In the second part of this series, we examine additional pivotal moments compelling a company to reassess their brand positioning.

Companies Needing a New Visual Identity

Companies in need of a new visual identity are ideal candidates for a brand positioning exercise due to the non-negotiable relationship between brand perception and visual representation. A visual overhaul often signifies a fundamental shift in brand strategy, whether prompted by, for example, a rebranding effort, mergers, or evolving market trends. Engaging in a brand positioning exercise offers these companies an opportunity to holistically realign their brand narrative, values, and market positioning with the new visual elements. This exercise facilitates a comprehensive evaluation of the brand’s current standing, enabling the establishment of a distinct identity that resonates with the target audience. By strategically integrating visual elements, such as logos, colors, typography, and design aesthetics, companies can communicate their revised brand story cohesively. Aligning the visual identity with the company’s core values and objectives ensures consistency in messaging and imagery, fostering brand recognition and loyalty. A brand positioning exercise empowers these companies to craft a compelling and authentic representation that captures their essence, facilitating a successful integration of the new visual identity into their brand strategy.

Weight Watchers (now WW) is an interesting case study. Transitioning from a focus solely on weight loss to a broader wellness approach, WW strategically rebranded with a refreshed logo, messaging, and brand positioning. The company’s shift from “Weight Watchers” to “WW,” emphasizing overall health and wellness, showcased a commitment beyond weight management. This repositioning exercise aligned with changing consumer mindsets, offering a holistic lifestyle approach, and aimed to create a stronger connection with a wider audience beyond traditional dieting, reflecting a new visual identity that represented their broader mission.

Snapchat is a paradigm for how a positioning exercise could have led to a tighter visual identity. The company altered its app interface in 2018, facing user backlash due to the confusing redesign. However, this visual overhaul lacked an accompanying brand positioning exercise to communicate the rationale behind the changes or align them with Snapchat’s core values and market positioning. The absence of a strategic repositioning effort resulted in a disjointed user experience, failing to effectively convey the brand’s narrative or integrate the new visual identity with the company’s overall strategy, leading to user dissatisfaction and impacting the company’s growth temporarily.

Companies with Diversification / Expansion / Retirement of Products / Services

A company undergoing any degree of moderate change has an imperative to maintain coherence and relevance to its audiences and stakeholders. Diversification or expansion initiatives often introduce new offerings or enter different market segments, can potentially dilute a brand’s focus or confuse consumers. A brand positioning exercise allows these companies to realign their brand narrative, messaging, and visual identity with the evolving portfolio, ensuring consistency and clarity in communicating the expanded or refined offerings. By strategically positioning the brand, companies can highlight the unique value propositions of new products/services or reinforce the strengths of retained ones, aiming to resonate with their target audiences effectively.

An additional point of consideration: a brand positioning exercise enables companies to navigate shifts in consumer perceptions resulting from product/service retirement. Communicating these changes transparently and strategically, repositioning the brand helps in managing customer expectations, minimizing potential confusion or disassociation with the brand. Through this exercise, companies can reinforce their core values, strengthen brand loyalty, and guide consumers through the evolution, ensuring that the brand remains relevant, cohesive, and compelling amidst changes in their product/service portfolio.

When Google restructured under Alphabet Inc. and diversified its offerings, the company undertook a brand positioning exercise to maintain coherence. This strategic move aimed to differentiate its various ventures, such as Google, Waymo, and Verily, under distinct brand identities while aligning them with Alphabet’s overarching vision. The exercise ensured clarity, communicating each entity’s purpose and strengths, thus enhancing brand recognition and providing a cohesive framework for stakeholders to understand the diversified portfolio. This strategic brand positioning exercise enabled Google/Alphabet to navigate the diversification effectively while reinforcing the individual brands’ uniqueness and the unified vision of the larger conglomerate.

Companies Going Global or Entering Different Markets

Companies expanding globally or entering new markets face inherent challenges in adapting their brand for diverse audiences and cultural nuances. A brand positioning exercise becomes crucial as it allows these companies to tailor their brand identity, messaging, and positioning to resonate effectively with the new audience while maintaining consistency with their core values. Cultural differences, consumer behaviors, and market expectations vary widely across regions, necessitating a nuanced approach to brand communication. Through a brand positioning exercise, companies can analyze local preferences, understand market perceptions, and adapt their brand strategy to align with the new market’s needs and expectations. This exercise enables the creation of localized marketing strategies, ensuring that the brand message remains relevant, relatable, and culturally sensitive, thus fostering acceptance and connection with the target audience in different regions.

Aiding in establishing a cohesive global brand image while allowing flexibility for localization, a brand positioning exercise also ensures that the brand essence and values transcend geographical boundaries, providing a consistent framework for brand communication across diverse markets. By maintaining a unified brand identity while adapting to local nuances, companies can navigate global expansion more effectively, fostering brand recognition, trust, and resonance with consumers worldwide.

As Patagonia expanded internationally, it strategically positioned its brand by emphasizing environmental activism, sustainability, and ethical manufacturing practices. Through its marketing campaigns and messaging, Patagonia conveyed its commitment to environmental conservation, resonating with environmentally conscious consumers worldwide. The brand’s dedication to creating high-quality, durable products while advocating for environmental causes helped it establish a unique identity and strong brand positioning. This exercise enabled Patagonia to differentiate itself in the competitive outdoor apparel market and attract a loyal customer base globally, showcasing how a smaller company can leverage brand positioning to make a significant impact beyond its local market.

Companies Facing Failing Sales / Revenue

Companies experiencing failing sales or revenue, particularly those on the brink of insolvency, stand as crucial candidates for a brand positioning exercise due to the urgency to reverse their downward trajectory. Falling sales often signal deeper issues, such as eroded consumer confidence, market irrelevance, or competitive challenges. Engaging in a brand positioning exercise becomes crucial as it provides an avenue to recalibrate strategies, rebuild consumer trust, and revitalize the brand. Through this exercise, companies can reassess their market positioning, identify areas of improvement, and redefine their value propositions to align with evolving consumer needs. By articulating a compelling brand story that resonates with their audience, these companies can re-establish relevance and credibility, potentially stemming the decline in sales and revenue.

Moreover, a strategic brand repositioning exercise allows for differentiation in the market landscape. It enables companies to stand out amidst competitors, offering a chance to communicate their unique strengths and offerings. This exercise fosters a renewed focus on the customer, addressing pain points, and demonstrating a commitment to delivering value, which is crucial in regaining consumer trust and loyalty. 

Serving as a cautionary tale, Toys “R” Us, facing declining sales and bankruptcy, notably didn’t undergo a significant brand positioning exercise before its downfall. Despite its well-established brand recognition, the company struggled with adapting to changing retail landscapes and increased competition. Instead of strategically repositioning its brand to resonate with evolving consumer needs, Toys “R” Us primarily focused on financial restructuring without implementing a comprehensive brand strategy overhaul. This lack of brand repositioning contributed to its inability to regain consumer interest and adapt to shifting market dynamics, ultimately leading to the closure of its stores.

Companies Undergoing Leadership Turnover or New Leadership

Leadership transitions can bring shifts in organizational culture, strategic direction, and priorities, potentially impacting the company’s brand perception. Engaging in a brand positioning exercise allows these companies to align their brand identity with the new leadership’s vision and values. It offers an opportunity to reassess the brand’s core messaging, values, and market positioning, ensuring coherence with the incoming leadership’s strategies and objectives. By redefining the brand narrative to reflect the leadership’s vision, companies can foster internal alignment and convey a consistent message to stakeholders, employees, and consumers alike.

Furthermore, a brand positioning exercise during leadership turnover aids in maintaining brand continuity and stability amidst changes at the top. It enables companies to communicate a seamless transition, reassuring stakeholders and customers about the brand’s steadfastness while embracing the new leadership’s fresh perspectives. This exercise facilitates a strategic shift that not only reflects the new leadership’s approach but also reaffirms the company’s commitment to its core values, ensuring a smooth transition and preserving the brand’s integrity during periods of leadership change.

With Dara Khosrowshahi assuming the CEO role in 2017, Uber embarked on a comprehensive rebranding strategy. The company focused on enhancing its brand positioning, emphasizing accountability, and prioritizing ethical conduct. Through revamped marketing campaigns and a renewed commitment to transparency and social responsibility, Uber sought to shift its public perception. This exercise aimed to distance the brand from its past controversies, showcasing a more empathetic, accountable, and consumer-centric image under new leadership, ultimately contributing to the company’s efforts to rebuild trust and foster a more positive brand perception.

Companies Undergoing or Anticipating Mergers & Acquisitions

M&As often result in changes to organizational structures, business strategies, and market positioning, which can lead to confusion or dilution of brand messages. Engaging in a brand positioning exercise enables these companies to realign their brand strategies with the new corporate landscape. It offers an opportunity to reassess brand positioning, values, and messaging, ensuring consistency and clarity amid the integration of different entities. By defining a unified brand identity that reflects shared values and objectives, companies can mitigate potential conflicts, maintain brand coherence, and communicate a cohesive narrative to stakeholders, employees, and customers amidst the transition.

Moreover, a brand positioning exercise during M&As aids in leveraging the strengths of both entities while addressing (and hopefully remediating) potential weaknesses. It allows companies to identify synergies, align cultural differences, and craft a new brand story that resonates with the combined audience. This exercise fosters internal alignment and external understanding, instilling confidence in stakeholders about the new entity’s direction, creating a strong foundation for the merged or acquired company to navigate the transition successfully and establish a unified, compelling brand identity that reflects the collective strengths and values of the merged entities.

And what article would be worth its weight in salt if it didn’t include an Amazon example? 

Following the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon strategically executed a brand positioning exercise to align with Amazon’s vision while retaining Whole Foods’ identity. Leveraging Amazon’s resources and expertise, Whole Foods underwent a rebranding that focused on price reductions and technology integration, highlighting its commitment to quality and sustainability. This exercise ensured a cohesive brand narrative, integrating Amazon’s efficiency with Whole Foods’ ethos, enhancing customer experiences, and reinforcing the brand’s image as an accessible, high-quality grocer catering to a broader audience, successfully driving growth and market relevance post-acquisition.

So on balance, inflection points within a company’s lifecycle often necessitate a comprehensive brand positioning exercise. Companies that proactively reassess their brand positioning in response to changing market dynamics, evolving consumer preferences, or internal shifts are better equipped to navigate challenges and maintain relevance in an ever-changing business landscape. And learning from public examples of companies that succeeded or faltered during inflection points and applying strategic brand positioning exercises tailored to their unique circumstances enables businesses to position themselves for success, resilience, and sustained growth in today’s dynamic marketplace.

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