Rebranding in the Drinks Industry - Part II - Rebranding: The Wider Context
In part two of this month's four-part just-drinks management briefing, Richard Woodard continues to cast his eye over the rebranding process. What are the effects of a rebrand, and how broadly are those effects felt?
If no man is an island, the same can be said for brands. Look at your product and rebrand it in isolation and you’ll be lucky to succeed: every relaunch has to take into account both the markets in which it operates, and the competitive set which it faces.
“If you ask any brand owner, the one thing they all want is to have a global brand,” says Scott Lucas, executive director of Interbrand. “Defining that is our first step.”
But Lucas prefers to talk about “glocalisation” rather than being global. “Your equities are core to the one brand, along with your main communication priorities – these are the ones that you can turn up or down depending on your global needs. The brand is constant around the world; the way it’s sold isn’t.”
Local tweaks to your main message might include economic concerns – you might be premium in the US, but a lower price might work in, say, Latin America – but even the basics of your brand might require reinterpretation locally. Lucas points out that even the red used in Coca-Cola’s branding differs subtly in some markets.
How do these concerns affect rebranding exercises? In certain examples, they can generate them in the first place. Rémy Martin’s Mature Cask Finish VSOP is so far only available in European Union markets, prompted by the company’s perception that a different taste and package was necessary there to recruit new consumers.
“There’s a divergence in palates [between Europe and Asia/US], but there are also younger consumers in those markets and different methods of consumption,” says James Stocker, marketing controller at First Drinks Brands, Rémy’s UK distributor.
But when The Edrington Group relaunched its Highland Park single malt back in 2006, it was driven more by what it could achieve in high-potential overseas markets in the US and Asia, than by the relatively stagnant UK domestic market.
“In the UK, Scotch is sometimes seen as an old person’s drink, but in a European and a world context, it’s a modern imported foreign spirit that’s high-quality,” argues Jason Craig, former global brand controller for Highland Park.
“So what we’re losing in the UK market, we’re massively gaining overseas. Do you change your packaging for the UK and the more mature markets, or do you retain your packaging for the foreign markets?”
But in many cases, the differing demands of the various markets don’t seem to be a major concern for brand revamps. When Irish Distillers relaunched Redbreast as part of a larger drive behind single pot still Irish whiskeys, consultation with the main market, the US, was more to do with regulatory concerns than securing agreement about the direction of the relaunch.
“It was important to get our stakeholders on side, but it was even more important to be true to the brand,” says Brendan Buckley, innovation and category development director for Irish Distillers.
But the way in which Redbreast, Green Spot and the other single pot still brands are being sold is also influenced by Lucas’ “glocalisation” theory. Irish Distillers has eschewed its traditional, Pernod Ricard-owned distribution model in Europe, in favour of using niche specialist La Maison du Whisky. A listing in the French shops of Nicolas for Green Spot has been an early success.
This is at least partly dictated by the long shadow of big brother brand Jameson, the colossus of the Irish whiskey category which now sells more than 3m cases a year.
The idea of the single pot still whiskeys is to offer the consumer a new take on the category – a different taste and a different style of product compared to blended Jameson, prompted by the huge and fast-growing interest in the category.
“We’ve got to start this with the consumer in mind,” says Buckley. “They want more – and not just more Redbreast. That led us to expanding the range to deliver greater flavour diversity, because people want more variety and more styles.”
The aim, you might think, is to give Jameson drinkers something to graduate into – rather like single malts in Scotch compared to blends. But, while acknowledging that the Jameson name is unlikely to migrate into single pot still territory, Buckley is less sure about this.
“It’s a new category for most people, so all our marketing has been very much information-based,” he says. “But our target consumer isn’t necessarily existing Irish whiskey drinkers, but drinkers of premium Scotch single malt, Bourbon and so on.”
When you’re a company with the marketing budget of Pernod Ricard or Diageo, of course, you have the resources to take your time and (hopefully) get it right. “It is easier for the bigger companies to manage their brand equities proactively, taking steps to rebrand before it’s needed, meeting the consumer expectation rather than chasing it,” agrees Lucas.
“It’s not easy to do, identifying how to arrive at that, and it can be very expensive, that’s true. But it’s also true in smaller organisations where branding and packaging is really their only media spend – all their energy is focused on managing those brand equities.”
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