Rebranding for a Better Customer Experience

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Poor sales and increased competition have led many catalogers to re-examine their brand's positioning in the marketplace. The solution many catalogers are turning toward is what I call rebranding, a process by which a marketer addresses its elements of communication from aesthetics to the overall interaction with the consumer.

Many factors contribute to why rebranding is needed. A brand may be stuck in the past, change direction too frequently, be boring or be too narrow. Any of these reasons can contribute to a struggling catalog that has fallen short of considering its consumers and their lifestyles.

It is not enough for a brand to create consumer awareness. It also must offer the consumer meaningful relationships and experiences. Brands need to make a connection with consumers on a deeper, emotional level. Successful catalog brands deliver great products and services but also give customers an experience that fulfills their desire to improve their lives.

To achieve this, catalogers may have to evolve their products and change the essence of their brand without losing sight of its core values. It is no longer only about evolving or reinventing the catalog's visual identity. Taking steps to define the company as a whole has become essential.

Rebranding takes time and requires scrutiny of all aspects of the brand from product development and merchandising to the creative execution that visually expresses the brand. Rebranding is more than a quick fix and requires patience. It requires participation from suppliers, customers and everyone within your organization.

We've witnessed several catalog brands that have embarked on rebranding to become more relevant to their consumers.

Victoria's Secret. This company, originally famous for its romantic lingerie, delivered English romance and femininity to its consumers for years. In the 1980s, this brand persona was relevant to the consumer who desired a departure from the flamboyant disco craze. During the next decade, Victoria's Secret rebranded itself for fear of becoming stuck in the past. The product line was adjusted to include more modern and sleek lingerie, shapely dresses and sexy sportswear.

The catalog's aesthetics evolved from displaying decorative English typography for headlines and using elaborate environments in product photography to a more pared-down visual identity. Currently, the dramatic lighting, simple backgrounds and the expressive nature of the models visually communicate the same alluring attitude for the brand.

Additionally, Victoria's Secret has recognized the trend of providing entertainment to consumers. Its runway shows on the Internet offer consumers an interaction with the brand that, in turn, delivers a particular experience.

Creating new product categories also has served Victoria's Secret well. Its line of bath and body products is a natural brand extension and has been included in the catalogs as well as online and in-store. It also offers exclusive Victoria's Secret CDs featuring music from recording artists such as Andrea Bocelli that evokes the essence of the brand.

Victoria's Secret has realized that a brand cannot stand still or become too narrow; however, it cannot change too frequently. Responding to consumers' lifestyles and attitudes at a given moment in time is crucial.

Coach. This brand has transformed itself from a tired, conservative leather-goods company into a cool fashion brand. Rebranding began in the mid-1990s through a strategic vision for the company. Coach hired a young designer, introduced new styles to its handbag line to compete with more fashionable designer brands and was careful not to move too fast.

The evolution of product design as it related to its handbags had to be progressive, yet not so trendy as to make the design obsolete the next season. New styles were designed to have more relevance in consumers' lives and carried names that were more updated. Coach became more sensitive to its consumers' reactions to product lines. This has contributed to the brand's profitability.

The brand's catalogs have evolved from featuring lifestyle scenes with models where the product appeared as an accessory to catalogs using still-life photography that features the product in a more graphic manner to deliver visual impact. Compelling photo cropping and strong use of solid-color backgrounds mirror the modern character of Coach's new handbag styles.

A real bolt of freshness for the brand came from the introduction of the puppy (from NBC's "Frasier") to communicate warmth and whimsy on its catalog covers and in its advertising. Coach has rebranded itself as a hip, modern fashion brand while remaining true to its brand's value of quality.

Godiva Chocolatier. Using emotion to rebrand its catalogs has helped Godiva Chocolatier better respond to its consumers' changing attitudes. In its early catalogs of the 1980s, Godiva Chocolatier presented products in a more masculine manner and featured products such as chocolate shotgun shells, chocolate golf balls and tuxedo boxes. Products were photographed on black backgrounds and did not evoke an environment. The copy communicated a whimsical voice for the brand but did not reflect its elegance and luxury.

During the early 1990s, Godiva catalogs introduced a sense of place in the photography and added more romance to the copy. However, the catalog did not visually capture the delectable quality of the chocolate. In the mid-1990s, the catalog presented the Godiva Chocolatier brand story on its opening spread. The product presentation depicted elaborate settings, which sometimes distracted from the product itself.

In 2001, the idea of using emotional branding emerged. Godiva Chocolatier wanted to tap its consumers' emotions by focusing on the experience of eating chocolate. The brand followed a process whereby new interpretations for its brand attributes were defined. These interpretations became the benchmarks for creating advertising, in-store experiences and interaction with the consumer within the catalogs.

Throughout the catalogs, consumers now can buy products as well as enjoy "Delightful Ideas" and recipes to use when entertaining at home. The art of entertaining is a theme that is relevant in the consumers' lives. Product photography depicts an elegant spontaneity that captures real-life moments. Richness and drama are visually communicated in a less-traditional manner to reflect the consumers' more modern lifestyle. The brand's voice is approachable with an air of sophistication.

Even product packaging, a hallmark of the brand, has been updated in its design. The success of Godiva Chocolatier's rebranding results from its commitment to the brand's core values and its ability to reinterpret the brand as an emotional experience.

The first step in rebranding your catalog is to recognize when it needs to happen and to define the reasons why your brand needs to change. A brand cannot stand still, and most brands are not permanent.

The key issue is relevance for the target consumer at a given moment in time. You need to consider the lives they want to live to give meaning to consumers and to deliver a personal experience. Rebranding your catalog sets in motion the process of examining your company as a whole, in every area, to create a powerful, cohesive and up-to-date brand message to the consumer.


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