Repositioning brands


When repositioning brands makes sense

 repositioning brandsThere are many reasons brand directors and marketing executives consider repositioning brands. Certainly, acquiring additional brands, merging or responding to something like COVID-19 can certainly spark brand changes.

But as we know, the market scape changes so rapidly that it is prudent to consider repositioning.

When repositioning brands— look to brand permissions

It’s true, every brand has a litany of permissions. And brand permissions are invitations for the target audience to consider owning your brand.

repositioning brandsThey are important. Ideally, a permission feels exclusive. It acts as a valuable passport. Giving permission for the target audience to enter the brand’s universe.

So, we use these terms purposefully. Because great, persuasive brands own valuable real estate. Think about it this way— every brand has a border wall. And that wall separates the brand from all competitors. (Read about rebranding dos and don’ts here.)

This wall allows the brand to be distinct. It demands the prospect make an emotional choice. As a result, well-constructed brands are both different and better than competitive offerings.

Repositioning brands is a means to clarify that difference.

Brands become stale

repositioning brandsThis is a truth. So is contraction of the life expectancy of brand permissions. Complacency kills. Change is the new normal. As a result, time compresses, and markets erupt. And sea changes are as common as high tides. Brands that are afraid of repositioning die.

Marketers understand that competitive success is opportunity.

As a result, success breeds defensiveness. Holding onto present success exceeds willingness to reevaluate. As a result, brands are afraid to mess much with success.

We’ve made all our bread and butter over the years precisely for this reason. Human beings fear change. And especially when successful.

Repositioning brands the Stealing Share way

It is hard to view any market dispassionately. Especially your own. But repositioning brands demands it. Self-fulfilling assumptions ARE the enemy. As a result, truth and candor are dyed-in-the-wool allies in brand repositioning.

Step 1

Evaluate the market dispassionately.

Don’t fear challenging assumptions. Markets change. Values shift. And truths morph. Stand in the shoes of the prospect and ask hard questions.

Questions like “Why should I care?” “Who am I trying to become?” “What emotional intensity moves me?” “What do I believe to be true?” “Who am I WHEN I use the brand?”

Step 2

Do your research. Field projectable research with prospects. Double-blinded research with an acceptable margin of error.

repositioning brandsRepositioning brands requires understanding behavior that goes well beyond a standard Usage and Attitudinal study.

Competitors rely on category data, self-selecting studies (like email or online research— or worse… focus groups). We demand research with 95% confidence, randomized and double-blinded.

Avoid open-ended questions. Recognize hidden motivations control purchase decisions. Open-ended questions encourage trite answers and clichés. We spend months creating the questionnaire, and for good reason. We need to test ideas and feelings in Likert scales.

Successful brand repositioning has a foundation of emotional intensities. Brands that steal market share own the highest emotional intensity.

Step 3

Kill sacred cows. Everything is on the table. Anything held as sacred transgresses Step 1.

Most brand repositioning keeps the original brand name. But not always. Sometimes the brand name itself is a barrier to change. Be prepared to modify or change ANYTHING that retards behavior changes.

Color palette.

repositioning brands


Brand name.




Brand promises.


What are you willing to do to win? Brands that are not growing are dying. They have reached maximum penetration. When winning is important, challenge EVERYTHING.

Step 4

Modify brand identity. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But sometimes the bathwater is so soiled that the baby needs to go.

repositioning brandsRepositioning brands is different from brand repair. Brand repositioning means creating greater relevance and importance.

Brand repair means the brand is a failure. Or the values associated with the brand are too out of date to update.

It is important that the brand demonstrate that something important has changed. Updating brand identity clearly declares that.

Without changes to identity, brands must rely on massive marketing and advertising spends. Changes to identity (identity markers) give prospects permission to reevaluate the brand’s relevance.

Step 5

Lock the logo with a brand theme. It is such simplicity in messaging that I am amazed at how rarely this happens. Create a brand theme representing the highest emotional intensity and graphically lock that message with the logo.

Why ask the prospect to remember the brand’s theme? Say it up front. Front and center. Never present the logo or mark without the theme.

Step 6

repositioning brandsMake the promise and permission true. Brand repositioning is your chance to rethink fundamentals.

Create product or service values that are important. Highlight differences. Change internal culture to reflect the brand’s promise.

If you find that you have repositioned the brand without culture changes, you have fallen victim to self-fulfilling marketing. Real change starts internally, and the culture must accept the repositioning as real.

Culture changes supporting the repositioned brand demonstrate that fact.

Repositioning brands is constant progress

repositioning brands

It does not end. Success only makes the task harder. However, the market scape changes so rapidly that it is prudent to consider repositioning.

Think about it this way. Markets change quickly and often without warning. And competition is fierce. Because brands are living organisms, they require care and occasional pruning.

Brand repositioning is the fertilizer of success. But do it right. Especially in these tough times.

Keep any verified equities and keep the brand relevant. Be fearless and let no politics hold you back.