What Is Brand Repositioning? [Strategies & Examples]

Brand Repositioning

In the realm of marketing, brands serve as powerful tools designed to enhance a business’s appeal and memorability among a specific audience. This fundamental principle, often referred to as brand positioning 101, revolves around identifying a distinctive point of difference and effectively communicating it through an enticing offer and a resonating message.

However, what if a brand fails to achieve this resonance with its intended audience? What if market conditions undergo significant changes, presenting unforeseen challenges or opportunities? In such scenarios, the concept of brand repositioning comes into play, offering a strategic avenue for revitalizing an ineffective brand.

Defining Repositioning:

Repositioning in the marketing realm signifies the meticulous process a brand undergoes to readjust or transform its perception in the market, ultimately aiming to better connect with its target demographic. This strategic shift is undertaken with the overarching goal of altering how the brand is perceived by its audience, presenting the brand and its offerings as more attractive and viable options within the market landscape.

Why Reposition a Brand?

The decision to reposition a brand can stem from various factors, making it a crucial strategic move for businesses. Often, rebranding initiatives arise reactively, triggered by disappointing outcomes such as low brand awareness, diminished market share, sluggish sales, or reduced revenue. However, brand repositioning is not always a knee-jerk reaction to poor performance.

In some cases, rebranding efforts emerge from strong performance and the subsequent opportunities to expand into broader markets. A notable instance of this phenomenon is the Mailchimp rebrand, illustrating a proactive approach to seizing growth opportunities.

Adapting to Dynamic Markets:

One of the core reasons for brand repositioning is the dynamic nature of markets. Markets are inherently fluid, constantly evolving entities driven by the shifting needs, knowledge, and societal changes among consumers. What holds significance today might lose relevance tomorrow or gain even greater importance. Whether due to alterations in demand, societal shifts, or myriad other factors influencing consumer behavior, markets serve as dynamic environments, demanding flexibility and adaptability from brands to stay relevant and resonant.

Adapting Brand Positioning: A Necessity for Growth

As businesses expand, their ability to cater to a wider or different audience also expands. What might resonate with a specific market segment might not necessarily appeal to a broader market composed of diverse segments. These segments represent distinct groups of people, and if a brand intends to broaden its appeal and reach, it must carefully assess its existing position.

Change in Target Audience:

When a brand aims to target a broader or entirely different audience, evaluating its current position becomes essential. The approach that worked for a specific segment might not be effective for a more extensive market. Businesses seeking expansion must analyze their position critically, ensuring it aligns with the broader audience they intend to serve.

Change or Growth in Product Portfolio:

Positioning is crucial not only at the brand level but also at the product level. Although product positioning occurs less frequently than brand positioning, it becomes necessary when new products are introduced, and the product portfolio expands. If the array of products deviates from the brand’s original position, repositioning might be vital to maintain consistency and coherence.

Signaling a New Era:

Established brands with extensive brand equity developed over decades or centuries might undergo a transformation to adapt to changing landscapes. Similar to a crab shedding its old shell, brands may signal the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. This transformation often involves adjusting how the brand wishes to be perceived in the market, marking a fresh start.

Advantages of Repositioning:

Repositioning offers several advantages when executed thoughtfully:

  1. Refocused Target Audience: Through an in-depth analysis of the target audience, repositioning allows brands to identify specific segments within the market. By understanding the goals, challenges, fears, and desires of these segments, brands can enhance their ability to connect with their audience’s needs effectively.
  2. Enhanced Competitive Advantage: A positioning strategy tailored to current market conditions and a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape strengthens a brand’s competitive advantage. Whether emphasizing outcomes, benefits, meaning, or a big idea, the way this advantage is delivered through the brand’s messaging reinforces its perceived edge in the market.
  3. A Fresh Perception: Brand repositioning isn’t solely about altering products or services; it’s also about conveying the brand’s value more effectively to the audience. Many globally successful brands have revitalized their trajectory simply by creating a fresh perception in the market. This strategic shift involves reshaping how the brand is perceived, often leading to significant positive outcomes.

Disadvantages of Repositioning:

  1. Repositioning Can Be Expensive: A brand’s position in the market is deeply rooted in its perception, which is shaped by various touchpoints like the website, social channels, physical stores, packaging, and more. Implementing a repositioning strategy involves substantial costs, including visual and verbal adjustments across these touchpoints. Moreover, there’s a risk of lost investment in previously established brand equity, making the process financially challenging.
  2. Alienating Existing Customers: Many rebrands occur due to expansion into larger markets, necessitating more inclusive language and communication. However, excessive adjustment to the brand’s positioning can alienate loyal customers. If the brand becomes too vague or adopts a communication style that doesn’t resonate with its core audience, it may leave these loyal customers feeling disconnected or abandoned, impacting their trust in the brand. Balancing inclusivity with maintaining the loyalty of existing customers is crucial during the repositioning process.

In summary, while brand repositioning offers opportunities for growth and renewed market appeal, it must be approached cautiously to mitigate potential drawbacks such as financial strain and customer alienation. A strategic and well-balanced repositioning effort can yield positive results, enhancing the brand’s relevance and resonance in the market.

Successful Brand Repositioning Examples: Transforming Perceptions for Growth

Example #1: Taco Bell

Taco Bell, once perceived as a budget-friendly Mexican fast-food joint, faced stiff competition from healthier options like Chipotle. To revitalize their image, they adopted a youthful, fresh approach. Instead of focusing on the nutritional value, they empowered customers to make lifestyle choices that suited them. Their “Live Más” (Live More) tagline emphasized the freedom to live life on one’s terms. Through revamped messaging, higher-end “Cantina” venues, and modern interior designs, Taco Bell shed its cheap image, offering customers a contemporary lifestyle choice.

Example #2: Old Spice

Old Spice, a heritage brand, had become outdated and associated with an older demographic. Procter & Gamble (P&G) recognized the need for change and embarked on a radical rebranding effort. They discarded the old-fashioned image, opting for a persona characterized by strength, humor, and charm. Their “Man Your Man Can Smell Like” campaign, featuring wit and humor, became a viral sensation on YouTube. This campaign propelled Old Spice to become the world’s leading men’s body wash brand within a year. The transformation was achieved not through product changes but by injecting the brand with personality and laughter.

Example #3: MailChimp

Unlike the other examples, MailChimp didn’t rebrand due to underperformance but seized an opportunity presented by changing market conditions. While they were known for their small business email services, they recognized the expanding small business market’s demand for comprehensive marketing solutions. MailChimp underwent a bold brand identity revamp, shifting their focus from being just an “email only” provider to a holistic marketing solutions platform. Their revamped identity and messaging positioned them as guides for small businesses, catering to their evolving marketing needs as they grow.

These examples illustrate the transformative power of brand repositioning, showcasing how strategic shifts in messaging, identity, and approach can rejuvenate brands, enabling them to thrive in dynamic markets.

7-Step Brand Repositioning Strategy Process: Transforming Your Brand Effectively

If your brand is underperforming or if you aim to capitalize on evolving market dynamics, implementing a strategic repositioning plan is crucial. Follow these steps meticulously to give your brand the best chance for a successful repositioning campaign. (Note: Complete steps one and two before committing to reposition your brand).

Step 1: Conduct a Comprehensive Brand Audit

Before embarking on repositioning, evaluate your brand thoroughly. Assess not only the visual elements but also the strategic foundation. Determine the following aspects:

  • Target Audience Segments
  • Differentiation Strategy
  • Brand Personality
  • Language & Voice
  • Key Messages/Stories
  • Brand Name & Tagline
  • Visual Identity

Identify any inconsistencies or misalignments within the brand, starting with understanding who the audience is and what they desire.

Step 2: Validate Assumptions through Market Analysis

Perform market analysis to confirm existing assumptions and gain a deeper understanding of the initial target audience. While this audience might change during repositioning, understanding the brand’s previous shortcomings or verifying assumptions is essential. Utilize focus groups for qualitative insights and market surveys for quantitative data, ensuring statistical relevance.

Step 3: Redefine Your Audience

Before establishing a new market position, redefine your audience meticulously. While your new position might aim to alter perceptions within the same group, repositioning offers an opportunity to explore new market segments. Clarify your audience personas comprehensively to create a position that resonates with all potential customer segments.

Step 4: Redefine Your Competitors

In parallel with defining your target audience, redefining your competitors is paramount. Markets are dynamic, constantly evolving with new players entering the scene to disrupt or capture market share. To craft a compelling repositioning strategy, analyze existing market options. Ensure that your new position offers a compelling reason for the audience to choose your brand, considering the competitive landscape thoroughly.

Step 5: Identify Market Gaps and Define Your Distinctiveness

By redefining your audience and understanding your competitors, you gain valuable insights into market demands and existing offerings. Recognizing what already saturates the market provides a clear path to avoid echoing the prevalent “market noise.” This approach allows your brand to stand out and capture attention. Market gaps represent opportunities to captivate your audience by providing a unique perspective on value and experience.

Determine what your competitors are overlooking or neglecting in their offerings or experiences that your audience values. Pinpoint the most valuable opportunity and transform it into a distinctive feature that will resonate with your audience.

Step 6: Craft Your Positioning Statement

Once you’ve identified a unique differentiator to captivate your audience, it’s crucial to articulate this distinction in detail. Your brand positioning strategy, whether it’s an initial positioning or a repositioning effort, defines your target audience, highlights your uniqueness, clarifies who and what sets you apart, and outlines the benefits of that distinction. A well-crafted positioning statement serves as the cornerstone of your brand’s identity. For guidance on creating a positioning statement, refer to our brand template and example in our dedicated article and video.

Final Thoughts on Brand Repositioning

Repositioning is a strategic endeavor that demands careful consideration. It necessitates a substantial investment, primarily in time, to redefine your brand’s identity and establish this new position in the market. However, the cost of neglecting effective brand positioning or disregarding the need for repositioning can be far more significant.

Evaluate your brand’s current standing, realign it with your customer’s desires and needs, and explore innovative ways to communicate that you offer precisely what they are seeking. Repositioning, at its core, involves understanding your audience, recognizing market gaps, and effectively communicating your unique value proposition. It’s a nuanced process that, when executed thoughtfully, can redefine your brand’s success.

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