Monday, July 7, 2008

Waking the Dead - Reviving "Has-Been" Brands

In college, I had a boyfriend who loved Herbal Essence Shampoo. He wasn't part of the target demographic, but he loved one of the scents so much that he just couldn't imagine his morning shower without it. Despite this kind of following, every brand eventually grows old and stale if left untended. A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G, says there are three routes for a dying brand: Abandon, Divest, or Re-invent. In the case of Herbal Essence, he chose the third option. I'm sure my former boyfriend is thrilled!

The P&G team didn't perform any miraculous feats - they tightened up the demographic, modernized the packaging to stand out on the shelf and encourage the dual-purchase of shampoo and conditioner, and re-vamped the language with more current vocabulary and inuendos. This easy-to-understand process is allowing the fledgling brand to gain sales growth in the high single digits. Not bad, and certainly something not common in the current economy.

Process aside, I think A.G. Lafley is saying something much richer about product re-invention. It's easy for product developers to fall in love with their product as is, for marketers to admire their own catchy phrasing and campaign themes so much that they can't imagine anything more brilliant coming down the pike. For example, let's consider the highly creative and relevant campaign by the Dove Brand - Campaign for Real Beauty. The simplicity and power of that statement resonated with a wide audience. That campaign has been around for a while, so much so that it's beginning to become old news, especially in the wake of the touch-up work done on some of the campaign photographs. Those marketers need to be thinking about a re-invention now!

This is the trouble with brilliance that explains why we have so many one-hit wonders in this world. You have to let go of past successes as much as you have to let go of past failures in order to move forward. Product re-invention requires a constant, fervent belief that our best work is yet to be created. It requires that we push the envelope and challenge ourselves continuously. To take away that challenge and rest on our past success is to go the way of Sharper Image, Brim, and Tab.

For a look at the interactive case study on Herbal Essence's re-invention, visit

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