Building a brand reputation can be a complicated process. In fact, it can take years to build up an identity and seconds to destroy it. Especially in today’s highly connected digital world. A company can build its reputation on a commitment to excellent customer service or the use of luxury materials in its products. Alternatively, the company can invest in building values that consumers resonate with. Nevertheless, it takes time, focus, and effort to build a brand image as well as convince consumers of its authenticity. After all, consumers no longer just buy aesthetically pleasing and affordable products.

Rather, they choose brands that provide value, whether it is a commitment to quality or a good CSR strategy. With advancements in technology and the internet, any company action or statement that goes against a brand’s promises and values can damage its brand reputation. Needless to say, reputation damage is a great risk for any size of company.

What is Brand Repositioning? 

By definition, brand repositioning is when companies change their brand status in the marketplace after a crisis. Alternatively, a brand might need to reposition during a decrease in sales over time, or when their brand image gets outdated. When companies reposition their brand image, they maintain the existing brand identity they have already established with some modifications. Some changes can include changes to the marketing mix, such as product, price, place, and promotion – to keep up with consumer wants and needs.

However, it is impossible to please everyone. This is why most companies face brand crises at least once in their lifetime. The first step of a crisis is to have an effective crisis management plan in place before the crisis even hits. It is essential to go beyond developing a crisis management plan to deal with what happens right after a crisis. You should also invest in rebuilding your brand reputation with the public. This is especially important in a digital landscape where consumers can voice their grievances and honest opinions about products and services.

Even after the media storm has ended and the crisis has been somewhat averted, search results about the brand will still be filled with negative media coverage for a long time. The effects of negative publicity should not be underestimated. After all, a damaged reputation can affect consumer purchase decisions, dismantle essential business partnerships, destroy the trust of shareholders. Negative publicity can even drive away qualified job applicants.

Dismantle Essential Business

A brand repositioning strategy can be considered a calculated adjustment to the brand image. Ultimately, the aim is to update your brand’s status, associations, personality or core message while retaining a recognizable brand. Brand repositioning can offer a new way forward and upward when company growth has stalled. It can also help your business to survive when competitors have taken the lead, or customers cannot connect with the company like they used to.

It’s easy to feel dejected when you experience crises or negative situations that impact your brand identity. However, as mentioned previously, this is bound to happen to any brand eventually. What separates a successful company from one that fails is its ability to build an effective crisis management plan and brand repositioning strategy.

Even so, we understand that sometimes it’s challenging to detach your emotions from your brand and focus on the content that needs to be presented to rebuild your reputation. If this is the case, it might be wise to hire an unbiased third party like a PR agency. A PR agency can help you create a new communications plan which will benefit your brand repositioning.

PR agencies like Pressfarm work with companies of various sizes to create quality content to help them achieve media visibility and coverage. They are skilled at creating email pitches, press releases, guest posts, and creative press kits. All this content can help you build a memorable brand image. In addition, they help clients to do effective media outreach by connecting them with over 1 million journalists across industries.

How to Rebuild a Brand 

When it comes to implementing brand repositioning, your company needs to identify its reasons for considering brand repositioning. For example, you might want to target a different audience, your products and services might’ve evolved, your competitors might be offering better value, or your sales might be dropping. It could be that the audience your company was initially targeting is no longer be viable. You may have begun adding new products and services or you may have changed what you previously offered. Alternatively, new competitors might have popped up with better value propositions. Sometimes it is simply time to make a change to boost sales. In order to take action after a reputation crisis and rebuild a public image, you need to:

1) Analyze the level of damage caused 

When a brand suffers from a reputation crisis, the first step is to assess the level of damage it created for the business. To understand how serious the situation is, you need to quantify the effects of changes on your reputation, the negative perception internally, and a negative attitude towards the company. To effectively assess the damage, you need to conduct a thoughtful and thorough sweep of the after-effects. This should include assessing the company’s digital impact, such as social media, online relationships, and search engine results. Moreover, you need to consider non-media metrics such as sales performance, profitability, and share prices. You need to have all the data necessary to create an effective brand repositioning strategy to get through a crisis successfully.

2) Set realistic goals and expectations 

When a reputation crisis happens, it is perfectly understandable that people want to resolve it quickly. However, given the amount of content available online about brands and executives, rebuilding reputations can take time. This means that brands need to set reasonable expectations and allot a realistic time for brand repositioning. Whether you are using your own internal communications team or hiring outside help, you need to understand the gravity of the situation. The understanding of both is the basis of setting attainable goals.

In a more digital landscape where companies need to publish relevant content to rebalance and shift their narrative in search engines’ indexes and use SEO to reposition preferred content, you need to consider a few things when trying to set goals to track your success.

  • How many pieces/different types of content you need to produce
  • Whether you need to build and optimize additional websites
  • How many links you need to build
  • Whether you need to establish and maintain an active social media presence
  • How authoritative the harmful content was and how many URLs need to be repositioned

3) Communicate the impact of the crisis 

Once you have a clear understanding of your situation and you’ve set goals, you need to communicate the impact of the crisis with the leading players of your business. This includes business partners, investors, customers, and other primary stakeholders. In this stage, you need to formally explain how the events that led to the crisis unfolded. Simultaneously, you need to inform executives of what measures the company is taking to resolve the situation. After all, your company’s ability to reposition the brand rests on how well they can engage their key stakeholders.

Additionally, you need to maintain transparency when handling public issues take ownership of the crisis. Rebuilding your company’s reputation during a crisis also involves dealing with the harmful content that generated the negative reputation in the first place. This usually involves revising your company’s content, retracting damaging content, and publishing positive content. It is important to remember that corporate reputation relies more on what the company delivers than what it promises. If you want consumers to continue buying from your brand, you need to reassure them that the company can deal with the current situation effectively. For this reason, you need to transparently demonstrate how you are fixing the problem and fulfill your promises for the business to survive.

By doing this, you can earn trust back from the public. In the current consumer landscape, trust is one of the main ingredients of a company’s success. For this reason, regaining consumer trust is crucial if you want to rebuild your brand reputation after a crisis.

4) Develop a media communication strategy 

At this point, you need to decide whether it is wise to issue a live statement. If so, you should craft a message, and choose the right person to issue the statement. Managing a brand reputation is a matter of organization and foresight. With a well-thought-out plan, you can develop an effective media communication strategy.

If you are looking to craft a reputation recovery plan, your strategy should include tactics such as:

  • Publish branded thought leadership content
  • Optimize and manage social media profiles
  • Establish an online review program across several platforms
  • Optimize your primary domain
  • Create microsites
  • Launch or expand blog content
  • Execute targeted PR campaigns

5) Be proactive with a digital presence 

Beyond using social media platforms and owned media, investing in search engine optimization (SEO) plays a massive role in developing a brand’s identity and repositioning you in the market. While it is impossible to remove negative reviews and news articles from search engines, there are ways to fix your company’s online reputation. Nevertheless, you need to be careful what you do to counteract a negative reputation. Otherwise, you may put yourself in a worse position than you were in when you started out.

Additionally, according to over 65% of business leaders, social media platforms can worsen a brand crisis. To successfully reposition, you need to take control of all your owned media. This can mean anything from taking charge of conversations on your website-affiliated blog, social media channels, review websites, and any other online platform.

Ultimately, you need to listen and respond promptly to consumers in order to reverse the effects of a negative reputation. In today’s digital world, consumers expect companies to have CSR and expect exceptional customer service. They expect businesses to respond quickly to a potential problem, whether through an email or on social media.

Secondly, you can keep track of the hashtags and keywords you use and use social listening tools to pick up on conversations that are positively and negatively impacting a brand.

Successful Examples of Brand Repositioning 

1) Taco Bell – From cheap Mexican food to a youth lifestyle brand 

We all know their slogan, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell,” the slogan was amusing at first and represented their old brand identity. Regardless of their initial success, when they experienced falling sales and stronger competition from other brands, they decided to change their narrative. They began by changing their slogan to “Live Mas, ” which transformed them from a cheap Mexican food company to a fun meme-centric brand. With this rebranding strategy, people’s perceptions of the brand changed.

They refreshed their logo, experimented with new menu items, and developed a voice that younger generations could relate with. Furthermore, they revamped their interior design. This move turned Taco Bell into a lifestyle brand. The real-time engagement that resulted made taco Bell more relatable, funny, and human.

2) Gucci – From sleek and sexy to Insta-worthy and progressive 

Gucci has always been a highly successful luxury brand. Even so, its initial audience was getting older. The aspects of the brand that made them appealing to their previously targeted audience did not speak to the younger generations. When Marco Bizarre took over as CEO in 2015, he and creative director Alessandro Michele introduced a new brand repositioning strategy that celebrated their Italian roots and extravagance but added a modern twist. Their efforts to modernize the brand included building a new focus on Instagram-style communication, a polished-up logo that was front and center on all products, and an empowering stance on gender fluidity. This strategy propelled the brand to new levels of success within the next few years.

3) Starbucks – From third place to a quality cup of coffee 

When Howard Schultz joined Starbucks, he positioned the coffee house as a place for people to socialize daily. The brand’s original positioning strategy proved a massive success and launched a global enterprise. However, the rapid expansion of other coffee conglomerates and other coffee companies made it very difficult to build on the effects of this repositioning. When more than 900 Starbucks closed after consumers turned to more cost-effective alternatives, they needed to create an effective brand repositioning strategy to renew their status as a powerhouse in the industry. To reassert the quality of their product and reassure consumers that their products were worth the extra cost, they launched their most extensive marketing campaign in company history. They dubbed this campaign “Coffee value and values.” The campaign worked, and by 2016, the company was able to re-establish itself with a record $16 million in annual revenue.

4) Domino’s Pizza 

Domino’s started getting a negative online reputation for having “garbage pizza,” leading to dismal sales figures. In an attempt to transform their lousy reputation into something more likeable, they changed their recipe and built a new marketing campaign around their “new and improved” pizza. With this strategy, they successfully changed the perception that consumers had of their brand. Their marketing also presented a charming and pretty honest approach because they essentially admitted that their pizza was terrible and promised that they had fixed it. Their new brand messaging, a refreshed logo, updates of their delivery locations, and website, the Domino’s team rescued their brand image.

5) Spotify – Free-Music-With-Ads to Content Creator & Tastemaker 

Spotify was already a well-positioned brand in the market, but a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic can reshape business models and consumer needs across all spectrums. The music streaming platform already seemed to have built the perfect brand to thrive during the pandemic. This is because it is digital, remote, and provides stressed or struggling people with a much-needed escape from daily life. However, the pandemic caused many advertisers to cut budgets. As a result, Spotify’s business model – which relies heavily on revenue from advertisements – faltered.

To successfully reposition the brand, they increased their focus on original content like podcasts and original content and put enormous effort into curating playlists from internal experts, external experts, AI, and celebrities. The strategy they used positioned the company not only as a music provider, but also a tastemaker and content creator.

Revamping your brand can be challenging, especially during a crisis. However, with the guide above, you can face the challenges of rebranding head-on and make a memorable impression in the industry.