The power of seduction: rebranding beauty secrets
A well-executed rebrand can revitalize flagging turnover, rescue a business from bankruptcy and transform a near-closure into a global leader. Leveraging new or refreshed Intellectual Property (IP) has the potential to turn your company's fortunes skyward – if you can get it right.
We recently covered some of the perils of flawed rebrands: customer alienation, reputational damage and financial loss. Typically arriving hand-in-hand, these can result from a failure to take full stock of a brand's existing situation, its consumer base and the desired outcome for both. Then again, if a company is mindful of what is involved in properly reshaping a brand, the benefits can be worth the risk.
What it takes to rebrand in style
Candid self-reflection and careful planning are the keys here, but neither achieves a great deal without a healthy approach to end-user communication. When all is said and done, a brand lives or dies according to how it is perceived and treated by the public, and guiding this interaction is only possible when IP management and marketing work in harmony.
To do this, you must ask yourself some all-important questions:
- What is my brand's current condition?
- Who are my existing customers, and whom do I want to attract?
- What new brand image do I what to convey?
- What are my immediate and long-term targets?
And most difficult of all:
- How do I reach my goals without losing what I already have?
It pays to be frank with yourself at this stage – if you do not face up to any uncomfortable realities regarding your brand, the market will be more than happy to do it for you. Once you have identified which trademarks and designs you would like to modify as part of your efforts, you need to proceed in a way that balances the expectations of loyal customers with the wants of target demographics. Depending on your business situation, neglecting one or the other could be disastrous, but finding the "Goldilocks" path opens up incredible opportunities.
We examine a few examples of rebrands done right and how they were achieved.
Reassembling an empire from Lego
The building blocks of many a childhood memory, Lego has inspired generations of designers, engineers and inventors since introducing Automatic Binding Bricks in 1949. But the Danish manufacturer's runaway global success was almost its undoing, and by 2004, the toymaker was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Such was Lego's triumph in the marketplace that it left itself nowhere to expand to offset mounting overheads. Plateauing sales, strained logistics, bloated product lines and excessively complicated kits that cost more to produce than they were sold for added to the bucket of assorted woes. When these troubles finally spilled over in the early years of the 21st century, they created a colorful minefield that could no longer be tip-toed through. And so, it fell to new CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp to pick up the pieces.
It is a recurring theme that a small number of prominent names headline stories of business turnarounds, but as tempting as it is to laud – or scorn – a high-profile individual exclusively, the truth of the matter is that many people contribute to an effective rebranding initiative. And Lego is a fantastic example of this. The seeds of the company's salvation were actually sown five years before Knudstorp took the helm when it made its first step down a highly lucrative path: IP licensing.
Lego Star Wars kits initially appeared on shelves in 1999 to coincide with the launch of the first major release in the film franchise since 1983's "Return of the Jedi." Harry Potter licensing deals soon followed, keeping the momentum going and generating tremendous returns. However, though there was a significant boost in revenue every time a new sequel hit theater screens, toy sales dropped between these cinema events. Fortunately, Lego simultaneously invested substantial resources into creating unique IP in the form of Bionicle. The Polynesian-themed mythos crafted to accompany the biomechanical characters was expanded through books, comics, video games and even movies.
By creating new IP while licensing that of other companies, Lego ensured a healthy cash flow and afforded itself the breathing room needed to slash its product catalog, streamline manufacturing processes and implement advanced operational efficiencies.
Keeping it brief: Domino theory
A rebranding campaign can be a remedy for lackluster growth if a blighted public image is the cause. And in the early years of the 21st century, Domino's Pizza was facing just such an uphill struggle: An increasingly health-conscious consumer base was growing skeptical of brands that made overt reference to so-called comfort foods. By including a specific product type in its trademarked company name, the business not only risked a damaged customer reception but also restricted its perceived range of offerings.
When Patrick Doyle became CEO of Domino's Pizza in 2010, the company's stock price was a relatively crummy $8.76 USD; today, it is in the region of $300.00 USD. Naturally, it took more than a toss and a spin to stretch the dough that far, so how was it done?
Perhaps most importantly, Doyle recognized the pizza maker's languishing public reception: Intense competition from Pizza Hut, Papa Johns (itself dropping the apostrophe in 2021 as part of a rebranding move) and supermarkets pressured the company to cut costs by cutting corners – and ingredients and preparation suffered.
In 2009, while president of the business, Doyle brought customer criticism to the fore and addressed the censure publicly. In what was undoubtedly a bold move, Domino's Pizza openly acknowledged complaints that their products were "boring," "bland," "mass-produced" and tasted "like cardboard." After almost half a century, the old recipe was scrapped, and the process of winning back consumer trust began.
To cement this re-earned confidence from customers and investors, the word "pizza" was dropped from the company name and trademarks in 2012. That this realignment did not dilute the brand image might seem counterintuitive, but it helped convey an expanded menu and service proposition, selling an experience rather than a guilty conscience.
From the butt of the joke to the top of the world
No discussion of rebranding successes would be complete without a mention of Apple. In 1996, the technology company was floundering, perched so precariously close to collapse that "The Simpsons" jibed at the overlooked player in the home computer market. The following year, even arch-rival Microsoft handed a beleaguered Steve Jobs a $150 million USD bailout in return for dropping a copyright infringement lawsuit relating to user interface elements of Apple's operating system. Of course, it also behooved Microsoft to have a viable competitor to steer clear of anti-monopoly legislation, but that is another story.
Jumping ahead two and half decades, the animated yellow family is still on the air and Microsoft is one of the world's largest businesses, but Apple has had the last laugh. The tech titan became the first company in history to surpass $3 trillion USD in value in 2022 – more than the Gross Domestic Product of the entire United Kingdom.
In no small way, Apple's ascension is the epitome of how to manage a rebrand, taking into consideration all the questions we highlighted above. By combining technological innovation and a rigorous patenting strategy with an equally fervid approach to design philosophy and protection, the company was able to blindside the competition and reshape multiple industries.
Thanks to desirability that stemmed as much from the brand image as it did from quality and functionality, consumers were willing to pay a premium to flaunt the newly hip trademarks of a resurgent Apple. Cachet meant cash – and lots of it.
Ultimately, it was no coincidence that Steve Jobs announced the renaming of Apple Computers, Inc. to Apple, Inc. at the very same event that unveiled the iPhone on January 9, 2007. Stripping "computers" from the company name signaled this shift toward a broader user base and a self-contained entertainment ecosystem: incorporating everything from telecommunications to music to television and more.
Protecting the new
Any rebranding project necessarily modifies or replaces existing tangible assets. Trademarks and designs, in particular, will be strongly affected, so it is essential to conduct thorough searches of IP databases to make sure your chosen rebranding elements do not infringe on existing registrations.
What is more, you will need to carry out due diligence checks to ensure any new packaging complies with labeling regulations. This is especially relevant to larger brands operating across territories, meaning they must approach this process with total confidence in their legal counsel and IP management team.
The legal security of registered IP rights is essential to safeguarding a rebrand's creative and financial investment. Whether you need new trademark registrations, design rights, patents or the advice and expertise of a specialist attorney, Dennemeyer has the integrated, global solution to help you put your best face forward.