Every company has to change its branding strategy from time to time. It’s the key to keeping communication fresh, while ensuring it continues to excite the existing audience, and entice different markets. Sometimes, a brand might change direction because it wants to target a new group of people and broaden the client base, while other times it’s because revenue isn’t satisfactory and a company needs to give things a shake up to boost sales.
As part of a new series of posts in which we look at how global brands have changed strategies, here are three relatively recent examples.
Johnnie Walker has been producing Scotch whisky for nearly 200 years, and has seen a rise from selling only in a small grocery store to being the most popular Scotch whisky in the world. This has led to the brand describing itself as “an international symbol of progress”. Progress has been the main emphasis of the Johnnie Walker brand for years, with the famous striding man logo turned to face the right, showing it marching forward to “fulfil personal goals”. The Johnnie Walker story is seen as inspirational, and is used as a branding technique to pass on the need for personal progress to the target market.
More recently however, Johnnie Walker has expanded its brand territory and has included a new brand value: joy. The new communication platform “Joy Will Take You Further”, reinforces the essence of personal progress and represents a belief that while hard work (“blood, sweat and tears”) will take you where you want to be, “joy will take you further”.
This new direction is backed up by a stunning video campaign starring actor Jude Law, and also featuring Formula One driver Jenson Button. It’s likely that these changes were made because Johnnie Walker’s previous positioning was deemed too serious, and didn’t resonate well with a younger audience. Adding an exciting angle to the brand strategy doesn’t just keep existing customers interested, but also potentially attracts a new audience.
Coca-Cola has been around for well over 100 years, while its sub-brands are a more recent story. Diet Coke was brought onto the market in 1982, followed by Coca-Cola Zero in 2005, and Coca-Cola Life in 2013. All were marketed at different target audiences, with separate, distinct marketing campaigns. Coca-Cola Life, sweetened with stevia, is targeted at more health-concerned consumers, Coca-Cola Zero emphasises great taste without sugar, and Diet Coke is aimed at a younger, predominantly female audience, who don’t want any calories in their drink.
Now, in a huge change, Coca-Cola has decided to change its brand architecture, and focus marketing efforts mostly on the umbrella brand. Coca-Cola is a global, iconic name with a massive brand awareness and strong image. The company has realised that by using separate marketing strategies, they are not fully utilising the power of their brand, and that they’ll become stronger by uniting the sub-brands together.
This move won’t just see changes in the way the drinks are marketed, but also the way they’re packaged. Presently, each sub-brand can be identified by the colour of the can or bottle – red for classic Coca-Cola, black for Zero, silver for Diet and green for Life. However, every variant will now retain the iconic red design as the dominating colour, with small elements of each sub-brand added to distinguish between them.
In 2014, Reebok unveiled their new logo based on the Delta symbol (in maths a symbol of change) – a visualisation of a new direction in the brand strategy. In order to become more distinct in the competitive category of sports apparel, Reebok has sharpened up its image, became much tougher and darker and started promoting quite hardcore fitness regimes (e.g. by partnering with CrossFit and sponsoring UFC).
The Delta logo has three parts, one representing physical change, one mental change and the other social change, with Reebok claiming these all occur when people push and challenge themselves. This shift in branding also enforces a position that sees Reebok not focus simply on sport, as other brands such as Nike do, but on fitness overall, and how it can improve the human condition. This is backed up by the company’s new tagline: “Be More Human”.
Despite the fact that these three brand strategy changes seem to be very different, with Reebok moving their existing image to a tougher front, Coca-Cola reorganising their brand architecture, and Johnnie Walker adding a new focus alongside their long-running branding, they have one thing in common. None of them have seen a big overhaul in how things are done, with the brands’ original focuses still rooted in their DNA.
Analyses of the brand strategies of all three companies can be found on BrandStruck.co, along with insights on many more.
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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.
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