Repositioning can be one of the hardest jobs in marketing. It is feasible, but it does take time because once perceptions are established, consumers don't quickly change their views.
We can all quote great examples of brands that are now one thing, having previously been something else. Volvo, traditionally positioned as a safe and reliable mass-market car brand, successfully repositioned itself as a premium brand by focusing on safety, quality, and Scandinavian design. Lucozade used to be almost medicinal, and now it's an energy drink.
Apple initially positioned itself as a mass-market computer company but successfully transitioned to a global premium brand by focusing on new product innovation, sleek design, and a premium user experience.
We've been helping brands on these kinds of journeys for more than three decades, so we know every brand is different. Nevertheless, we think there are seven clear steps that brands need to consider going through on their journey to achieve a successful outcome.
Step 1: Define your desired positioning
The first and perhaps most important step is to have a brand vision that everyone buys into and work out a road map for getting from brand perception X to brand perception Y.
Determine what makes your brand distinctive and differentiates it from your competitors. In the case of automotive brands, this could be based on factors such as exterior style, superior quality, performance characteristics, interior craftsmanship, innovation, or personalised services.
Align your brand identity, such as logo, colours, typography, and visual style, to reflect your desired brand positioning while staying true to your brand's values and personality.
Step 2: Understand your target audience
The second step is to understand the new target audience you are seeking to appeal to. You need to know their needs, preferences, and aspirations to hone your appeal to them.
BMW's Mini relaunched with a completely new product range and the "Mini Adventure" tagline to attract a whole new batch of premium small/medium car buyers, overcoming the rejection of old-school loyalists who, initially at least, didn't like the new model.
Step 3: Evaluate current brand positioning
The third step is to understand your current brand positioning so that you know exactly where you are starting from and how your current target audience differs from the new audience.
A brand deep-dive will give you insights into your new target audience, their purchasing behaviour, and their perception of your brand today. It will help you understand the competitive landscape and identify gaps or opportunities that can be leveraged for your desired positioning.
At this point, if the repositioning barriers look impossible, you may consider whether you want to create and launch a different brand, as many mainstream car companies have done when faced with the challenge of attracting premium car buyers. Good examples include Toyota with Lexus, Seat with Cupra, Nissan with Infiniti, and Hyundai with Genesis.
Step 4: Adjust pricing strategy
The fourth step is to develop a pricing strategy that reflects your desired brand positioning.
Consider factors such as your value proposition, competitive market pricing, affordability, transparency, and, crucially, your cost structure. Many premium car brands have made their models more accessible through creative pricing options such as monthly subscriptions that offer an all-in-one ownership/rental model.
You need to ask if you are simply repositioning for scale or if you are looking to premiumise your offer and increase margins, both from the position of both your new audience and your old audience (if you want to bring them with you).
Step 5: Refine brand messaging and channels
Craft compelling brand messaging that conveys your brand attributes and resonates with your target audience. These should highlight the unique benefits and value that customers can expect from your brand and emphasise key differentiators to help your brand stand out.
Review and refine your marketing and communication channels to align with the new brand positioning. This may involve changing your product, website, packaging, materials, and visuals as well as using new advertising platforms or media outlets to reach and engage with your target audience.
Step 6: Consistency! Consistency! Consistency!
The sixth step is to ensure that everything you do is consistent. The new positioning should come across at every touch point, from the call centre to the retail outlet to the TV ad. The moment your brand starts to appear confused or inconsistent, consumers will revert to their long-standing understanding of the brand or switch to alternatives.
BMW is a great example of a brand that has been consistent across multiple touchpoints – advertising, dealers, identity, values, and tone of voice, to name a few – and is an exceptionally strong global brand.
Step 7: Monitor and adapt
Continuously monitor the market response, consumer feedback, and sales performance.
Regular brand tracking is vital to ensure your brand is resonating with your target audience and creating perceptions that are in line with the vision that has been set.
Continuously analyse the effectiveness of your brand repositioning efforts over time amongst your target audience and be ready to adapt and refine your strategies as needed.
But if seven steps are too much, then there are three that are vital.
The first is to remember repositioning a brand takes time. Consumer research often finds that old straplines still come up in surveys years after they were last seen in paid media.
And the second is to be consistent about everything you do. The new positioning will only stick externally if you can make sure everyone internally also buys into the new brand vision.
And thirdly, it requires a holistic approach across all touchpoints to successfully shift the perception of your brand. The brand experience must live up to the new brand promise.
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