Over time, a brand can find itself out of date or dealing with new entries into the market that change the competitive field.
As I noted recently in the Martha Stewart & Public Relations blog, brands can shift their positioning, evolve the promise that they make and live on.
Radio Shack and K-Mart offer great examples.
Both retailers positioned themselves as the cheap alternative with off-name brands. Wal-Mart evolved so quickly, it blew K-Mart into bankruptcy before it could shift gears and bring in new brands to show that low prices are not synonymous with low quality. Radio Shack, on the other hand, signed on big stars to sell their cell phones. They are a new company, competing with local and national competitors. Radio Shack is doing just fine in comparison to K-Mart.
It is great to see older brands dust themselves off to maintain relevancy and, ultimately, sales.
Tylenol is trying to do this with a new, $100 million campaign. According to The New York Times, "Agency executives and others described Tylenol as a brand diffused by years of competition and a broadened product line. The legacy of being considered safe helped build the business for years. Then they got slammed by other types of pain relievers that are considered more effective, and safe enough."
Tylenol shows us that after becoming an industry leader on an issue like safety, the industry can change focus and make another issue more important. This is easier than trying to displace the leader. Regardless, Tylenol's ability to bounce back from the now-ancient tampering scare shows this stalwart brand is capable of recasting itself.
From drugs to desserts, Dairy Queen is unveiling "a new marketing strategy along with fresh menu items in 2004 to spur sluggish sales and revamp its image."
Adweek notes "for the first time in the chain's 64-year history, it will make a major national ad buy, for eight TV spots. Both moves aim to update the brand. The challenge is remaining true to the brand while modernizing itself."
This is a challenge older brands face—the need for relevancy is challenged by the need to leverage existing brand equity. If you change a waning brand so much it cannot leverage its past, you risk losing both. A lot of careful research helps determine the best blend of old and new.