Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?

Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?

Brand rejuvenation or refresh must occupy the largest mindshare of brand custodians today.Simply because, as times change rapidly – everything ages faster. In fact, it can be argued that brand rejuvenation can no longer afford to be an ‘exercise’ done every few years, but more an ongoing hygiene process with an active ‘planned obsolescence’ mind set.

As Edward de Bono pointed out – great organisations work on improving on their strengths rather than wait for them to turn into weakness!

However, even as the need for brand rejuvenation grows, most efforts continue to be rather awkward, clunky and the end results – messy.

As teams struggle with the fundamental question – what do you retain and what do you reframe? In my experience, most efforts err on either extreme – too much retention or too radical shifts.

The brand consistency theory fans are too scared to let go of almost any facet of the current thinking, the result is a ‘freeze frame’ brand repeating it’s story well past its sell by date! The changes if any are so subtle, they are hardly discernible outside the board room where they were approved ?

An equally high number of cases suffer from a ‘clean slate’ thinking, mostly in cases of weak, struggling brands. The tendency is to Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?look for some magic that can transform the brand into anything the team wants while retaining the brand name (‘because you see, it has some equity in the trade’). Typical line of thinking is around making the brand more cool, youthful, glamorous because that’s what the brand lacks. …The end result, good old gorilla with the lipstick.

Give this a thought – would brand Rahul Dravid get better if we added a bit of Yuvrajness(sexy bad boyness)into it? Or Sauravness (in-your face aggro)? You can visualise how the end result would be a wannabe that would lose respect for the values he represents. A sort of neither here, nor there mess. Same holds for brands, even the struggling ones.

Where this begins to go awry perhaps is the way the challenge gets framed. It is natural to think the question is – what’s wrong with our brand? And the answer is in fixing it!

The question to focus upon is – what is my brand’s real idea? And how is that relevant differently in today’s times?

This deep dive needs to go far beyond the functional promise of the brand, even if that’s what the brand has communicated so far. No matter how much you try, there is only so much rejuvenation you can do to ‘washes whiter’, ‘fights germs’, ‘prevents hair fall’ etc…

By contrast, see how ideas rooted in a more human role/purpose for brands are ripe for endless evolution – ‘challenges of parenting’, ‘search for identity’, ‘complexities of relationships’…human themes and needs that will always remain though with changing dynamics.

if your brand is not defined along these lines, it’s time to first uncover this. Notice how Surf moved from ‘removes-any-stain-no-matter-what’ to ‘helps tackle challenges that come with bringing up your child right’.Or a similar move by Pampers who moved beyond ‘dry bottoms’ or Dove moving from ‘1/4 moisturising’ to ‘real beauty’.

What it would take is to answer the question – seen from our audience’s lens, why is what we do a big deal? It calls for unearthing the emotive meaning our audience makes already (although may not be in a position to articulate it). And yes, it means getting to much abused thing – insight! One that comes from the life of our audience, not from the ‘consumer’.

Having reached there, the process of rejuvenation is to examine the emerging codes, the changing manifestations around the subject. How is parenting different today and why?

This of course is not to say brands with strong life ideas do not face challenges. And often, it is not contemporariness that is the issue. It could be a different audience that you wish to target or a new business opportunity (source of business). What do you do then? We examined a few brands that have done this well and saw a clear pattern emerging.

In such cases you look to pull back and broaden the life purpose of the brand so that the current purpose becomes a subset of the new idea. Let’s look at the cases.

Cadbury chocolates

With it’s iconic kyaswaadhaizindagimein campaign Cadbury Dairy milk created a new meaning for chocolate eating and hence for the Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?brand. ‘The license to be/remain a child’ for adults. In the newly liberalising India with some release of pent up desire, the image of childlike adults giving expression to their childlike desire caught people’s imagination.

Over time, as it moved to targeting the Indian mithai as source of business, Cadbury expanded the idea. Instead of focussing on childhood, it moved to becoming a ‘a license for innocent transgressions’.

Be it ‘KuchhMeethaHoJaye’ or the current ‘Shubhaarambh’. All Cadbury needs is to identify the next innocent transgression –an auntyji wearing jeans for the first time or the husband flirting with wife in front of family members or the young chap taking first steps towards flirtationawith the chocolate eating girl at bus stop.


Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?



Another brand that has done this pulled back reframing admirably is Airtel. Initially Airtel aimed atBrand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?owning the most fundamental idea of mobile telephony. One of keeping the loved ones closer even as forces of progress sent them away. Elegantly phrased as ‘nomadic intimacy’ by observers of mobile telecom.

Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?As it set out to target a younger audience, Airtel needed to redefine the nature of intimacy itself and hence it role. Unlike the family, pained at separation of their loved ones, the dynamics of relationship with this audience is different. And hence the brand redesigned it’s role to enabling relationships which are more light-hearted and with a much larger audience, one which is ready to unplug and move on and seeks security not so much in depth but in numbers – ‘shallow anchors’ best brought to life by ‘Harek friend’.


With Airtel Money, a very different offering one which is not strictly always linked to ‘connecting’, the brand has remained true to it’s territory of relationships. At it’s broadest level Airtel’s has defined it’s role as one of ‘technology facilitator in the changing dynamics of relationships’.

Brand rejuvenation: is your brand trapped?You can see how these brands have successfully redefined themselves without jettisoning their original idea, nor limiting themselves too narrowly by it either. What is needed is an appreciation of the core idea being rooted in audience’s life insights and an ability to contextualise it with changing times.


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