What Is Brand Repositioning? (Strategy Processes + Best Examples)

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Brands are built with the purpose of making a business more memorable and appealing to a given audience.

They achieve this by identifying a unique point of difference and communicating that difference through an offer and a message that resonates with that audience.

This is brand positioning 101.

But what if the brand doesn’t achieve it?

What if it doesn’t resonate with the audience?

Or what if changes in market conditions throw up challenges or opportunities?

In this article, you’ll learn what brand repositioning is, why it’s important and how brand strategists and managers can use it to reinvigorate an ineffective brand. 

What Is Repositioning? (A Definition)

Repositioning in marketing is the process a brand goes through to adjust or overhaul its perception in the market to better appeal to its target audience.

There are many reasons a brand’s leadership team may decide on a strategic change (which we’ll dive into a little later), though ultimately the goal is the same…

The purpose of brand repositioning is, quite simply, to reposition the brand in the mind of the audience so they see the brand and its offering as a more viable option.

Or to put it another way, to change how the market perceives the brand.

Why Reposition A Brand?

There are many reasons a brand’s leadership team might decide on a rebrand.

More often than not, rebrands are reactionary and happen as a result of lower than expected results which could mean low brand awareness, low market share, low sales and low revenue.

But rebrands are not always a strategic decision based on poor performance.

Quite often rebrands happen as a result of good performance and subsequent opportunities to grow and expand into bigger markets.

The Mailchimp rebrand is a great example of this (which I’ll touch on a little later).

Let’s take a look at some common reasons for repositioning.

Evolving Markets


Markets aren’t static.

They’re made up of people so by nature, they’re always changing and evolving.

What’s important to consumers today may not be as important tomorrow or may be twice as important.

Whether it’s a change in demand a change in knowledge or a change in society or any other countless ways people change, markets aren’t a place for static entities.

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Change In Target Audience

As businesses grow, so do their capacity to help more of the same people or more people in general.

What works at a brand level in appealing to one specific market segment may not work when appealing to a broader market made up of multiple segments.

Segments are simply groups of people so if a brand’s plan is to expand, they may need to consider their position to have broader appeal across a broader market.

Brands that want to go after a broader or a completely different target audience, may need to consider whether their existing position will cut the mustard.

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Change or Growth In Product Portfolio

Positioning happens at both a brand and a product level.

Product positioning happens less frequently than brand positioning because products rarely change and intended purpose for an intended audience.

That said, as new products are introduced and the portfolio of products grows, brand repositioning may be required if the portfolio expands out of alignment with the brand’s original position.

Signal A New Approach & Era

Heritage brands with decades or even centuries of brand equity may need to refresh their position over time to adapt to the changing landscape.

Like a crab shedding it’s skin, some brands will go through a transformation to signal the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one, often with an adjustment to how it wants to be seen in the market. 

Advantages Of Repositioning

The cost of repositioning can vary dramatically depending on the branding agency or service provider being used but there are many advantages to brand repositioning if the strategy is warranted.

Advantage #1:
Refocused Target Audience

The repositioning process, much like the positioning process, requires an in-depth analysis of the target audience.

By identifying the segments that make up the market, then zeroing in on the target segments of choice, the leadership team can drill down into the detail of their audience including their goals, challenges, fears and desires.

This level of laser focused targeting enhances the brand’s ability to connect with their audiences’ needs.

Advantage #2:
Enhanced Competitive Advantage

A positioning strategy that considers more up-to-date market conditions and a better understanding of the competitive landscape should, by virtue of its purpose, provide a more enhanced competitive advantage.

Whether the advantage highlights the outcome, the benefits, the meaning or the big idea, the way the advantage is delivered through the brand’s messaging should strengthen the brand’s perceived edge

Advantage #3:
A Fresh Perception

A brand repositioning exercise might have little or nothing to do with the product or service offering.

In this case, the repositioning strategy is built around a better way to convey the value of the brand and it’s products to the audience.

But many of the world’s most successful brands have completely reinvigorated the trajectory of the brand with little more than creating a fresh perception in the market.

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Disadvantages Of Repositioning

Although there are many advantages to brand repositioning, it doesn’t mean it’s the best approach for every brand considering a change.

In fact, there are some disadvantages of repositioning you should be aware of.

Disadvantage #1:
Repositioning Can Be Expensive

A brands position in the market is shaped by the brands perception which ultimately stems from the brand experience.

Throughout a given brand, there may be upwards of 100 touchpoints which can include:

Website

Social Channels

Physical Store

Printed Collateral

Packaging

Traditional Ads

Digital Ads

Vehicle Fleets

Distribution Channels

This cost only represents the visual and verbal adjustment on the front lines of the brand though there is also lost investment on any equity built up over time.

Disadvantage #3:
Alienating Existing Customers

Many rebrands happen as a result of expansion into bigger markets.

More often than not, this requires the brand to adopt more inclusive language and communication which could well be an important factor in their success with their core audience.

Adjusting the brand’s positioning strategy too much can leave that core group of loyal customers feeling alienated or abandoned if the brand changes its position with less specificity and “looser fitting” communication.

Successful Repositioning Examples

Repositioning success stories are a big motivator to pull the trigger to enhance the fortunes of the brand.

Here are some of the most successful brand repositioning examples.

Example #1:
Taco Bell

Taco Bell is a Mexican fast-food restaurant that carried a “Cheap” perception and reputation that was hampering it’s growth.

With increasing competition and healthier options such as Chipotle stealing market share, Taco Bell needed a new approach.

It’s repositioning took on a fresh young approach and instead of competing on the nutritional value of their food, they gave their customers the freedom to make the “lifestyle choices” that worked for them.

Their â€śLive Mas” tagline (Live More in English), points to the idea that â€śLiving more” means not always having to be on your best behaviour and giving yourself the freedom to live life on your terms.

Along with a refresh of their messaging and identity, their introduction of higher-end â€śCantina” venues and revamped interior designs helped them to shake the â€śCheap” perception to give their customers a modern lifestyle choice.

Example #2:
Old Spice

I created an entire article and video of the Old Spice rebrand, where I got into much more detail about this heritage brand repositioning strategy.

But after decades of allowing their aging “old man’s” brand to become stale and outdated, P&G, the Old Spice parent brand saw the writing on the wall and knew they needed to change their approach.

Ditching the outdated slippers and cardigan approach, they stripped down, bulked up, mounted a white horse and smashed the old man’s perception with bags of personality and humour.


Their “Man Your Man Can Smell Like” campaign was a Youtube sensation which helped to alter the trajectory of the struggling brand to become the #1 Men’s Body Wash brand in the world inside 12 months.

No product formula changes here, just a truck full of character and “laugh out loud” humour.

Example #3:
MailChimp

In contrast to the two previous examples, Mailchimp wasn’t a struggling brand reacting to underperformance but a change in market conditions that created an opportunity.

Mailchimp was a brand that had built a solid reputation as a small business email provider with a loyal fan base.

Though their brand identity looked dated, it still aligned with the quirkiness of the brand’s cheeky personality and they probably would have gotten away with it for many years to come.

But Mailchimp saw an opportunity in the expanding small business market to push into a more holistic “marketing solutions” platform, leaving their “email only” reputation that catapulted them to success behind.

Their bold brand identity revamp along with a subtle shift in their messaging has positioned Mailchimp to enable them to guide their small business audience with their evolving marketing needs as they grow.

7 Step Repositioning Strategy Process

If yours or your client’s brand hasn’t been performing or you want to take advantage of changing conditions, then you need processes for your repositioning strategy.

Follow these steps closely and you’ll give your brand the best change for a successful repositioning campaign


(Note: Complete steps one and two before committing to repositioning your brand).

Step 1: Audit The Existing Brand

If the brand you’re working on consists only of visuals or lacks a strategy, then it’s a positioning project (not a repositioning project).

Repositioning can only occur, when there has been decisive action taken to position the brand in the first place.

So conduct an extensive audit to analyse the brand to uncover the following:

Target Audience Segments

Differentiation Strategy

Brand Personality

Language & Voice

Key Messages / Stories

Brand Name & Tagline

Visual Identity

Identify any misalignment and divergence throughout the brand beginning with who the audience is and what they want.

Step 2: Confirm Assumptions

Conduct market analysis to confirm the assumptions made and to better understand the original target audience.

Although this target audience may or may not remain the same, it’s important to understand the failings of the brand or to confirm any assumptions that will be used in the repositioning process.

Focus groups can offer qualitative results while market surveys can offer quantitative results to achieve statistical significance.

Step 3: Redefine The Audience

Before defining a new position in the market, it’s critically important to redefine the audience.

Although your new position might simply aim to change the perception of the same group of people, repositioning is an opportunity to discover new opportunities and other possible market segments the brand may want to appeal to.

Only when you’re crystal clear on exactly who your audience is (with all audience personas / buyer personas included), can you define a position that will appeal to all.

Step 4: Redefine The Competition

Although redefining your target audience is top of the pile in terms of importance, redefining your competitors is not far behind.

As I mentioned earlier, markets aren’t static, they’re constantly evolving and new competitive players are constantly coming in, in the hope of disrupting the status quo or at a minimum, stealing market share.

Defining a new position needs to consider the options that already exist in the market to ensure the new repositioning strategy offers as compelling a reason as possible for the audience to choose the brand. 

Step 5: Identify Gaps & Define Your Difference

Redefining the audience and the competitive landscape arms you with the tools you need to identify what the market wants and what’s already available.

What’s already available is an indication of where not to play to avoid falling into the ever growing “market noise” and giving your brand some breathing room to be noticed. 

Gaps represent opportunities to bring attract your audience’s attention with a unique perspective on value and / or experience.

What are your competitors not saying or doing throughout their offer or experience that your audience would place value on?

Identify the most valuable opportunity and expand this into a unique difference that will appeal to your audience.

Step 6: Write Your Positioning Statement

Once you’ve carved out a unique point of difference you can use to attract your audience, it’s time to document that difference in a little detail.

Your brand positioning strategy (or repositioning strategy) defines who you’re for, why you’re different, who and what you’re different to and the benefit of that difference.

I created an article and video with a brand positioning template you can find here.

How To Write A Positioning Statement (Brand Template + Example)

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Over To You

Repositioning is not an exercise to be taken lightly.

There is a significant investment, least not of time to reposition your brand ands then establish that new position in the market.

But rest assured, the cost of not positioning your brand effectively or ignoring the need to reposition will be significantly greater.

So take stock of where your brand is at, realign with what your customers want or need and explore whether there is a better way to communicate that you have what they want.

Repositioning is no more complicated than that.

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