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 / Spring 2008 / Issue 50(originally published by Booz & Company)


New Life for Tired Brands

2. Brand Equity Review. The objective of the Brand Equity Review (BER) is to find out whether the brand has any equity left with its target customer segment and how loyal those customers are to the brand. In addition, it can help identify the brand’s attributes and zero in on which of those attributes have eroded or been rendered irrelevant by competitors.

In our experience, the core attributes of the brand may not be embodied in the current generation of products, but they are often still attainable. In such cases, revitalization may simply be a matter of going back to the brand’s roots, as Ford did with the Mustang. By the 1990s, the Mustang had lost its cachet as the premier muscle car on the road. But once Ford introduced a retro design that combined the traditional styling and brand values with updated technology, the Mustang easily recaptured its old glory.

Would a similar strategy work for the Taurus? When the brand was launched, it was considered modern and daring. It represented the future and demonstrated that Detroit could, in fact, build great cars. By the time it gave way to the Five Hundred, the Taurus was viewed as dull and conservative. In that case, the BER would see whether its original brand values were still attainable, or whether the ho-hum image had overtaken the brand.

3. Competitive Dynamics Assessment. The PFA has already told us whether the problems lie in the marketing-focused upper funnel or the sales-focused lower funnel. The Competitive Dynamics Assessment (CDA) looks at which competitors are taking away market share, why, and how easily the problems could be rectified.

A CDA on the Taurus would show that by the mid-1990s it had lost its position atop the field of family sedans to the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, among other competitors. The aerodynamic design that Ford had pioneered was now commonplace, and the carmaker had let both Japanese competitors beat it to the punch with new versions of their cars well before Ford introduced its revamped Taurus. The high price of the vehicle only confirmed the suspicion that Ford had failed to recognize how much more crowded and competitive the market had become in the 10 years since it had introduced the Taurus.

Another brand that could benefit from a CDA is CSC Brands’ V8 Splash, which has suffered since its 1996 introduction. A fruit juice spin-off of the classic vegetable juice, it is most popular among children and their parents, in large part because it launched with a strategy to “reach kids through moms.” It later abandoned that approach, making itself more vulnerable to competition from other beverages aimed at both targets. In the kids’ market it competes against Welch’s juices, Ocean Spray 100% Juice, and Tropicana Twister, and those brands are responsible for more than half of V8 Splash’s recent sales decline. In the adult market, it competes against SoBe, Snapple, and Mystic, which have also stolen share. The brand is overpriced, too: A 64-ounce bottle of Tropicana Twister costs 42 cents less than V8 Splash; Welch’s is 77 cents cheaper.

A CDA could help V8 Splash plot its comeback. It would probably suggest that it pick one target — either adults, among whom it scores high on wellness attributes, or kids, whom it had attracted successfully with its previous strategy. The direction it chooses would in turn suggest a pricing strategy. If it targets kids, the price would have to drop. If it targets adults as a health beverage, it could retain at least some of its premium pricing.

4. Value Proposition Check. By analyzing the brand’s benefits thoroughly, including its marketing communications and pricing, companies can determine why the target consumer should purchase the brand instead of one of its competitors. A good value proposition offers a variety of benefits at the right price. These benefits can be categorized into a three-level hierarchy, with functional benefits being the most basic, emotional benefits occupying the middle level, and self-expressive benefits being the most advanced. Consumers, for instance, might buy Apple’s iPod rather than Microsoft’s Zune because they believe the iPod is perceived as “cooler,” even if the functional attributes of the two brands are similar. Marketers view the benefits higher in the hierarchy as more powerful, more sustainable, and harder for competitors to erode.

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