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06/02/2012

Making Old Brands New Again

After more than 50 years, Procter & Gamble's Oil of Olay brand needed a little freshening up.

Today, with 29-year-old country singer Carrie Underwood as its brand ambassador and a marketing strategy aimed at debunking common beauty myths, Olay is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse in the health and beauty category and one of Procter & Gamble's leading brands. It's now the No. 1 facial skin care brand in the world, and thanks to its legacy as well as its anti-aging appeal, it continues to grow globally.

Refreshing a brand is a complex process, but the payoff for CPGs and retailers ultimately is higher sales and market share. Unlike many products, brands don't have an expiration date, but well-tended brands undergo multiple reinventions and line extensions. The payoff is measurable.

"A lot of the metrics for change are very tangible," says Bill Chidley, senior vice president of Dayton, Ohio-based Interbrand Design Forum. Brand refreshments such as Olay's can result in reinventing an entire category, lifting the sales for both a specific CPG and the category, to the benefit of the retailer. Brand reinventions that impact the category can spur a 4 percent to 10 percent increase in sales for the category, he says.

Mature brands can be forgotten brands, says Chidley. But an updated product, fresh new packaging or a marketing effort serves to remind shoppers the brand is there. "A lot of these mature brands are part of our social culture. People don't really know that they're not using them or haven't bought them in a while," Chidley says. French's French Fried Onions, owned by Reckitt Benckiser since 2000, was a product typically purchased once or twice a year for holiday meals. French's, a brand dating back to 1904 and best known for mustard, introduced new resealable contoured packaging for the fried onions. The company also launched a marketing campaign heavy on social media and released recipes using the fried onions in everyday meals. Supported by an advertising budget reported at $15 million, the product is finding a spot in shoppers' baskets with greater frequency.

The key to taking a brand into the future first requires examining its past. "You want to go back to your core," advises Pallavi Verma, director of activation planning and shopper marketing at TPN, a retail branding and marketing agency based in New York. "Sometimes a brand gets lost in a group or gets too broad."

Going back to basics

Oil of Olay launched in 1949 as Oil of Olay Beauty Fluid, an entirely new kind of moisturizer for its time. The pleasant fragrance, pink coloring and light weight contrasted with the waxy products being sold in tins. Over time, however, the brand became lost in the category and had no true differentiation, as new products were released to targeted demographics touting scientific advances, Verma says. It became known as a brand for old ladies, she says. In the early 1990s, P&G revisited the basics of who its customer was: women interested in anti-aging products. "Today Olay is the top-selling everyday anti-aging brand, simple and effective," Verma says.

"When people come to us looking to cattle prod a brand into life, it's less that the brand is tired, and more that the customer is. You have to rethink who the customer is."

–Eric Masi

Torque

"There are so many facets to brand revitalization," says Eric Masi, partner and creative director of Torque, a Chicago-based branding and marketing agency. "When people come to us looking to cattle prod a brand into life, it's less that the brand is tired, and more that the customer is. You have to rethink who the customer is."

Kimberly-Clark didn't just reinvent a brand with U by Kotex in 2010–it reinvented the entire feminine care category, or femcare. "Kotex came in and completely changed the category," using new black boxes peppered with bright colors and a marketing campaign that brought feminine care out in the open, Verma says.

It's a category that typically has low engagement. "Femcare marketers tend to talk to women in an old-fashioned way, not as the woman she is today," Verma says. New product, new packaging, new colors and a connection with new customers added up to $75 million in first-year retail sales for U by Kotex and helped the Kotex brand reach more than $1 billion in the first two years of its introduction. In its first year within the North American market, this Kotex sub-brand achieved more than 4 points of market share, quickly becoming one of Kimberly-Clark's fastest-growing brands, and helping to drive consumer interest and growth in a relatively flat category, according to the company.

Research is key

"What it takes to reinvigorate a brand is to get back to the fundamental consumer and shopper research," says Carrie Shea, president, AMG Strategic Advisors in Jacksonville, Fla. "A lot of times older brands stop investing in foundational research and rest on paradigms and insights gained many years ago."


"What it takes to reinvigorate a brand is to get back to the fundamental consumer and shopper research."

– Carrie Shea,

AMG Strategic Advisors

Case in point: Brita, a brand dating back to 1966, was profitable but underinvested and underexploited by parent company Clorox, Shea says. Brita replacement filters for its water filtration products provided a continuous revenue stream, but innovation was absent. Clorox looked at how the brand could become relevant to consumers, particularly given growing interest in sustainability. In April 2011, it launched the Brita Bottle, a reusable water bottle with a filter. By using the bottle over and over, consumers don't need to buy cases of bottled water. An Earth Day launch helped reinforce the environmental aspects of the brand.

Brita is driving growth of Clorox's lifestyle business segment, which experienced 4 percent volume and 10 percent sales growth for the most recently completed quarter ended March 31.

Not only is the Brita Bottle driving sales for Clorox, but retailers also have embraced the line extension and allocated space in secondary locations beyond the kitchen and housewares aisles. "You have to have something new to talk about with the retailer to get them reinvigorated as well," says Shea.

Retailer-CPG Collaboration

Often retailers drive innovation because they want to add excitement in store aisles, while CPGs want to refresh a tired brand and grow profits. Pantene, for example, reinvented its hair-care brand in 2009 at the behest of major discount retailer Target, according to Verma.

"The brand was all about science, then everybody got into science," she says. The hair care aisle had turned into a sea of white, and Target, in search of a better return on the shelf space, was wondering why it should allocate so many feet to a brand with no discernible difference to shoppers.


"Retailers look at how much they're making per square foot, and if it's not working they go back to the manufacturer."

– Pallavi Verma,

TPN

"Retailers look at how much they're making per square foot, and if it's not working they go back to the manufacturer," says Verma. "That's often when these conversations start happening." Pantene realigned the brand with products formulated for specific hair care needs in color-coded bottles. The new line was rolled out across all retail accounts, driving sales across channels. Pantene actually reduced the number of products and re-focused the new items to serve specific hair types. When Pantene relaunched in 2010, the company reported nearly 1 percent market share lift in the first two months of the release.

Marketing Strength

By approaching a brand reinvention from the perspective of retailers, CPG brands increase their odds of gaining a prominent shelf location. With shopper marketing research showing consumers often make their purchase decisions as they scan the store shelves, collaborating on merchandising efforts can impact a rebranding effort.

"The impact of the store environment and decisions being made in store is really more important than ever," says Barbara Ford, senior vice president, AMG Strategic Advisors. "The repositioning exercise and internal conversation isn't enough. You need to do something on the packaging and at the shelf with shoppers."


"The repositioning exercise and internal conversation isn't enough. You need to do something on the packaging and at the shelf with shoppers."

–Barbara Ford,

AMG Strategic Advisors

By taking a collaborative approach to shopper marketing, retailers and CPGs increase the likelihood that a brand rejuvenation will be successful. Target's shopper insights and category analysis helped Pantene innovate new products and refresh the brand. And as retailers create affinity for their banner, they're looking for a halo effect from strong brands. By engaging with retailers, CPGs can "get them invested in how that brand is presented on the shelf or display," Ford says.

Competition for prominent shelf space is likely to intensify in the future, but CPGs that continue to innovate around their existing brands are likely to fare better.

"It's about creating excitement," Masi says. "The pace is getting faster; the turn is getting faster."

Laura Heller has been reporting on mass-market retail trends since 1995 for a variety of business magazines. She has appeared on national TV and radio programs discussing retail trends, including "ABC News Now," and her blog, The Point of Purchase, appears on Forbes.com.