Sears rebranding: Now the chain can die

A Sears rebranding leading to the chain’s eventual death

The Sears brand will finally die. Finally. Just seven months after a Sears rebranding revealed a new logo and brand positioning, the once proud retailer stands on the brink of another bankruptcy.

As CNN points out, retail’s history of second bankruptcies isn’t pretty. It usually marks the final stage to the end. That’s the way Radio Shack went, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be any different for Sears.

Sears rebrandingHere’s another sign. Sears isn’t having holiday sales at 96 of its stores. It’s having going out of business sales, leaving the other 100 or so to save the Sears brand with holiday sales.

We’ve detailed all the things Sears got wrong over the years, leading to this point. A failure to recognize changes in the marketplace. An over-reliance on its product brands (Craftsman, Kenmore, etc.). And, most importantly, never making its brand emotionally relevant to potential customers.

Basically, the Sears rebranding means nothing. So why would anyone go?

What Sears tried to do

Former CEO Eddie Lampert was supposed to fix all this after his hedge fund took over the company, investing a few billion into Sears and saying he would find someone to run the company to bring it back into relevance.

Well, no CEO was hired (who’d want that job?), and the brand makeover (of sorts) failed to help in any way.

It’s pretty predictable what will happen next. Even though the company says it’s lined up another $250 million in financing, more stores will close, a second bankruptcy will be filed and Lampert will eventually liquidate all assets.

Then there’s the Sears rebranding. Who knows who thought it up? And for what reason?

Some were comparing the new logo to the one for Airbnb, and we can see that. More importantly, we’re not even sure what the logo means.

The new logo means what?

Sears says it represents “both home and heart. This shape also conveys motion through an infinity loop, reminiscent of one getting their arms around both home and life.”

We know that sounds like utter horseshit. But, just for argument’s sake, let’s buy it. Although the following ad is for Sears Auto, it’ll give you a gist of what Sears means with its design.

So the logo represents home and heart, with the theme of “making moments matter” tying it all together. Just wanna make sure we get the Sears rebranding right.

This was the approach Sears took to regain relevancy. How to lift it out of the gutter and back into the sunlight.

Examining the new Sears brand

The “making moments matter” is pretty hard for Sears to live up to. How exactly does Sears fulfill that positioning? Even if you give it the benefit of the doubt and say, hey, with Sears you (the customer) make moments matter, it doesn’t make any sense.

Does buying a Kenmore refrigerator make moments matter? The whole theme sounds cliché, and so does its sister chain, Kmart, and its “love where you live.” They are meaningless and easily forgettable advertising lines.

Let’s allow Sears chief brand officer to explain:

“What are we good at? What is relevant from our history today? And the thing we were good at was making moments matter.”

We’re trying to be polite. Are these people delusional? Where in the history of Sears has it made moments matter, and how does that make the Sears rebranding relatable today?

OK, let’s give Sears the benefit of the doubt. Again. Let’s say the chief brand officer is on to something. Sears has a history of making moments matter.

Still selling discounts, no brand.

Who cares? It’s marketing speak, which means it’s easy to ignore. More importantly, how can this be the most emotionally intensive trigger in the retail market?

What the Sears rebranding effort should’ve done

No doubt the chain conducted research in this Sears rebranding effort, although we have no idea about the methodology (which is important). How did research produce a making moments matter theme? When you conduct meaningful brand research, you are looking for the highest emotional intensity in the market that would cause a change in purchasing behavior. You align your brand with that intensity to steal market share.

So, when you’re competing with many other retailers in a market that’s shrinking by the minute and you’re facing a second bankruptcy, you need to shout loud and clear to be heard. Prospective customers need to feel it in their gut that you hear them, and are a reflection of them.

Making moments matter with an Airbnb lookalike logo does nothing of the sort. You’d think any Sears rebranding effort would really push the envelope considering what’s at stake and how desperate the retail chain has become.

But no. In fact, this holiday season, Sears has been going back to its old ways. Selling discounts.

No emotion. No intensity in the market.

Goodbye.

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