March 13 2023
In today’s dynamic and evolving business landscape, repositioning a brand can be a critical strategy for redefining a company’s trajectory, maintaining relevance, reaching new audiences and increasing market share. In short, brand repositioning offers businesses a chance to reimagine how they are perceived, and in turn, enhance their growth over the long run.
If that sounds daunting, that’s because it can be. The process is challenging, people tend to react to rebranding and repositioning with a hint of skepticism, and there is the potential for negative feedback—particularly with global, well-known brands. However, a successful repositioning can ultimately lead to accelerated growth and catapult a company to new heights.
Here are six key considerations to keep in mind when repositioning a brand in 2023:
The first step in repositioning your brand is to evaluate your current brand position with unflinching honesty. This evaluation includes understanding your current brand identity, perception and reputation in the market. By assessing your brand’s current position, you can identify the areas where changes are necessary and determine what aspects of your brand you want to maintain.
For example, Weight Watchers repositioned its branding in 2018 to better align with updated cultural ideas like the body positivity movement and holistic wellness. The original brand position was deeply rooted in the often-unhealthy diet culture of the 90s and early 2000s. In 2018, the company repositioned itself as “WW” in an effort to shift its focus from a weight-loss diet to a plan that embraces overall health and wellness. WW recognized how its previous positioning aligned with harmful ideologies and took measures to reposition in such a way that allowed the organization to continue thriving as a popular brand in the health and wellness space.
The second consideration in repositioning your brand is to identify your target audience—which is critical for developing a brand position that will resonate and inspire action. It’s important to conduct market research to identify your ideal customer’s demographics, psychographics and purchasing behavior.
An example of this is Abercrombie & Fitch, which has gone through a few successful brand repositionings by specifically targeting the interests of its audiences. More than a century ago, Abercrombie started out as an outdoor sports equipment store that sold fishing tackle, tennis clothes and even elephant guns for big game hunting. Originally intended for upper-class sportsmen, the company attempted to reach a more middle-class audience in 1988, pushing its narrative of “casual luxury” with its products. Following this, Abercrombie & Fitch again repositioned to target older teenagers in the early and mid-2000s by featuring shirtless models and a dark, sensual ambiance in their stores.
Just recently, Abercrombie & Fitch repositioned once again in response to the rising sexualization of teenagers. This most recent repositioning targets young adults in their late teens and early 20s, giving off a more wholesome, inclusive aesthetic and successfully keeping the brand relevant for over 130 years.
Once you’ve assessed your current brand position and identified your target audience, the next step is to define your brand positioning. This involves creating a unique value proposition that sets your brand apart from its competitors.
For example, in 2019, Nike repositioned its brand to focus on inclusivity and diversity. The company launched a new ad campaign called “Dream Crazier,” which celebrated female athletes who broke down barriers and challenged societal norms. The campaign was designed to position Nike as a brand that stands for equality and empowerment, and it resonated with consumers who shared those values.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) February 24, 2019
Finally, when repositioning your brand, it’s essential to develop a rebranding strategy that includes specific tactics and a timeline. Your strategy should outline how you plan to roll out your new brand positioning and communicate it to your target audience. Ideally, your rebrand should be a fresh spin on your former brand, so that you still resonate and remain familiar with your existing audience while also appealing to new customers.
For example, in 2020, Dunkin’ Donuts rebranded to just “Dunkin'” to reflect its focus on more than just donuts. The company launched a new ad campaign, updated its logo and changed its social media handles to reflect the new name. Dunkin’ also created a new store design to reflect the brand’s new focus on convenience and speed. The company’s rebrand was successful because it allowed Dunkin’ to remain true to itself as a brand while also expanding beyond a one-dimensional focus. Now, Dunkin’ is just as well known for its signature coffee selections as it is for its sugary treats.
Before committing to your repositioning, make sure you’ve done enough research to ensure that nothing could be taken in a different light than how you intend. Whether it be an innuendo in another culture, an unintentionally offensive element or something that has had its meaning changed by slang, avoiding these negative connotations or other mishaps are incredibly important in maintaining brand integrity.
An example of this is SyFy, which repositioned in 2010 in an effort to target millennials and Gen Z demographics by emulating text conventions. Opting for the name “SyFy” as a play on Sci-Fi, the company failed to realize that in Poland and other neighboring countries, ”syfy” was already a slang way to refer to syphilis.
Similarly, it’s important to make sure that any messaging you put out positively reflects your company and its values, and that it doesn’t ring hollow—or worse—offensive. For example, the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial attempted to reposition the company as the middle ground for the incredibly divisive issue of police brutality and racism. Though intending to show a positive reconciliation between the police and protestors, the commercial instead trivialized a complex issue and simultaneously alienated both sides of the issue with its hollow messaging.
While this is a dramatic example, putting forth a message that seems fake or hollow can be a potential issue when brands reposition. So, make sure your repositioning has been thoroughly and extensively reviewed before go live. The easiest way to prevent offensive or hollow repositioning is to include a diverse set of perspectives in the proverbial writer’s room during initial discussions. This ensures that any offensive, dishonest or accidental misalignments of major issues don’t get greenlit and result in major public backlash.
Excuse the foul language, but a repositioning is no time to half-ass something. Ideally, this is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to reimagine your company. It should be deliberate and authentic. The last thing anyone wants is to buy into something when the employees within the repositioned business aren’t enthusiastic about it themselves.
Repositioning a brand is a challenging but necessary step for staying competitive in today’s market. By assessing your current brand position, identifying your target audience, defining your brand positioning and developing a rebranding strategy, you can successfully reposition your brand in 2023. Remember, your brand is not just your logo or your product—it’s the entire brand experience you provide to your customers. With this in mind, repositioning your brand can help create a better customer experience that sets you apart from your competitors.