We have developed a tool kit that provides data-driven analytics for making this tough decision. Called the Brand Vitality Assessment (BVA), it examines every aspect of a brand, including its communications strategy, its pricing, and the state of its competitors, to reveal how much life is left in the name. But the process isn’t aimed at just returning brands to their former strength; more often, it’s focused on retaining the core of the brand while finding new opportunities. One such example is Old Spice, a men’s personal care brand that has historically been associated with older men. Owned by Procter & Gamble since 1990, the brand was successfully repositioned among teen males, who had some level of awareness of Old Spice, but were new to the category. That repositioning made its Red Zone antiperspirants and deodorants number one among teenage boys and young men and its other products top sellers in their categories.
Indeed, some companies are focusing on capitalizing on the resonance that tired brands still have with consumers. The Pinnacle Foods Corporation, of Mountain Lakes, N.J., purchased Vlasic Pickles, Lender’s Bagels, and Swanson TV dinners and is updating them in an effort to attract new consumers. To tap into the market of health-conscious consumers, for instance, Lender’s Bagels now offers a whole-wheat variety, and Pinnacle is adding grilled entrees to Swanson’s Hungry Man line. We can’t say for certain whether the former owners of these brands should have hung on to them or, for that matter, whether Pinnacle’s gamble will pay off. But the BVA can take much of the guesswork out of decisions like these by helping companies identify latent value — or the lack thereof — in their product portfolios before deciding what to do.
The BVA Process
Brands that go through a Brand Vitality Assessment should have several residual strengths: the ability to evoke specific associations among consumers, the potential for meaningful differentiation on at least one purchase driver, and a basic distribution infrastructure that will help support revitalization.
The BVA consists of four related evaluations that incorporate consumer research to create a holistic and data-driven view of how the brand is currently performing in the marketplace. This, in turn, helps determine the brand’s revitalization potential.
1. Purchase Funnel Assessment. The Purchase Funnel Assessment (PFA) is the first step in evaluating the strength of a brand, examining every step in the purchase funnel model of consumer decision making from awareness to the decision to buy, to reveal how effectively the brand translates awareness into purchases and retention.
The PFA should expose leaks in the purchase funnel and suggest fixes. Those that occur in the upper part of the funnel, which narrows from “awareness,” to “familiarity,” to “opinion,” to “consideration,” point to marketing-related issues such as brand messaging and media planning. Leaks that occur in the lower part of the funnel, which narrows from “intention,” to “shopping,” to “purchase,” point to a different set of issues, such as the retail environment, competitive conditions, and pricing. This approach can also uncover what it might take to match the purchase funnel of the brand to that of its best-in-class competitor. Then the question is, Would matching that funnel be worth the investment?
The PFA should also answer the question, Does the brand suffer from poor awareness or from poor opinion? The Taurus had high awareness, but consumer opinion of the brand had slowly eroded. The fleet sales were one culprit. Another was that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Taurus had by the mid-1990s crept higher than that of its competitors, but the cars tended to sell for less.