Brand repositioning: A midlife crisis

In my last post I examined the wisdom of birthing a brand simultaneously with the development of any new venture. But what happens if the venture is about the rebirth of an existing hotel or resort?

We’ve all seen new life breathed into tired or dying brands. Perhaps one of the most dynamic examples is Abercrombie & Fitch. The classic “gentleman’s” brand was repositioned to appeal to a dramatically different audience with equally dramatic financial success. While the change in the brand’s image, marketing and product lines may have Mr. Abercrombie and Mr. Fitch rolling over in their graves, I suspect they’d be thrilled with the resulting revenues.

In the hospitality world there are impressive examples of brands that have been repositioned due to many different factors:

  • A new owner with a different vision for the experience they want to deliver
  • Increased competition due to changes in the competitive set
  • The impact of economic forces on the marketplace (Sound familiar?)
  • A brand idea that has run its course
  • The success of a venture affording new growth opportunities that do not fit within the current brand’s definition

Whatever the catalyst may be, the necessity for change need not become the brand’s midlife crisis.

When standing at the crossroads the important thing to remember is that repositioning involves changing how a brand is perceived in two different environments: the marketplace and consumers’ minds. In this post, I’ll address the first of those two.

The marketplace is that portion of the hospitality industry in which a venture is conducting business. As business environments evolve brands must evolve with them. What differentiates a brand may become generic, what makes it innovative could become passé or its sense of excitement could lose its magic. What is new at some point always becomes old.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean starting over with an entirely new brand proposition. If the platform for a brand is properly conceived — based primarily on consumer insights — then it has the potential to stand up to the test of time. In such cases, repositioning becomes an exercise in determining how to reinterpret the brand.

A case in point: We worked with a 75-year-old resort whose brand was never proactively managed. Meanwhile, the marketplace as well as the entire world around it had changed so dramatically that the property was dying. When we repositioned the brand based on its current marketplace — a completely different competitive set due to a total renovation/expansion — the response rate to marketing efforts jumped by more than 1,200%.

In my next post, I’ll address the second environment: repositioning within the minds of consumers. In the meantime, please share your questions, comments and success stories as we learn to be more brandwise together.