When I first began my working career, marketers would often relaunch a brand and call it ‘New and Improved!”  Advertising would literally say ‘new and improved’.
-          New and improved bath soap with more moisturizers.
-          New and improved laundry detergent with a breakthrough optical whitener. 
-          New and improved toothpaste with a fresher flavor and taste.
 
Consumers would also use a brand name as a noun for a product category.  Such as ‘Colgate’ for toothpaste,  ‘Kleenex’ for facial tissue and’ Fridgedaire’ for refrigerator.
 
Why do I bring this up?  Because it suddenly occurred to me that the very simple ‘new and improved’ marketing technique is today rarely used and consumers have stopped using a brand name as a noun for a product category.  Times have changed.  Consumers have changed. Technology has changed.
 
So how does one relaunch a brand today?
 
Let’s look at the brand “Sperry”.  In the early 80s, Sperry had a very successful shoe for men called the “Topsider’.  The ‘Topsider’ was designed for male sailors to use while on deck.  They were made with a thick, waterproof leather and slip resistant sole.  The Topsider shoe became popular among non sailors as well.  It became a ‘must have’ for young fashionable men (who are now in or approaching their 50’s). 
 
Today,  the ‘Topsider’ and the ‘Sperry’ brand has faded away. Or has it?  Last December, I spent Christmas with my brother and his family in the U.S. and while I was shopping in a shoe store, I came across the Sperry brand once more but this time in the women’s section.  Same overall look as the Topsider but contemporized.  Sleeker, finer lines; softer leather.  Overall, a shoe with a much more fashionable look.  Still a comfortable shoe. However, this time no longer for sailing. 
 
As a marketer what did I see?  I saw a brand strategy that recognized what the ‘heritage’ of the Sperry brand was and contemporized it.  Will the company be successful?  That remains to be seen.  Did I buy the shoe?  No.  But neither did I forget it.
 
Over the years, new product categories have emerged.  Many of the categories are technology driven such as the personal computer and the cell phone.  Although there are dominant brands in the playing field, none of them have become synonymous with the product.  The personal computer is not generically called a Dell.  The cell phone is not generically called a Nokia, Motorola, Sony or Samsung.  In fact even Apple with an extremely strong brand franchise is still specific to its’ own product.  An Apple is an IMac. An Apple is an IPad. An Apple is an IPhone.
 
Over the years, the sales and prestige of Nokia, Motorola, and even Sony have declined.  In the past, an ageing brand became my mother’s brand or my father’s brand.  This is not the case for technology driven products.  Nokia, Motorola and Sony could not keep up with emerging technology and desires. Consumers today want smaller, quicker, sleeker, prettier, fancier.  In some cases, cheaper. It might be more accurate to say consumers were taught to want smaller, quicker, sleeker, prettier and fancier.  
 
Perhaps Nokia and Motorola over-invested in technology that quickly became old and legacy technology.  In the meantime, Apple became a leader in technology while Samsung became a quick follower.
 
How do these two companies relaunch their products?  With upgraded models and platforms.  They essentially compete against each other and compete against  themselves. With newer, smaller, faster, prettier and fancier models and formats.  While these formats theoretically compete against each other, many consumers own all the formats.  I personally have a desk top computer, a lap top computer, a cell phone, Ipod and tablet.  And I interchangeably use all these formats.
 
So what is the learning from all this? 
 
Recognize what your brand heritage is.  Leverage your brand heritage.  The heritage of Sperry was a comfortable shoe with a distinct look.  The contemporized Sperry leverage comfort and design into a more fashionable look.
 
Recognize that consumers want newer, faster, prettier and fancier. If you invest in technology, hardware, moulds, etc., to achieve cheaper cost of goods, remember that consumers don’t want the same old thing, especially in technology.  That investment to achieve ‘cheaper’ may just become an albatross around your neck.  
 

 
Malu Dy Buncio is the Chief Business Development Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., (www.mansmith.net). For inquiries on our programs, please call (63-2) 584-5858/412-0034, text 0918-81-168-88 or email info@mansmith.net.