(Re)Born This Way: The Importance of Brand Reinvention

The image of a product, company, organization or individual might get tarnished, outdated, or irrelevant. This is when brand reinvention becomes necessary. When Lady Gaga received a standing ovation from Hollywood A Listers after she sang “The Sound of Music” medley at the Academy Awards, many observers saw that as the culmination of her reinvention.

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga “Sound of Music” tribute at the 87th Academy Awards. Gif by micdotcom of Tumblr from the Oscar telecast

 

When a brand loses a significant part of its relevance, fan base, or income – just like what Lady Gaga experienced in recent years – reinvention becomes necessary. 

One of the biggest reinvention success stories is that of Apple Inc. (changed from Apple Computer as part of the reinvention). In the mid-90’s, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Back then, although they made good computer hardware and software, Apple was known for being pricey. They also lacked the network effect that Microsoft / PC had. When Steve Jobs went back to lead Apple, the company started to reinvent itself via candy colored iMacs, followed by the massive successes of iPod, iPhone, and iPad. At present, what pundits usually talk about is how Microsoft failed to successfully reinvent itself.

Reinvention should be approached with care, because changes might result in hurting the brand. When Coca Cola came up with the “New” Coke in the 80’s (as a response to the Pespi “taste test” gimmick), the resulting product was rejected by loyal Coke fans. In recent years, when Tropicana came up with new packaging, the consumers clamored for the old one back. In both cases, the companies were able to reverse the wrong decision before significant harm was done.

Mulberry, the British leather goods company, wasn’t so lucky. Mulberry became known for their mid-priced great quality iconic bags such as the Bayswater and the Alexa. In recent years, the company aimed to be a player in the high-end market, and even hired a former Hermes executive to lead the company. Mulberry jacked up the prices of their bags significantly to appear more exclusive and aspirational. The luxury consumers didn’t bite. Mulberry’s loyal fan base were priced out. In the end, the brand was stuck in no man’s land. Sales and the company’s shares price declined significantly.

There are also examples of companies who failed to reinvent themselves. Kodak, Sears, AOL and Nokia are just some of the once great companies that failed to keep up with the times.

Let’s discuss what happened to Lady Gaga. She became really popular around 2009 with her dance anthems such as “Poker Face”, and her outrageous outfits (such as the dress made of real meat). In recent years, people were no longer “shocked” by her antics. She has been eclipsed by Miley Cyrus in that aspect. People also got tired of her songs which was evidenced by the flop album “Artpop”. When pundits were already writing her career obituary, it was obvious that a reinvention was necessary.

How does a brand reinvent itself? Reinvention consists of two important tasks. One is changing the aspects of the brand that’s bringing it down. The other is making sure the aspects that people love about the brand remains intact.

Lady Gaga released a jazz album with Tony Bennet in 2014. She also started up dressing more “normally”. The strategies worked because people began to regard her as a serious singer instead of just a “shock” performer.

At the 87th Academy Awards, Lady Gaga sang a medley of songs from “The Sound of Music”. The Hollywood A listers gave her a standing ovation. Julie Andrews embraced her onstage afterwards. The reinvention is now in full swing. Days after the Oscars, there was news that she’ll be acting in the next season of “The American Horror Story”.

So, did we lose the old Lady Gaga? Not really. I mentioned that reinvention requires keeping some of your old brand identity. This is how Lady Gaga showed a part of her old self, in the Oscars red carpet with billions watching worldwide:

Lady Gaga Oscars dress with matching red gloves by Azzedine Alaia
Lady Gaga Oscars dress with matching red gloves by Azzedine Alaia. Image from WireImage

 

Twitter was abuzz with her outfit – as expected from the “old” and now the “new” Gaga.

Brand reinvention complete.

 

– Finance MD

thefinancemd.com

 

 

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Finance, M.D.

Finance, M.D. is a practicing physician who dabbles in finance and investment. He has passed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, all in his first attempts. thefinancemd.com

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