There are times in every brand or company’s life, when it ages, or its audience ages, or the brand’s performance seems jaded and stuck in a rut. The reasons could be many. From the product’s features not keeping pace, to the market having outgrown the product, to stiff competition in the marketplace. We have all seen the likes of Kodak and Nokia as extreme cases of what I am talking about. However, it’s when the problem is not serious enough to affect the brand’s sales or profits, yet there are signs that the brand is losing share in its important market segment that we need to take notice.
Luxury cars and whiskies face this problem of ageing consumers, as I have written before on my blog. But it’s also seen in other product categories, such as cola and aerated drinks, which consumers are apparently moving away from, especially in the US. In India, remember Horlicks, the malted energy beverage that Glaxo SmithKline sold to Hindustan Unilever some years ago. In the last case, I think the product category itself became irrelevant to most consumers, except the few elderly and aged folks who still drank it. Like my aged mother and grand-mums.
Recognising the problem early enough and finding innovative solutions around it are the only long-term answers and the best ones. However, most companies are loth to give up their best or most prized brands or even rethink them. These were, after all, brands that were doing well and even market leaders until recently, so why jettison them? Many companies, especially in consumer packaged goods, have an internal hierarchy of brands that they believe lead the segment or market, and often refer to them as “power brands”, since these are the ones that power the growth of the company. Then, there are others that are “challenger brands” that are second in important market segments for the company, but have the potential to challenge the market leader from competition.
In product categories such as Scotch whiskies, the sense of ageing fast is even more pronounced. The entire category is defined by age, maturity, as well as cultural and social stature that it has acquired over time. In luxury cars as well, the problem of an ageing target consumer persists, albeit less so these days, because by the time a person has earned and saved enough to be able to afford a luxury vehicle, he or she is middle-aged, at the very least. However, in cars so much is defined by technology and design, that it is at least possible to keep brands in step with the times, if you just kept pace with the technology and regulatory changes. Right now, the technology that all automotive brands are embracing is electric mobility. Building a brand requires more than that, as Tesla is discovering in recent months. More generally speaking, established heritage brands have a hard time staying relevant to their audiences and to the times we live in.
Then again, there are some brands that exist in companies’ repertoire, but play a minor role in their overall scheme of things. Quite often, they are not even supported with adequate marketing and communication budgets. However, they are there, perhaps to preempt competition and protect what might seem a new and promising category in future. The important thing is to recognize when it’s a good time to take the big step of promoting such brands more actively. And there are other brands that have the potential to turn things around in the segment for the company. They have the power to revitalize an entire category as well as create a path for upgradation by the consumer.
How does one spot such brands or see their true potential at the right time? I would say that if any of the following conditions are met, it is time to unleash the power and potential of these wizards:
- If the market for the particular product or brand shows a significant spurt for a considerable length of time
- If the potential consumer is buying similarly priced and similar products/brands more regularly
- If the product/brand has a differentiated offering compelling enough to attract the consumer
- If the segment itself is likely to see good growth, with the possibility of more variants and line extensions
- If the product/brand allows the company to draw on the linkages between this and other brands in higher segments
- If as a result of such linkages, a path for the consumer trading up appears to emerge
I had put down my thoughts on a new drink from Pepsico and its brand strategy and campaign ideas long ago at my parents’ place in Goa, but lost them to termites. I haven’t recreated the thoughts and ideas yet to share them on my blog, but the general direction was that Pepsi create a new drink that is based on healthier and natural ingredients such as fruits and tea. One that has the sparkling, effervescent quality of a sparkling wine, without it being carbonated or having any alcohol. I wished to recommend that Pepsi recognize the shrinking market for aerated cola drinks in their own home market and launch a new product that reflected the healthier choices their consumers were making. The new drink, priced higher than the cola, could be called Pepzi with the idea that it is Pepsi with a twist.
More recently, I started thinking about a Scotch Whisky brand from Pernod Ricard (then Seagram) that I worked on during my second stint with Ogilvy Delhi, in the mid-90s. It was called Passport Scotch Whisky and was meant to attract younger drinkers to Scotch whisky. The brand then was the fastest-growing Scotch whisky and was popular in Europe, Asia and Latin America. I wondered what happened to Passport during all these years and how it is doing.
During the past couple of decades, the wines and spirits market globally has boomed with many more product categories as well as premiumization taking place across the board. While old established whiskies such as Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal and single malts rule the category, there are several smaller brands that are growing their share by drawing in younger drinkers. I thought that with Diageo being a goliath in Scotch whiskies, including their popular J&B Scotch Whisky and Black & White Scotch Whisky, it is time that Pernod Ricard and Chivas Brothers spruce up Passport Scotch and give it a new brand communication strategy.
I see Passport Scotch having the right product and imagery fit for today’s contemporary Scotch Whisky drinker, to be able to grow the segment for Scotch Whisky. At the same time, I think that Passport Scotch has the right linkages to build its lineage, as well as offer consumers a path to upgrade to superior whiskies from Chivas Brothers and Pernod Ricard. You may read all about my new tweaked strategy recommendation and communication ideas for Passport Scotch by clicking the link below.
Pernod Ricard must see Passport Scotch as a wizard brand, and not as a “strategic local brand” as they seem to be saying on their website. And invest in its growth for the next decade at least with the required marketing and communication budgets. It could be the path to revitalizing Pernod Ricard’s entire Scotch Whisky portfolio in the coming years, along with the strategy and ideas I have already suggested for Chivas Regal and The Glenlivet on my blog.
Does your company have a wizard brand lurking in some dark and forgotten corner of your brand portfolio? Time to dust it off and look at it again with some serious consideration.