in simplicity because right now (according to our imaginary research) viewers are overwhelmed with choices and have no easy way to navigate it all from all the sources at their disposal.

Our brand promise is that we make Peak TV watching simple because it’s the smart thing to do.

We have a brand promise and have given control to the viewer. It’s a demonstration of the way to win in today’s current TV landscape: To have a clearly defined brand. Without it, you are A&E.

In a way, I think that’s the problem the broadcast networks are having. The definitions of what describes NBC over CBS or any of the others are blurred, and often defined by on-air personalities. CBS probably has the best brand in the market but that’s mostly because it has procedurals that have many variations (such as the CSI and Law & Order series) and appeal to an older demographic.

Hannibal
The Peak TV show that got away.

We leave you with this. The most interesting broadcast network TV show of the last decade was Hannibal, a dreamlike expression of evil that was gorgeous and disturbing – and canceled after two seasons. It should have been a gigantic hit. But it aired on NBC and nothing about NBC’s brand gave it permission to run Hannibal. Viewers, therefore, were sure that Hannibal was a failure without seeing a frame of it.

If Hannibal had been on AMC, FX or HBO, I believe it would have been a smash.

Brand is the key to success for any business. It’s just as important in Landgraf’s Peak TV.

Bing It and Uncle Buck

Bing it. I mean Google it.

Go ahead and Bing it. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? Yet that is exactly the phrase used in the ABC Television Series Uncle Buck. Pretty obvious that Microsoft paid heavily for the endorsement. So heavily that its product placement was imbedded in the script and not just on some cereal box sitting on a kitchen table.

Uncle buck. Bing it
The TV ripoff based on the John Candy classic

The idea of Googling something has become part of our everyday vernacular. We say it even if we use Bing as our search engine. It’s an expression based upon usage that arose form preference but means less than it did years ago when search engines were in a war for our loyalty and usage.

You know how I feel about Google— that faceless and omnipresent tyrant of what we all see on the internet. No one would like to see BING and the idea of Bing succeed more than me. But I am pretty certain that ship has already sailed. Google won and we all lost.

My issue is not with Microsoft trying to promote its Bing search engine. It has both the right and obligation to do so. My issue is with the way in which it is grasping at straws.

Bing it does not roll off the tongue

It feels so unnatural to say “I’ll Bing it” that is screams of being contrived and smells very badly of being anything but authentic. Underdogs (imagine that I am actually calling Microsoft an underdog) need to be jarring to get their message and meaning across. We tell all of our clients that the price of clarity is the risk of offense but blatant marketing is not just counter productive as it is destructive.

No one watching the show and hearing the words. (By the way this is not the first time Microsoft has placed its Bing product in media using this convention. Bing was also featured prominently in Amazing Spider-Man.) It literally SCREAMS Madison Avenue and, as a result, feels contrived and unimportant.

All we feel when hearing the words is being offended that anyone would think we are so stupid as to believe the idea. This self-definition is the heart of brand equity and is exactly what Bing wants to avoid… unimportance.

Bing it on Uncle Buck
The TV rehash of the John Candy Classic

Bing needs to relaunch its brand and revisit its algorithms. It needs to design real differences between itself and Google in a way that meets our needs in a superior manner. This requires more than just an interface. It needs to think about how Google is failing us (like bringing paid URLs to the top of the search) and provide content legitimately based upon our search criteria.

Google can’t do this because it has built a model on this revenue. Bing is just a pimple on Microsoft’s butt and it could more than match its current revenue through acquisition of customers and selling ads on the page rather than purchased and favored search results pretending to be to be important.

Read more on Google, Bing and search engines below:

Bing in 2013

Google as a monopoly

My fickle relationship with Google

Brand relaunch. Important elements.

Brand Relaunch. What are all the considerations?

Brand relaunch by Tom Dougherty

brand relaunchWhen it becomes necessary to have a brand relaunch it has become quite evident to the marketing group that the brand is underperforming. Even if usage has increased the metric of comparing growth to a competitor’s success might illuminate a weakness.

Experience tells me that this underperformance and market weakness is usually a result of insignificant meaning. For some reason, the brand is not resonating as strongly as it should and as a result the market performance is less than expected.

Brand relaunchRelaunching a brand is similar to rebranding. But rebranding has some built in bias in its very language. It turns out to be very similar in scope but it SOUNDS more drastic.

It actually is not drastic. Point-in-fact  rebranding requires a relaunch and a brand relaunch requires some elements of rebranding.

In our experience a weakness in brand meaning is often brought to a head through market research. Here are some of the signs that a brand relaunch is well overdue and a brand intervention is needed:

Here are the top four reasons to consider a brand relaunch:

  1. The market research indicates quite clearly that the target audience cannot identify the brand’s strategy clearly. Often they return a variety of meanings if the brand has any resonance to them at all. In other words, prospects are confused about the brand’s promise and its valued position in their lives.
  2. On target for a brand relaunchThe research has uncovered a brand meaning that is highly emotional and resonant with the target audience but is not the meaning you claim. If this value position is not CLAIMED by any competitor in the category, it might be a smart move to reposition the brand to own that valuable space. If the brand meaning returned in the research reflects an erroneous value mentioned in point 1, you need to think about brand repair. If the brand returns a variety of values and none of them are negative or contrary to the new position a brand relaunch without brand repair may be in order.
  3. If the research indicates that the market scape has significantly changed and while still valuable, the new opportunity is of higher emotional intensity than the old one, a change would be indicated.
  4. A new competitor has entered the category and has reshaped the market scape into one that is particularly advantageous to their brand and places your legacy brand in a disadvantageous position. If true, you might want to consider a brand relaunch as well. No brand, regardless of it position in the category, can afford to ignore a sea change in the category for long. Remaining stationary while a new competitor reshapes opinions and preferences is a recipe for marketing disaster. The sooner your brand responds the better.

Planning is important

The elements of a relaunch require some well defined planning. Tough questions must be asked and the resultant answers addressed. Too often in our experience, brands want to back into a new positioning— thinking that all they need is brand relauncha new tag-line and color palette. But, the elements of success are broader than this.

Think about this marketing problem and subsequent brand opportunity logically. The first thing you need to do is to get those that have awareness of your brand (based upon the market research) is to recognize that something important has happened. That the brand HAS changed.

You may wish to do this on the cheap and change as little as possible but relaunching to a new improved position has requirements.

Symbolism is key

The new brand must be granted permission to occupy the new space in the mind of the prospect. It needs to demonstrate a new and important promise. It needs to have a singular clarity of purpose that is so powerful that no one in the target market can afford to ignore it.

brand relaunch is complicatedI used that language purposefully. When the new position is powerfully identified there will be a sense of risk in ignoring it. I’m not talking about a new position that threatens the prospect, but think for a moment what it means to have a position that represents the highest emotional intensity in the category?

When this emotional intensity is real and urgent it causes those that do not possess it to feel incomplete without it. There is inherent in this logic a sense of risk. A fear of risk is more descriptive of this phenomenon.

If you are successful in the brand building business, then you are a brand anthropologist and a student of human behavior. Everything that you do and every inch of space that your brand occupies must be grounded in meaning. Communication without purpose is at its best unproductive and at its worst destructive. As a result of this axiom, extraneous messaging in defense of a brand must be eliminated.

relaunchKnowing what we do about human behavior we all recognize that FEAR is the strongest human motivator. I’m not talking about bone chilling fear here just the understood consequence of ignorance on the part of the prospect (the ignoring of your brand).

It may be a simple a fear as being left out or not being in the know, but make no mistake about it— when positioning your brand for relaunch you need the target audience to fill in the blank. They need to implicitly understand the fear without your brand having to say it.

Brand Relaunch requires an outside-in focus

What this means is that your focus needs to be more on the beliefs, precepts, needs and wants of the prospect rather than the needs and wants of current customers. I’m not suggesting that you ignore current customers but you may enjoy greater flexibility in message with your current customers than believed.

brand relaunch is a puzzleChanging human behavior is not an easy task. That truth works both ways. It is difficult to dismiss a current customer through messaging alone. At some point, the brand would have to disappoint them in performance to actually lose them.

I would hope and fully expect, by the way, that you will find the new emotional brand promise to be resonant with current customers as well. But a focus on existing customers can be the kiss of death. A dance that ends in failure.

Often current customers are so wedded to your current brand message that they lack the ability to see outside of their own box. Their own subjective opinion is so overwhelming that any clarity they may possess will be clouded by experience. Don’t worry about this as we have ways to test the risks among current customers that ensure that you have NOT thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

What needs to change?

So ask yourself, what does the prospect need to know to change their mind and choose differently?

brand relaunch connectionsWe already discussed that they need to SEE that something has changed in your brand. At a quick glance they MUST understand that the promise of the brand (the who it is for) is all about them personally.

Should your old logotype change? Probably. I might even say almost certainly. I know we hesitate to change logos because, if your brand involves a service or destination, it will require expensive signage changes. ROI is important here. But what is the cost of doing nothing?

What is the cost of doing it on the cheap? The price of shortchanging your brand relaunch is almost certainly failure.

Do you expect a prospect to suddenly notice you and change preference when the external veneer of your brand has not changed? A new tagline is not enough to grant a new position. More often than not the prospect will not get far enough into your brand message to read it.

They have already decided that your brand is not important for them. You need to use every equity in your quiver to change that perception. At best you want them to say to themselves “I think this is important enough to my self-description to trial the brand.” At the very least you want them to say to themselves “I overlooked this brand before and I should explore it a bit more deeply.”

Change the Logo

Most logos that I see are just cute pretty pictures. They were designed to be about identity and not a persuasive brand. As such, they are usually about the brand itself. That ship has sailed.

logo in a brand relaunchToday we understand that the logo should work harder than that. It should symbolically reflect the brand strategy and position. They should see that logo and mark and understand the full brand promise.

It needs to be designed towards the strategy. If you are relaunching your brand or rebranding— odds are your mark either reflects your corporate identity OR an outdated prospect message. Either way it needs to go.

One of the most difficult paths to navigate is how to know what elements should stay or go. Color palette? Font? Imagery? Style? What do we need to reinforce and what NEEDS to change. Once again, we can find the answers to this in the market research conducted to identify the strategy.

The emotional brand theme should be locked with the new logo. The new logotype should never be seen without the brand strategic theme locked to it.

We call this the logo lock-up. You need to make sure that the brand is absolutely identified with the new highest emotional space. Leaving the logo to hang without the benefit of a theme is a waste of brand energy.

Make them FEEL as well as SEE

make them Feel a brand relaunchThe secret to brand relaunch success can be found in the intensity of its emotional importance. Emotional responses control purchase and loyalty permissions.

So it is important that the prospect not only SEE a change but FEEL it deeply. The form and substance of the relaunched brand needs to solute this emotional fiber. Keeping it simple. Making it clear.

Making it single-minded and having all meta messages in-line with the emotional position is a great predictor of success. Here are a list of brand relaunch caveats to avoid:

  1. Is your new brand cluttered?
  2. Are you trying to say too many things?
  3. Is the brand diluted through heritage messaging?
  4. Are the brand’s politics holding back the change?
  5. Has not enough symbolism changed?
  6. Is the theme just ad speak (is it too clever and sounds like an advertising tagline)?

When is the time right to relaunch your brand?

With the risk of stating the obvious, if you are reading this article then the writing might already be on the wall. If you are asking the question at all then the efficacy of the rebranding and relaunching effort should be explored. Great market brand relaunch rebranding companiesresearch is the place to start.

You can find definitive answers to these questions. I’m not being self-serving here when I tell you that all research is not equal and you need to trust such an important task to folks who know how to do it.

I say this because I firmly believe the price of clarity is the risk of offence. We know how to do this and most of our competitors don’t.