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Planning for the Inevitable: The Ultimate Guide to Brand Repositioning [With Examples]

Hedley Swann

Hedley Swann

Digital Strategist at Dash
Hedley Swann

Hedley Swann

Digital Strategist at Dash

You have noticed that people are not as excited about your brand as they used to be. Sales are slowing down and you are wondering if you should sit and wait for the inevitable—the slow death of your business.

While running any business requires a constant effort to keep up with market trends, the pressure is higher if you are running a professional services business.

The professional services space is way too crowded with too little differentiation and positioning. Worse, the internet has taken the competition global making it even harder for you to survive.

What should you do? Brand repositioning is the answer.

What is a brand repositioning?

Brand repositioning is changing how the current market perceives your service by making it more appealing to them. It is a strategy where you look to adjust or update (not completely change) your brand’s identity which can include your associations, core message, personality, and status to meet the market needs.

What’s the difference between rebranding and repositioning?

While rebranding and repositioning are often confused, they are distinct.

Rebranding is completely changing your brand’s identity which could include aspects such as your business name and visual components such as your logo, colors, and tagline. Figuratively, rebranding is more of an outer beauty job; more like changing your appearance.

Brand repositioning is the inner beauty job, involving changing your brand’s promise, personality, and associations. It defines your new territory and the new roles your service will start to play. Repositioning may also lead to some changes in brand identity.

So, when should you rebrand and when should you reposition?

  • Reposition when you have an established business name but your company image or reputation is wrong or outdated.
  • Rebrand when your company name is confusing, for example, doesn’t reflect your business values or the range of services you provide.

What is a brand repositioning strategy?

A brand repositioning strategy is a detailed plan of how you will carry out your brand repositioning campaign. For you to successfully reposition your brand, you should determine your repositioning goals and come up with a strategic direction to achieve those goals.

Types of brand repositioning strategies

Here are 8 common types of brand repositioning strategies you can use:

  1. Brand relaunch

Relaunching a brand is one of the strategies to reposition it. Relaunching your brand is one of the best ways to: 

  • Market the brand as contemporary if it was perceived as traditional or outdated
  • Revive a failed brand

Relaunching works because it creates a buzz that excites masses and can result in increased leads and sales.

  1. Brand rejuvenation

When you rejuvenate your brand, you add new aspects or improve your already existing services to keep up with competitors or changes in market trends. Think about streamlining aspects of your business like quality and speed.

Brand rejuvenation can help you revive your old markets and also appeal to a particular target segment.

  1. Brand extension

Brand extension is a repositioning strategy where you add a new set of services to your business. If, for instance, you are a car wash professional, you can extend your car wash services to include services like pet washing, oil changes, and concierge services.

Brand extension helps you reach a wider market.

  1. Intangible brand repositioning

Intangible repositioning is simply marketing the same service to a different target market.

If, for example, you are a consulting firm that offers consulting services to small and medium-sized firms, you can decide to include larger businesses into your offering.

  1. Brand acquisition

Brand development and capturing a new market can be costly and time-consuming. When you want to extend your services without starting from scratch, you can reposition by acquiring a brand that offers those services.

Brand acquisition is the easiest way to expand to new services and grab a larger market share.

  1. Working on your brand essence (differentiating factor)

If you lack brand positioning, which means that you run a generalist service business lacking a differentiating factor, repositioning your brand essence is in order.

As a service provider, clients need to associate your offering with a specific experience (sometimes this can be emotional, like good customer service).

Optica Africa, for example, an eye care company, is a brand that is synonymous with high-quality eyewear and unmatched customer service. That’s its brand essence.

  1. Brand associations/ partnership marketing

Partnership marketing is one of the most effective positioning strategies with the potential to quickly:

  • Hike brand awareness
  • Reach new markets/locations
  • Meet the needs of the marketplace

You can partner with a top brand that offers similar services or services that can complement yours in some way.

The NASCAR car wash chain’s use of the racing league’s car logo, for example, created a media buzz that helped it build brand awareness.

  1. Brand repositioning through transparency

Now here’s an interesting fact; 94% of consumers will be loyal to brands that are transparent.

Most brands today are moving towards high levels of transparency in terms of their service processes, pricing, internal operations, financial performance and many more aspects. Customers are responding to transparency because it shows that you have nothing to hide!

Repositioning your brand by making it more transparent can help you recover easily especially when there’s a negative perception of your services.

Domino’s Pizza had long been defamed for being of poor quality and laden with preservatives. To get rid of this notion, the fast-food company repositioned itself as a transparent company through its “our food, your questions” campaign and even went ahead to post videos from its food processing plants proving that it was using legit meat for its products and not cheaper alternatives.

Why you need to reposition your brand

If you want to build a service or brand that lasts for decades or even centuries, brand repositioning is what makes that difference.

There is no given timeline to change your market position.

You need to continuously monitor the current position of your service. Over time, you need to gauge the aspects of your business that are thriving and those that are not to generate feedback that can help you reposition your business in the future.

Here are some of the reasons why you need to reposition your brand:

1. To stay ahead of the competition

According to Consulting Business School, one of the reasons why many consulting startups is being “outcompeted.”

As a business, you need to step up above the noise and get noticed in a market flocking with new entrants every single day. Brand repositioning helps you stand out.

2. To grow your business

Brand repositioning should always be focused on giving your customers a better experience. Happy customers present three opportunities for your business to grow. through:

  • Extending their contracts
  • Expanding to use other services that you provide
  • Bringing in new business through word of mouth

3.To manage your reputation

Maintaining brand reputation becomes a challenge especially if you are a big, established brand. Customers may consider you impersonal which may give smaller competitor brands an edge. As a big brand, repositioning by focusing on establishing closer customer connections can help you continue to thrive.

4. To increase demand for your services

Declining revenue and a diminishing audience are signs that you need to restrategize. 

An example of the American Red Cross

A perfect example is what the American Red Cross did during the Great Recession in 2009. American Red Cross suffered a donation deficit as people started giving less following the recession. As a result, the company decided to reposition itself to reinforce its competitive advantage and create a sense of urgency around giving to the brand.

American Red Cross changed it from “Change a life, start with your own,” that had worked before due to its emotional appeal but was now failing due to its lack of conciseness and urgency, to “Give a gift that saves a life’.

The latter messaging was very powerful as it engraved the Red Cross’ purpose in the minds of people, which is to save lives, and got them to start “giving gifts”. 

The entire repurposing strategy led to a 5% increase in income in 2009 compared to previous years. Brand awareness also increased by 6%. By the end of 2010, income had shot up by a whopping 26%, and gift sizes went up by 46%. 

5. To eliminate brand negativity

Brand negativity can be brought about by negative associations, offering low-quality services, perception as an outdated brand due to failure to incorporate new technology, among other factors.

Dealing with brand negativity: McDonald’s brand repositioning

McDonald’s has survived over the years, thanks to its ability to successfully reposition itself.

McDonald’s was the low-cost, family-friendly restaurant until early 2010. Later on, with the rise in digital innovation, customers started complaining that the company used a one-size-fits-all approach in all its branches and its menu was filled with “unhealthy” food options.

All the negativity reduced customers’ trust in McDonald’s and people began to shift to other competitors like Taco Bell and Domino’s.

McDonald’s then repositioned itself as a modern burger restaurant under the tagline “billions heard” which was a move away from the previous “billions served” philosophy.

It also launched digital kiosks where people could build burgers to their taste, launched a digital app, and began marketing to a younger audience, among other major changes. Today, McDonald’s is the world leader in providing fast foods.

6. To differentiate your brand

Veolia Environmental Services proved to the world that you can differentiate just about any business, even if it is a B2B waste management company that is part of an overcrowded industry.

In an industry not known for much creativity, Veolia repositioned itself as a company that focuses on social responsibility as opposed to just waste management. Its marketing strategy involving the use of wildlife images to showcase its nature-centeredness won the hearts of many stakeholders.

Ascendient Healthcare managed to break out of the crowded health consulting market. Ascedient created a new positioning statement that repositioned itself as the company that provides futuristic healthcare consulting. The leading healthcare consulting firm achieved its new position through its credible HealthyTown predictive modelling service that provides future-focused research and analysis.

Other reasons why you need to reposition your brand are:

  1. Your services have evolved (you’ve added or removed products from your offering)
  2. There’s a reorganization in your industry in terms of new technology, competitors, or the emergence of new business models
  3. Your marketing message and value proposition do not match the current market needs
  4. Your audience is changing
  5. You want to be acquired so you need to demonstrate the maximum value of your brand

What makes repositioning successful?

If it was easy to reposition your brand, every business owner would be thriving at it. The truth is, it is a risky business and many have failed terribly at it.

Why is it difficult to reposition a brand?

The real challenge lies in trying to change the particular perception that clients already have about your service. So, how can you ensure that you succeed at brand repositioning?

Here are 6 things you need to do:

Carry out sufficient market research

Market research should inform your brand repositioning decisions.

Customers hold the key to your success, so determining what they want is the only way to reposition your services successfully.

One of the best ways to carry out your research is by finding out what people are saying about your product or industry on social media, online forums, and Q&A channels.

You can also gather information through customer surveys.

Create what customers want

After you discover what customers want, you need to invest time, money, and lots of planning to create the ideal service. To reposition your brand successfully, all the pieces that have changed and those that have remained the same need to work together. 

Choose a brand repositioning strategy that will convince your target audience

Convincing your customers is perhaps the hardest part of the brand repositioning equation, especially if you are trying to get rid of negative brand perception.

To succeed at convincing your customers to accept your new position, you need to first address the problem or dissatisfaction created by your original brand positioning.

This is where you choose a brand repositioning strategy, for example, a transparency strategy where you let your customers in on your service processes and operations to build trust.

Maintain credibility

Credibility is the level of trust that your customers have in your service that keeps them coming back. Your brand promise should not just be 100% proprietary (a unique concept that differentiates you from the crowd), but also 100% believable and actionable.

The failure of US airlines “Rising” campaign

Don’t make promises that you can’t keep or claims that are untrue like the United Airlines did during its “Rising” campaign in the 1990s.

Over the years, United Airlines carried the powerful tagline “Fly the friendly skies”, selling itself as the go-to carrier for passengers who wanted incredible services. In an attempt to reposition itself as offering an even better level of service, United Airlines adopted the “Rising” campaign where it promised to resolve some of the most common problems that came with air travel.

United Airlines, however, failed to live up to its clients’ expectations as it seemed to have little planning to implement its new position. The company continued to experience problems such as flight delays and offering sub-standard food which quickly killed clients’ confidence in the company making the marketing campaign a failure.

To build credibility, you can use powerful tools like supporting statistics and positive customer reviews.

Give out a clear message

Craft your communication carefully.

When you are repositioning, remember that what your brand used to stand for is still engraved in people’s mind. You want to remove that notion and implant a new one without creating any confusion.

Let your audience know precisely what you stand for in your new position and its benefits where necessary. Your message should move them from your previous to your new brand position.

Adjust your marketing strategy

When you reposition your brand, chances are you have to change your marketing strategy as well. You need to come up with a way to reconnect with your existing audience or reach out to your new audience.

Digital marketing is essential today because it helps you create a connection with your customers that helps you grow your brand.

Is it time to reposition your business?

If you are experiencing a business slowdown, it may be time to consider brand repositioning.

Brand repositioning is about matching your definition of success to your clients’ definition of success. When a client walks into your office, premise, or visits your website, they come in to achieve certain objectives. If you are focused only on increasing revenue and reducing costs, your head is in the wrong place.

Market research and keeping up with the current trends is the bedrock of successful repositioning.

If you are still wondering where to start, try following the examples of successful repositioning from industry icons. You can also use the help of a professional services marketing firm (like us) to help with your brand repositioning efforts.

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