BrainTrust Query: How to Revitalize an Aging Brand

Discussion
Jun 15, 2010

By Tom Rapsas

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.

I’ve been a fan of the Australian rock band the Hoodoo Gurus since the 1980s, when they were college radio favorites with hits like “Bittersweet,” “Come Anytime” and “What’s My Scene.” The band has been under the radar in the U.S. for a decade or more – but a few weeks ago, the Gurus put out their first new music release in several years.

The good vibes got me thinking: How do you revitalize and market an aging brand? In this case, how would you bring to life an aging rock band that has been out of sight and out of mind for years? Should the brand image be repackaged for a younger market? Can it be done without putting a lot of money behind the effort?

Here’s my quick take on what the Hoodoo Gurus, or any mature brand, can do to make a go of it in today’s market.

  1. Capitalize on name recognition – Is a rebranding needed? Not here, as the Gurus name has enough cache to bring back happy memories to fans of a certain age. In rock and roll, nostalgia still rules, as evidenced by the fact geezer bands from Rush to Crosby Stills & Nash are still successfully touring. By comparison, the Gurus, now in their late 40s, are relatively young.
  2. Revitalize the product – The group could have rested on past laurels with a “greatest hits” release, but instead has opted for a brand refresh – a new CD that puts a fresh new spin on their sound. This increases the chance of winning new fans as well as rekindling the interest of older ones.
  3. Connect with thought leaders – While the new release has received good reviews from mostly obscure music blogs (save a glowing review in allmusic.com), they need to connect with the leaders in the space. This includes Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, and of course the leading rock radio outlets including XM and Sirius. Push, push, push, to get the new CD reviewed – and played – wherever possible.
  4. Use social media to get the word out – Social media represents the best way to reconnect with a now scattered fan base. While the band has set up Facebook and MySpace pages, it looks like there could be more interaction from band members, especially regarding fan posts that reference old videos and shows. Make the conversation a dialogue, not just a monologue.
  5. Take the show on the road – There’s nothing like a live product demonstration, especially when it comes to rock-and-roll. So I recommend the Gurus dust off their passports and hit the road for a tour. If they’re anywhere near Philly or NYC, you’ll find me not far from the stage.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the recommendations offered in this article to revitalize and market aging brands? What steps would you add to those presented here?

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9 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: How to Revitalize an Aging Brand"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

Obviously the author hasn’t heard the new DEVO CD. If he had he would understand that sometimes it’s better when old bands–and brands–stay the stuff of romantic nostalgia.

Seriously, the argument seems a bit generic. I’d start from another position seeing if there are enough old fans around to make an initial investment profitable and then seeing how to build a fan base with new fans.

Sticking to the music analogy I’d say you want to be more like Bob Marley and less like Dion.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
10 years 11 months ago

I dunno. Ask Mick Jagger.

Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

First of all, Australians don’t get old–their hangovers just get worse. (Full disclosure: I lived there three years and loved it.)

As for reviving aging brands, the nostalgia of the original brand image for the original fan base always seems to be the starting point. After that, it’s just a matter of whether today’s kids feel as fondly about Ovaltine as their mom’s remember feeling when their mothers made it for them.

The other (remote) possibility is that you have a truly ageless product or, in this case, sound. We still laugh about the day Ray Jone’s teenage son, a then budding and pretty good lead guitarist in his own right, came home and told his Dad that he had “discovered this fabulous new guitarist that he just had to hear.” The “new-comer’s” name? Carlos Santana. True story.

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

I think the operative words here are relevant and profitable. If the product is relevant to a large enough market and profitable to make, it is probably worth re-marketing. If after making that critical analysis the product meets the criteria, I think the author’s five recommendations make sense.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 11 months ago

I think to some extent we’ve come to believe that the mark of a strong brand (band, actor, manufacturer, retailer etc.) lies in the ability to reinvent itself countless times.

I prefer to think that truly great brands never find it necessary to “re-invent,” “reincarnate” or “come-back.”

The greatest thing about the Beatles was that they never got back together.

Bill Grize III
Guest
Bill Grize III
10 years 11 months ago

Doug hits on a pertinent point.

Another band from the UK that is venerated is the Jam.

Paul Weller split the band at their commercial peak at the ripe old age of 24 in 1982 and enshrined their untarnished legacy. He refuses to this day to get them back together for that very reason.

The same goes for the Beatles. They represented a time and place that cannot be recaptured but can be revisited through their ageless music.

Perhaps the sign of a powerful brand is knowing when to call it a day?

Devangshu Dutta
Guest
Devangshu Dutta
10 years 11 months ago

Before reviving an old brand, or acquiring an existing brand to turn around, we need to ask whether:
– There is evidence of enough customer awareness and support.
– There are positive connotations for the brand that can be built upon in the CURRENT market context.
– There is an opportunity to refresh the brand, while retaining its core promise and authenticity.
– The company has the resources and inclination to be a “caretaker” or “steward” of the relationship that has been created in the past between the brand and its customers.

If the answer is “No” to any of these questions, I’d hesitate. If the answers are all “Yes,” then resuscitate by all means.

More here….

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

What a great question and discussion this can be. Just think of the previous discussion regarding Sears and how this discussion could apply. Sears is a company badly in need of rediscovering who they were and how they became so good at what they did. They were the only game in town. They need to have a serious conversation with themselves to rediscover their mojo. Delivering groceries is not what is getting the Hoodoo Gurus back in the public eye. Nor will it be for Sears.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 11 months ago

I think the answer lies in “when,” not “if,” meaning that older bands are seeing the opportunity to make a second tranche of bucks and why shouldn’t they give it a shot?

Since there are only a handful of bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, the answer isn’t to “be like them.” The other 90+% of music acts have a shelf life and despite massive popularity in their day, need to invest effort and resources to reinvigorate the brand for a second go-round–hence the need for some form of strategy.

Essential to success, the music has to be good. That said, capitalizing on the nostalgia of the name and reaching out through social media and other low cost channels is an efficient approach to pursue.

Taking the show on the road is the executional part of the strategy. I don’t think too many older bands can get away with a new studio release and expect much without reinforcement from a live tour.

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