In the news recently were three examples of well-established products that attempted to revitalize their brand. Two failed and one succeeded. The two that failed (an opinion shared by many) are both beverages and both from the same company.
Pepsi rebranded what was a cool, crisp look, in favor of some off-beat beach ball — a beach ball with a white stripe that became thinner for the diet version of the drink and wider for the Pepsi Max version. I wasn’t sure what the Max version was, but I incorrectly gathered from the wider stripe that it was for people who wanted to gain a lot of weight by drinking Pepsi. (Pepsi Max is actually a zero-calorie drink with more caffeine and ginseng. Who knew?)
I understand the pressure consumer-based products have to keep their look fresh. But this new look for Pepsi did nothing to move the brand forward. It was simply a variation of what they already had, albeit a weak variation at that. People are habitual and changing things without no obvious gain seems risky.
Another Pepsico product, Tropicana orange juice, also redesigned their brand. While Pepsi didn’t move forward with their new brand, Tropicana took a giant leap backwards. They already had a brand that stood out in the marketplace, clearly delineated each product offering (e.g. pulp, no pulp) so it was easy to find on a store shelf. The brand had a simple, yet very powerful image — a straw stuck in an orange — that told their story without having to say a word. What they created was what many people said looked like a generic brand. While most brands would love to break out of the pack, it looked like frontrunner Tropicana sought the comfort of anonymity. The powers that be at Tropicana heard their customers’ complaints about the new packaging and wisely pulled the plug on the new design and went back to the old design, despite the costs associated in reverting back.
A more successful example of a brand redesign was recently done by Heinz ketchup. They recently replaced the small gherkin pickle that appeared at the bottom of their label with a tomato growing on a vine. Brilliant. First of all, though I never questioned it before, what did a pickle have to do with tomato ketchup anyway? A tomato on a vine shows not only what the product is made of, but the quality of the product as well.
Heinz touched nothing else on their brand label. This relatively small, but significant change only served to enhance their product. They not only didn’t offend their customer base, but I think it made their customer base see them in a new, even better light — like running into a friend and they look different. You’re not sure if they changed the color of their hair slightly or lost a few pounds. You’re only aware that they somehow look better.
Medical device manufacturers have different concerns than consumer-based products like Pepsi or Heinz ketchup. But there are lessons to be learned.
Change for the sake of change is usually not a good thing. Consistency is better, especially for a company that has relatively few opportunities to get their brand in front of their prospects.
Small, carefully considered changes can do a lot to refresh a brand or redress some issues.
And lastly, if a mistake is made, own up to it and fix it.