Brands Don’t Change, They Improve

Posted on August 12, 2011

Change happens when something constant gets disrupted or transformed by an event. Sometimes change is a great thing. A brand refresh (if needed) can be a welcome change of scenery, and a profitable one if implemented carefully.

Change can also be confusing for consumers. Consider Comcast’s debacle with using both Xfinity and Comcast under one company. Is it a smart move to brand your company under two names in different regions based on market size? Even if you’re being ambushed by your customers with negativity and complaints, wouldn’t it be better to improve your processes and show them you care rather than pretending to cover it up with a bandaid? For so many reasons it is better to fail, and then improve, rather than change who you are. Bandaids don’t stick forever, and your customers will see beneath the veil.

Another example of a company shifting strategies is Ruby Tuesday. What was once a bustling brand with character and personality, is now a confused and unfocused mess. When you think of Ruby Tuesday, what comes to mind (besides The Stones)? Tchotchkis on the walls, salad bar, great burgers and ribs, oh, and um, salad bar. Well, for the past few years they’ve been experimenting with various items on the salad bar and have even considered removing it completely. Whoa. Seriously? You’re going to remove the ONE thing that differentiated you from other bar and grill chains? According to company executives, there was a three year plan to move Ruby Tuesday out of the grill category by upgrading menu items and improving building decor. So your plan is to move from bar and grill chain to an [unknown] chain?

Anyway, back to my point. You’re removing the salad bar?! The one thing customers love and rave about, you want to change it. Well, it actually turned out that they removed a whole bunch of items from the salad bar at one point, only to have such a backlash on Facebook (see below) that they decided to roll out… wait for it… yep, coupons!

Ok, Ruby, let’s talk. You have this amazing salad bar and your customers would do anything for it. You changed it and failed. Fine. You fix it and bring it back to how your customers preferred it. That should have been the end. Then, you decide to offer coupons. Let’s go over what a coupon is in theory. A coupon, in a way, is an admission that your product or service is not worth what you claim it to be, whether it’s quality or just inflated prices. A coupon is a discount, and yet, you just admitted that you want to upgrade your restaurant out of the bar and grill category. You changed. You failed. And you failed again. Have you gone too far, Ruby? Only time will tell, but goodness gracious do not get rid of that salad bar!

On another note, let’s look at what Ford is doing now. Once a laughable American car company that had a few successful sub brands, now is leading the pack in innovation for the global automotive industry. They got better. They improved the brand in the eyes of the public.

The Mustang – still around, only better. The Taurus – gone, but back again, now raking in awards. They redefine and improve processes, staying away from changing the core brand. Innovating what consumers care about – safety, technology and environmental impact, Ford has been able to turn the brand around and is now turning heads.

The point is that consumers don’t necessarily want more of something, and they don’t want the brand that they love to be something they’re not. You don’t need to satisfy everyone, and you won’t be able to. Some things are better left they way they are, and that’s the case 90% of the time. When you see a need for change, it should come from inside. And realize that your brand advocates are already inside. They’ll help you find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees, but usually the problem is right under your nose. You may not need that $1 million logo upgrade with catchy colors and fancy fonts, after all. Spend it where it counts.

Brands Don't Change, They Improve by

2 Replies to "Brands Don't Change, They Improve"

  • p
    August 12, 2011 (7:43 pm)

    Agreed. The rebranding process needs to begin with a clear vision of the goals and desired outcomes. In Ruby’s instance, if your goal is to bring in more business, don’t take away the one thing (salad bar) that differentiates you and brings business in.

  • Wade Kwon
    August 13, 2011 (6:37 am)

    This seems to be more about products/services than about branding. I don’t look at the two as the same. Branding can improve or fail without any changes in products, and products can improve or fail without any changes in branding.

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