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Reinventing Your Brand

  |  September 24, 2009   |  Comments

Brands are often forced to reinvent themselves out of necessity. Here are two examples.

They say that "necessity is the mother of invention," but it certainly has a track record of nurturing reinvention as well. Over the years, countless brands have reinvented themselves out of necessity. They may be dealing with a PR catastrophe like a product recall or bankruptcy filing. Perhaps they are responding to industry changes and the evolving consumer market. Or, they might be endeavoring to expand their market reach by broadening their customer base and the applications of their product.

Whatever the impetus for launching a reinvention campaign, and whatever the brand and product, it should start and end online.

Why? Because this is the place where most of the stuff you're trying to erase was born, and continues to live -- in perpetuity. It's in the forums and message boards, the social sites and viral content, and above all else the search results that you wish didn't exist but can't do much to expunge. Since the Web is the place where consumers are reading about your brand, this is where you must convey your carefully crafted response.

We're seeing more of this than usual these days, in part because of the recession, but also because brands are facing more competition. For every shampoo label there are two dozen others waiting in the wings to snatch away your customers with their clever tag lines and creative market positioning. Brands like Head & Shoulders are no longer voluntarily retaining their status as niche products. Instead, marketers behind the line of shampoos and conditioners are using a global Web site to ask consumers to "rethink Head & Shoulders."

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Head & Shoulders is also launching a new marketing campaign designed to convince men that the product is "for more than just dandruff."

The brand's campaign reinvents Head & Shoulders as a product that doesn't just improve dandruff, but offers seven different scalp and hair care benefits. The media effort includes a new North American spokesperson known for having distinctive hair -- NFL player Troy Polamalu -- the title of "Official Shampoo of the NFL," TV spots featuring Polamalu, and a related microsite at TroyTacklesMore.com.

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The male-centric site showcases a 3D game, polls, and interactive tools based on the football theme. To further appeal to the 18 to 49 demographic and the interests of this consumer group, the brand has also partnered with a non-profit organization that fulfills the wishes of U.S. soldiers.

Automaker GM had to reinvent itself recently as well, although under much less desirable circumstances. The same day that the company filed for bankruptcy protection, it released a new commercial on YouTube in an effort to do damage control and salvage the GM name. The overt messaging included such lines as, "Here's what the new GM is going to be: fewer, stronger brands. Fewer, stronger models," and "The only chapter we're focused on is chapter 1." Although GM disabled comments for the video, it received over 100,000 views.

In addition to banner ads (an example of which can be viewed here, a microsite was launched at GMReinvention.com that includes news updates listed under the heading "Re: progress" and a tool that allows users to submit their comments to GM's CEO.

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Notably, GM also makes use of social media with a feed from its Twitter account, through which it updates consumers on day-to-day developments; links to its Facebook fan page, and a gallery of its models on Flickr.

Web-based brands aren't immune to having to reinvent themselves either, as evidenced this week by Yahoo's new "It's You!" campaign that aims to draw attention not to Yahoo as a portal, but as a social epicenter online. It will be interesting to see how yet another reinvention campaign plays out in what's become the online version of Dr. Frankenstein's lab, giving new life to brands.

The challenge for marketers with this sort of campaign is to keep tabs on the consumer response -- and, of course, determine how and where to present their message in the first place. Check back next week for a profile of a new product that can help.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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