When should companies allow declining, aging brands to finish their lifecycles? When should they opt to revitalize them? These are hard questions for companies in view of fast-changing consumer demands, increasing global competition, and diminishing awareness of heritage brands among younger consumers.

Many CMOs feel that brands follow irrevocable life stages: they are born, mature, plateau, and eventually decline and die. Generally, companies that witness declining brands in their portfolios employ the "best business practice" of cutting marketing investments in them, and reallocating the dollars on growth brands instead. Without any marketing support, declining brands continue to wither away and die. Yet, with the heavy investment necessary to launch new brands and products, companies seem to be interested in the revitalization of diminishing brands more than ever.

How can companies determine whether to revitalize brands? Consumer research plays a vital role in this process. Mature brands have great heritage and might still be enjoyed by consumers who have had positive, longstanding relationships with them.

By surveying these consumers, you can mine the following data:

  • What are the points of differentiation, or unique selling proposition of the brand, per their perception?

  • What are the brand's Enjoyment assets™? How many pleasant associations and experiences have consumers had with the brand?

  • What are the negatives, if any, associated with the brand?

  • What is the perceived value of the brand?

  • Is the perceived value of the brand still active, or is it dormant? How does it stack up against the brands in those same categories?

  • How relevant is the brand?

  • What, in the consumers' perception, can the brand do for them to add value or more desirable attributes?

  • How much loyalty is there to the brand?

Mature brands tend to be supported by few marketing initiatives. Thus, these brands are "out of sight, out of mind" for many consumers. Consumer mind share translates to market share, thus companies that choose to revitalize brands must commit to developing comprehensive marketing programs. This will result in heritage customers' recalling the brand, and getting them to purchase its products again. It will also begin to create brand awareness among new consumers.

Once a sound decision has been made to revitalize, brand managers can make subtle or sweeping changes to the corporate brand, products, packaging, or all three.

Three Kinds of Revitalization

  1. Revitalization can require the rebranding of a company from the inside out.

  2. Revitalization can involve updating the brand's products and product attributes with better, demanded features.

  3. Revitalization can require repackaging for a more contemporary brand image to appeal to new generations of consumers.

A striking example of corporate and product revitalization is Cadillac. An iconic American automobile brand, Cadillac started dying a slow death in the past few decades with its stodgy image and lack of consumer relevance. Mature, affluent luxury cars buyers were buying Mercedes and BMWs. Enter in the Escalade—a powerful SUV loaded with plenty of edgy urban appeal—for an affluent, young, hip audience that is willing to shell out $60,000, on average, to drive one! Once a dying brand, Cadillac is now a 21st century, urban symbol.

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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.