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Makeover Marketing

Imagine one day waking up and finding that your newspaper masthead looks a little different. You reach for your specs and take a closer look ..
Imagine flying a grey colored aircraft on your next JET airways flight.
Welcome to the world of makeover marketing.

The last decade has witnessed the largest number of changes in corporate or brand identity since Kotler wrote his famous tome.

AT&T is one of the more recent global entities that went under the plastic surgeon’s scalpel. It was bought over by regional carrier SBC. But the company realized that the value of the AT&T brand to the business was significant and could be a major influence on the success or failure of the new organisation. And the company decided that the AT&T brand would continue to bee the front face of its business operations. And thus it was provided a face lift to “represent the values that the new owners would want the business to stand for.”

Why are makeovers done? In our work we have come across varied compulsions. Sometimes it is about 2 organisations merging. Like in the case of Glaxo and Smith Kline, Price Waterhouse and Coopers. Compaq and HP. At other times it is to represent a significant change in the company’s offerings to the market e.g. Samsung, IBM, and still others believed it was time to contemporize their identity like Pioneer, Citibank and Thai Airways. Some companies are obliged to change because a change in ownership structures where the whole or a part of the brand identity is owned by a departing partner. E.g. Hutch. When the Orange brand exited India they took the color property with them. Although as a customer I was not a great fan of the new attire. Which since took the vodafone dresscode.

But there is a rather dangerous and rather widely prevalent aspect to this game. Many organisations are seriously advised to change their Corporate or Brand identity as the fastest and most efficient way of changing brand perceptions. In 1987 Air India spent a fortune through an international Identity firm to change its identity from the Centaur to the Sun. It was announced with great pomp and splendor which included a fly past at Nariman point. Sadder and wiser, a few years later they quietly reverted to the Centaur. The recent Indian Airlines makeover gave me a sense of Déjà vu. As a regular business traveler, for the life of me I cannot tell what difference they are trying to represent through the new identity. There are enough examples of other cosmetic interventions which readers will recall.

Is identity change a mug’s game then and a waste of precious marketing resources? Certainly not. But the starting point is that you must be very clear what you want the change to achieve for your brand and more importantly for your business.

An excellent Indian case is that of Britannia. Armed with a hard headed business strategy and a single-minded brand statement to back it, they hired a design company. I personally believe one of the major contributors to the success of this exercise was that the CEO led the assignment. It received the business focus and the management attention that every branding exercise deserves.

At a global level, a similar case is that of HSBC. Moving from Honkong and Shanghai Bank to HSBC and then on to the World’s Local bank was a clever two stage transition. The first step removed the strong geography bias in the name and clarified their global presence. The second step suggested their sensitivity to local business environments. It gave them enormous return in terms of actual brand asset value just 12 months into the change. HSBC was the second largest climber on the Business Week Brand league table in 2004 after Apple.

In a booming economy and a crowded market, we can expect to see many more changes in identity amongst corporates in India. Take a closer look at the ones that appealed to you as a consumer or a practitioner you might notice a few things:

  • Leadership attention for the brand as a key business asset.
  • Absolute clarity on the role of the brand in achieving business goals.
  • A central defining idea that connects the organisation to its consumers.
  • A professional brand partner with a very high sensitivity for the client’s goals.
Good makeovers are powerful exercises in evolution that influence the individual organisation, as well as its environment. Very simply they must either establish a new truth or a find new way of stating an old truth.

Please don’t mix them up with Botox or Silicone.


Anonymous said...

Very true. Most of us sitting in our board rooms forget the end recver..A.K.A our customer.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting article. The latest to get added up in the list of Makeover marketing is moneycontrol.com, a website dedicated to stocks, investments & other related news.

As said by Akshar, most of us forget the end receiver while doing this exercise. Companies who kept them in mind went ahead celebrating their success. A classic example as said is Britannia when it changed its corporate slogan and logo while repositioning themselves as a company into food business while it was essentially into bakery. For a common person like me, I feel they were successful in makeover by the fact that the end receiver (here,me) remembers it and understand the reasons behind it

Anonymous said...

Very insightful article. It is worth discussing the recent mega deal of HP acquiring EDS for whopping USD 13.9 billion. It is good to recall in HP's press release which states that "HP intends to establish a new business group, to be branded EDS - an HP company, which will be headquartered at EDS's existing executive offices in Plano, Texas." Although the deal is expected to complete only by the 2nd quarter of FY09, one need to analyze the kind of image makeover they were discussing. In which way it'll add value to EDS brand identity & its business. Your take on this...

ramesh said...

Obviously HP recognised and paid for the reputation that EDS has created in their space.It would therefore be silly not to leverage that for all it is worth. Besides HP itself does not own a brand in this space. The most compelling argument for retaining the EDS brand as a separate entity is the premium that HP would have coughed up for the EDS brand asset. Ramesh Jude Thomas