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Am I Talking to Myself? A Case Study on Rebranding

By: Ada Polla
Posted: April 26, 2013, from the May 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Packaging. Up next, we discussed how the products appear on shelves and vanities, as well as marketing materials. We have always been a fan of jars. Part of the focus of our line is the sensual aspect of products, namely the textures and aromas, as well as the way our products look. We loved the look of the small red beads in the white creamy texture of the scrub. Indeed, we developed various marketing efforts around that very image. No matter that consumers think, jars are easily “contaminated.” No matter that jars are harder to open and close than tubes with a flip top. No matter, because the beauty of the product is more visible in a jar. Right ...?

Version Two

After a time, we at Alchimie Forever decided it was time for some changes.

Formulation. We finally relented and listened to the marketplace. Even if consumers do not fully understand why they don’t want parabens in their products, they know for sure they don’t want them. Instead of spending our time and energy re-educating them—a battle a small niche brand such as ours cannot win—we decided to spend our time and energy on getting our products in the hand of consumers. After all, we are in the business of improving skin. Over the past two years, we have been reformulating our products to remove parabens, replacing them with a combination of benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid and sorbic acid. This combination is scientifically as sound as was our combination of various parabens—and yet is much more palatable to consumers.

Product names. Our scrub is the first product whose box does not have a laser name. Removing our laser names was possibly the decision that was the most difficult for me. Indeed, once I considered this subject to be up for discussion, we had very heated internal conversations about it. Part of the team was thankful that, finally, I had come around to what to them seemed evident. But another part of the team was vehemently opposed to this change. We eventually took the discussion to the level of “Can hero products be heros if they don’t have a name?” This made for interesting competitor research, as well as interesting internal debate.

In the end, we compromised. We are removing all of our laser names, except for the name “Kantic,” which my father is particularly attached to and is the name of our hero products. Now the task is to make sure that name is understood by the consumer, ensuring it is not something that matters only to us internally.

Packaging. Apparently, consumers do not open a jar of our scrub to admire the beautiful cranberry red beads. Consumers like tubes. Go figure. Also, tubes are much more affordable than jars. That helped in weighing the decision toward a tube. Our Gentle Antioxidant Refining Scrub is now packaged in a tube, and it is selling better than it ever has.

Additionally, a significant portion of our consumer population is male, and in particular for men, a tube is much less intimidating to have in the bathroom.

Making It Meaningful

The improvement process I described is one that took the Alchimie Forever team four years to go through with this specific product. Could we have realized the need for these changes more quickly? How might we have launched the scrub perfectly the first time? I asked Brand Growth Management’s Kelly Kovack to share some of her wisdom on these thoughts.

About marketing, Kovack says, “A lot of brands go through discussions about things that are so close to them; they feel the core about what their brands are about, but need to do a gut check. Always ask yourself: ‘Are we talking to ourselves? Does anyone else care?’ The more you talk about it, the more you try to talk yourself into it, the more you start to believe that it is working. You need to let things go.

“Branding and marketing of any brand becomes so emotional. It is the eye candy of the business, the most fun part of the business. If small brands applied the same discipline to branding and marketing as they do to sales and budgeting and saw things through a more analytical lens, the emotional bias would be minimized.

“When you get to the point where things are not working, when a product is not performing the way you expected it to, you need to understand why. To do that, you need to strip the emotion from the discussion, no matter how painful that might be. Ask yourself the questions: ‘Does anyone care? Does this mean something only to me?’ If the answer is yes, you know what to do—no matter how hard that might be. Small brand owners want everything to be perfect. Striving for perfection is important, but sometimes you need to let things go to move the business forward,” Kovack explains.