Brand Resuscitation

Posted September 27, 2017, under Gee Whillickers!

Sometimes a company has to take drastic action to reverse its fortunes. This can come in the form of “rebranding,” which is a top-to-bottom overhaul of the way that the company presents itself to the public. This can mean entirely new logo, colors, taglines — but it doesn’t have to.

Back to Basics

Burberry has a long and storied history as the clothing of choice for 20th century British military, adventurers, and explorers. But in the single-digit 21st, they had become more closely associated with gangs. This undesirable positioning sent profits down the toilet and was damaging a previously respectable brand.

So the clothier brought in fresh blood and embarked on a rebrand. They didn’t change their logo, their motto, or even their product (much). Instead, they reacquainted the public with the brand’s history and motto: Prorsum — “Forward.”

They created a beautiful new website, overhauled their retail outlets, and brought in one of the most recognizable and beloved faces in the world: Emma Watson.

A real comment on the source article: “She looks like the actress from Harry Potter…?”

Eschewing previous associations with sex appeal, the brand has become synonymous with forward-thinking sophistication. The brand’s luster was restored, and Burberry now enjoys considerable success and prestige.

Similarly, Carl’s Jr. and McDonalds have recently undertaken massive efforts to change their images in the public eye. For the latter, this means healthier menu offerings (with dubious results, as we have mentioned).

For Carl’s Jr., it has meant moving away from the salacious, yet long-running campaign featuring a bevy of scantily clad women. Instead, the brand is attempting to refocus its public image on the higher quality of its food. Plans are also underway to give the restaurants themselves a classier makeover, but as of this writing, those plans have not been made public.

The new campaign is far from perfect, and it’s too soon to gauge success. But turning one’s brand positioning on its head is, if nothing else, an interesting gambit.

Commit to Quality

Two brands at the heights of their respective markets are Harley Davidson and Apple. They didn’t always enjoy such stature.

Apple in particular is one of the greatest comeback stories in modern history. Prior to Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997, the company was foundering in a sea of competition and questionable marketing. The company had little to distinguish itself from its peers – so when Jobs was reinstated as boss, his solution was to change up the nature of their very product line and the company’s orientation. The guiding principle became “Simplicity.”

This meant an overhaul of hardware and software, and a completely different marketing approach. Apple championed the idea that technology should be accessible; that anyone could use their computers – and that everyone should.

This was the start of the “i-” prefix. We thought it strange then. How things have changed.

It also included polishing up the company’s logo to follow suit — changing the focus from “everyone” to evoke both simplicity and high-end quality.

Harley Davidson had similarly been on the verge of bankruptcy in 1985. Unable to compete with Japanese imports, the motorcycle company was heavily in debt and needed a miracle.

Their solution was to market value over price. For example, where their competitors used plastics to build their bikes, Harley Davidson used steel, and they encouraged modifications. Bikes became harder to come by, because the company curbed production to actual demand. As time went on, the price of a year-old Harley became 25-30% higher than a brand-new one.

Along with this, the company continued to cultivate its existing brand mystique. Harley Davidson has always aligned as a symbol of Americana; it’s always been about thrills and freedom; about choosing both fate and identity. Their ads of the time — and since — have leaned heavily into this, and the company has thrived as a result.


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