Repositioning brands after a crisis

In recent months, there have been a plethora of companies who have made headlines for the wrong reasons! Pepsi ran a campaign with Kendall Jenner with the public complaining that it made a mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement. McDonald’s ran a campaign on child bereavement which was disputed as distasteful – both companies courted controversy in areas which weren’t even relevant to their brands.

A company’s ability to recover their reputation, and how they reposition their brand after a PR crisis is crucial to how they will continue to maintain, or increase, customer engagement and loyalty in the future.

Getting it wrong!

Let’s look at the companies who haven’t got their brand changes quite right…

Toblerone. Quality Street. Creme Eggs. They’ve all changed, much to the dismay of customers! Nestle and Mondelez say it is due to increasing costs, but to consumers, that is not an adequate reason. Many boycotted these brands. For example, Creme Egg sales dropped by £6 million in 2015 following a decision to change the recipe, resulting in a reversal to the original recipe due to public outcry. However, the damage was already done. Many people will not have been aware of this reversal (proved by an office debate which just took place!) which is a massive missed marketing opportunity to apologise and reclaim customer loyalty.

Getting it right!

A struggling company needs a lease of life and a rebrand may be the only option to turn it around. Many companies dive straight in, excited with what the outcome may be – but may forget about their customers’ needs! Our advice: take time, get help, make sure it’s right. Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula, the following examples demonstrate that rebranding properly can positively impact your company and in some cases, save a company!

Taking Corporate Social Responsibility seriously

A good example of brand crisis management is Siemens. They found themselves in a spot of bother around a decade ago, involved in a corruption scandal. The company was scrutinised, investigated and customer loyalty was affected.

They decided to put their hands up and face the issue head-on which to their credit was the first step to improving their brand reputation. To reinforce their crisis control strategy, they employed compliance officers, and some well-known faces in the field of anti-corruption. They boosted their CSR policy to further prove to their shareholders and customers that they were serious about turning their business around, agreeing to a $100m programme over 15 years to fight corruption, evidencing significant change to restore customer faith.

CSR is a fantastic way to reach your customers – especially if your customers are millennials. They spend their money with brands which form good habits, such as ethical business standards, according to Sarah Landrum at Forbes. Her advice: be interested and invest in society; make an impact on the world; and finally, be open and honest.

Approaching CSR doesn’t have to be in the face of a failure – all companies can adopt a great strategy at any point!

Change your identity

A notable example of companies who require brand repositioning is often fast food brands because of their association with poor nutrition. The media and other influential bodies are constantly finding problems with the foods provided by the fast food chains – animal welfare, salt levels in food, lack of healthier menu options. With every healthy new food trend, fast foods must review their brand, continue the cycle of repositioning in response to current public perceptions of acceptable nutrition standards.

KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, rebranded to improve their reputation. For KFC, the rebrand was a major overhaul – new branding, new Colonel, new menu. After dropping the ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ name back in the 90’s, KFC also needed a brand overhaul to give off a healthier impression to their consumers. The rebrand promoted healthier looking foods in their images, the overall branding became fresher and cleaner. In the process, they humanised their company through the return of Colonel Sanders.

Engage and listen

Companies must engage and listen to their customers; it is essential to success as there are so many brands out there fighting for the same customers. However, keeping engaged isn’t worth a lot if you don’t listen to what is being said and act upon it. A company which has listened to their customers and reflected this in their rebrand is one of the big four UK supermarkets, Morrisons. Diminishing sales meant the future of the company was in question; however, after hiring a new Head of Marketing, things changed. The company receives feedback from around 5,000 customers every week and actually takes the time to listen. Applying new free-from ranges, cutting prices, focusing on quality and producing more goods in-house – these are all changes made as a consequence of this ongoing listening exercise. The end result? The bottom line reflects these positive changes.

In summary…

Companies can always give themselves a new lease of life, it’s just important to do it right. With the examples above, it is clear there isn’t just one way to get it right either. What a company must do is find their new, or improved, position and perfect it!

Setting the future of your brand on repositioning is key. Carefully plan, invest and execute flawlessly into your new brand position. One thing you must remember is that re-engaging with your customers is never a quick fix, it is not something that can be ticked off the list. It will be a constant alongside your brand evolution.

So make sure you stick to it! Failing to stick to a brand repositioning, because either it’s too much to handle or the repositioning wasn’t thought through may be a reason why some companies fail to recover.

External help and a fresh eye can be a blessing in disguise. An external agency, specialising in branding could be just the thing you need!

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