When is the right time for a Brand Makeover? by Roz Usheroff

The recent debate regarding Hershey’s new logo reminded me of the famous battle in the cola wars when Coke, in an attempt to gain precious market share, re-branded more than its look.  As those of you will readily recall, the change in the company’s secret formula brought a momentous backlash that, to this day, is rated as one of the biggest branding blunders in history.

This raises two very interesting questions: 1) when is it the right time to consider a brand makeover and, 2) how do you go about doing it so as to avoid a negative response in the market?

To start, when I use the term “brand makeover”, we are not just talking about a simple change in look.


In his Forbes article How Do You Know When it’s Time to Change Your Company’s Logo?, Marc E. Babej wrote about Tropicana’s introduction of their new look packaging in 2009. Even though the product itself did not change, the public hated the new look resulting in an almost immediate drop in sales by a whopping 20 percent!  While Babej does not provide the details as to why Tropicana felt that a change was needed, the message is crystal clear – the look of a product is as important as the actual product itself.

If It Isn’t Broken . . . Don’t Fix It!

Both Coca-Cola and Tropicana provide an important lesson in that if the product represents a familiar brand, changing it in any form is a major risk that does not usually payoff unless said change is actually reflective of the market’s needs.

So when is the right time for a change?

In the 1960s through to the 1980s, Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken was a highly successful brand that proudly promoted the eleven “secret” herbs and spices that went into its fried chicken.  Beginning in the 1990s, as consumers became more health conscious, the brand’s original strength began to lose its luster.  In response to these external changes in consumer tastes, the company changed its name from the venerable Kentucky Fried Chicken moniker to KFC.  As part of this major shift, KFC introduced healthier menu choices.

Then, based on yet another change in consumer tastes, KFC returned to promoting its fried chicken menu items.  As a result, the Kentucky Fried Chicken name and logo were reintroduced in the US in April 2007 as part of a major rebranding strategy.

The point with this Kentucky Fried Chicken reference is that even though its brand image experienced several transformations over the years, its core specialty is and continues to be chicken.  Go ahead and ask someone what comes to mind when you say KFC.  Almost instantly they will say chicken.

This is the key to the KFC example in that they were able to makeover their brand not just once, but twice, while still remaining true to their roots.

What About Your Personal Brand?

In Chapter 1 of my book The Future of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand, I had made reference to the importance of managing your career as if it “were a start-up business.”  Similar to KFC, your “business” also has to have a specialty that enables people to immediately recognize your brand’s value proposition.  Therefore the key is to identify your specialty and then effectively market it in the context of what is currently deemed to be a desirable or needed ability.

This latter point is important.  Can you imagine if KFC was reluctant to think outside of their familiar box?  What would have happened if KFC put all their energies into promoting fried chicken instead of responding to public demands based on health concerns?

Time for Change - Clock

Recall the quote about insanity, which is defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.  How many of us fall into the trap of staying within our comfort zone to the detriment of not only ourselves but to those we seek to serve?

We may work harder or longer in the hope that we will demonstrate our value and in the process secure our position.  But if we fail to adapt to changes the way KFC did, and insist on selling the equivalent of fried chicken when our organizations are looking for grilled chicken, our days will be numbered.

Whether you are self-employed or an employee, adopting an entrepreneurial mindset in which you act like your “own CEO” will steer you toward making sound decisions.  It means that you will listen to what your “customers” are saying, and then position your unique capabilities to meet their interests and needs, all the while being true to your personal mission statement.



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