My colleague Tim Mask had¬†posted an article a few days ago¬†about not allowing negative circumstances to overpower your brand. Based on my experience, I wanted to offer my take on this idea. Before coming to¬†Maris, West & Baker¬†over a year ago, I held positions in project management and marketing for many years at the storied wireless communications company SkyTel. For any of you not familiar with the company, SkyTel was founded in Mississippi in 1988 and became the worldwide leader in two-way paging (yes, back when paging was ‘cool’). Thinking about it now, the company basically invented commercial wireless communication, which takes us right to the age we live in today.
After flying high for many years, SkyTel was bought by another communications giant headquartered in Mississippi – WorldCom. We don’t have to get into how that went. Regardless, SkyTel survived WorldCom, and purchases from several other companies. We were always able to operate as basically a wholly owned subsidiary, and were able to keep the SkyTel name and brand identity.
As the wireless world became more and more sophisticated, the market for paging became smaller and smaller. The company was making a series of investments into new products and technology, particularly in the M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and telematics areas. Vehicle tracking systems (for commercial and consumer) were developed along with a system for remote meter reading. There were advanced systems and there was certainly a market for them. Yet product sales were slow. Why?
“SkyTel,” – the brand – was closely aligned with paging. In fact, it was virtually exclusively aligned with paging. Because paging was an “old” technology at this point, the new innovative products that the company was bringing online were basically tainted. The company realized that if success was to be found with the new product suite, SkyTel needed a brand rejuvenation.
It’s been my experience that in the lifecycle of companies, most all go through periods where you just quite simply lose your mojo. You need a brand rejuvenation. This may be a result of legacy perception as with SkyTel. It may be a result of bad PR or negative perceptions that have arisen that are out of your control. It may be a result some product or price change. Whatever the reason, the time will likely come when you need to recapture your mojo, when you need to need to rejuvenate your brand. Based on my experience with SkyTel and other clients, here are three aspects key to implementing effective brand rejuvenation.
Change your creative.
This doesn’t mean you should get totally away from your culture and identity, but at the very least, freshen it up. New, updated imagery, new ways of talking about your company, describing products, a different tone, etc. Updating, refining, and changing your creative is especially important if you find yourself in a situation similar to SkyTel, where your new offerings are being stymied because your brand is tied so closely to “old” products and services. This includes your logo. Again, it doesn’t have to be a radical departure (shouldn’t be a radical departure), but it also needs to reflect contemporary graphic trends and design standards.
Focus on benefits, not features.
The default for any company is to build a brand based on product/service features. Brands that focus on features are more vulnerable to competition and market conditions. If market conditions change, or someone develops a product with competing or better features, your perceived brand value takes a hit.
When updating your brand, I recommend a strategy that is more reflective of benefits. The most successful brands have implemented a ‚Äúbenefits‚Äù approach for decades. Coca-Cola isn’t selling a refreshing soft drink. They are selling happiness, togetherness, and fun. Nike isn’t selling shoes. They are selling performance. The fact that Nike shoes provide a wearer better lateral support is secondary, it is just a feature; the idea that Nike shoes can give a wearer a better performance is what sells. That’s a benefit.
Get everybody on the same page.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Ad agencies have preached this since the the beginning of ad agency-ness. Companies are generally at policing consistency from a graphic/advertising standpoint, but often fall short in ensuring brand messaging is extended through internal communications and staff. Remember, a brand is the sum total of the perception a consumer experiences with your company. Advertising, yes. But it translates all the way down through customer service and even how the receptionist answers the phone. When refining/updating/rejuvenating your brand, make sure that everybody knows what is happening, buys into it, and can walk the walk.