When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

If only brands were like football teams...

Building on my footballing analogy from last week (I promise this won’t become a football column), for my sins I follow an underperforming club which has a mass following but is - alas - unable to win a game for toffee.

Secret Marketer

As with most football clubs today, there are several Facebook and Twitter sites run by fans, many of which I follow. This gives you a real sense of the mood of the fan base (their ‘customers’) and at the moment they are not very happy.

In fact, they are so unhappy they are asking for both the club manager and the club chairman to be sacked. At the same time, they are also asking for the club owners (or their successors) to invest huge sums of money to buy new players.

Now a couple of things strike me about this. Could brands gain that same level of insight, passion and direction from their customers? While my football example proves that social media is the perfect medium for engagement, are people quite as passionate about brands as they are about football teams?

Second, if this were so, could we see customers remonstrating with brand owners, asking for the head of the marketing director, and/or insisting that the brand owner spends more on new product development or advertising?

Some may argue that this happened a couple of years ago (2007 to be precise) with Cadbury when a Facebook campaign to bring back the Wispa chocolate bar gathered momentum and led to its comeback. Could this type of customer action become more widespread?

I fear that the answer to both questions is no. Consumers just do not feel that strongly about their brands. While the likes of TripAdvisor have made a pretty penny out of encouraging consumers to comment on their travel experiences, I believe the majority of people can take it or leave it. Competition gives people choice and while there may be an element of loyalty to one brand or another, people can (and do) shop around. But a football team? Now that’s for life.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Hence why sponsorship is the best medium for engaging people on a personal level and in a space that they actually care about.

    No brand will ever espouse as much devotion as a football team - but through sponsorship the brand can attain a level of loyalty and positive feeling that simply couldn't be attained through different forms of marketing.

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  • "are people quite as passionate about brands as they are about football teams?"

    A categoric no.

    Brands are nothing in people's everyday day lives, while to some, football is everything.

    You can change your brand in an instant. You can never change your football club.

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  • Football is tribal. Brands simply don't/can't occupy this emotional space. As a result, very, very, few brands have ever provoked this kind of allegiance.

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  • I think that many brands have advocates that can be considered almost as tribal as soccer fans in their inner passion. You can witness this around some brands ( Its found around modern fashion and tech brands like skullcandy for instance. They utilise this very real brand advocacy to deliver real marketing ROI and in fact increase sales. They mobilise this advocacy by using new with very new and novel campaigns, managed by platforms like needle.com and its gang of needlers! This is a great space for brands to be. Evangelical staff and customer engagement. And they get the almost fanatical help but without the insanity hopefully!

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