Tag Archives: Rebranding

Thinking About Rebranding? Take A Lesson From The Master Of Rebranding – Richard Nixon

Rebranding. Every company does it. From a new look to its logo to an entirely different image, companies do it to stay competitive and fresh. Subway is rebranding after the Jared Fogle case. They and other companies might want to take a page out of the master of rebranding – Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon is of course remembered for Watergate. Yet he was actually the master of rebranding. Each election there was a new Nixon that the media and public would buy into. And with that new Nixon brand, he was able to overcome some of the best – Earl Warren, Adlai Stevenson, Nelson Rockefeller, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, George Romney, and even battle Jack Kennedy to a draw (or based upon who you believe defeat him).

Richard Nixon began his career as a hard-hitting anti-Communist crusader. Adlai Stevenson described him as a “white collar Joe McCarthy”. Dwight Eisenhower used him as vice president as an attack dog and to appease the hard right of the Republican Party. But he was also seen as a fresh and younger face for Republicans in 1952 even though most of the country knew of him for exposing Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy. In marketing his youth he drew a sharp contrast to his two California rivals who also wanted to be on the ticket with Eisenhower – Earl Warren and William Knowland. Key lessons for brands from this – when rebranding something familiar make it appear new and fresh.

During the 1952 campaign, Nixon was caught in the so-called ‘fund crisis’ where it was revealed that wealthy donors had paid for his travel expenses (which was not illegal). The media and Democrats called for Nixon’s removal from the ticket. Eisenhower remained silent on Nixon’s status and suggested Nixon address the nation. So Nixon with the backing of the Republican National Committee went on television (still in its infancy) and revealed his finances, showing that he was like most Americans, a person of modest means, revealing that Eisenhower’s opponent, Adlai Stevenson also had a fund like his, and concluding with a reference to the dog Checkers that his children had received from a backer and he would not return. The public went wild with support of Nixon. Eisenhower was forced to keep Nixon on the ticket and Stevenson was forced to reveal everything about his fund. Overnight, Nixon became the average American compared to the image that many had of Republicans – the rich uncaring businessman. Nixon knew his audience and appealed to it. Any business rebranding needs to know its target audience and how to appeal to it when rebranding.

After Eisenhower was re-elected president in 1956 with Nixon as vice president, many thought Nixon was unelectable in own right in 1960, as he was seen as too mean and that Republicans might need to nominate someone like Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon set out to prove them wrong. He turned down his rhetoric but even more importantly made himself relevant. He interjected himself into attempts to pass a civil rights bill that led many reporters to consider him a statesman. Then there was the famous kitchen debate where he debated Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev where he was viewed by many as standing up for America. In 1958, with Eisenhower unwilling to campaign for Republicans, Nixon took up the role and appeared as the good Republican endorsing Republicans of all stripes while his emerging rival, Nelson Rockefeller did everything possible to avoid fellow Republicans. Key lesson from this rebrand – make sure that rebranding is tied into relevancy that will make it appear authentic.

Once nominated in 1960, Nixon faced the charismatic Jack Kennedy who was everything Nixon wasn’t – handsome, rich, elegant, eloquent, and Ivy League educated. In the first Nixon and Kennedy debate, Kennedy was declared the winner and even though Nixon battled back in subsequent debates the media believed Kennedy was a lock. Yet on election day, Nixon battled Kennedy to a basic draw (or if tales of the dead voting in Chicago and Texas are true defeated Kennedy). He did this by appealing to voters as who he really was – one of them, not the son of a rich former ambassador (Kennedy) but the son of a grocer who had worked his entire life. And voters believed him. Brands need to remember to be authentic when rebranding.

After losing to Kennedy in 1960, Nixon also lost the governorship of California in 1962 and famously declared to the media, “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore”. The media wrote his political obituary. Yet Nixon began work on his comeback. He did this by making himself available to the media. No reporter was too small nor question too inane for him during his so-called ‘wilderness years’. He appeared open and transparent. He cultivated the image of an elder statesman and in a polarized nation someone solidly in the middle. The media declared a new Nixon yet again. The public believed it allowing him to defeat Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and even Ronald Reagan for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination and then liberal giant Hubert Humphrey in the general election. Transparency and openness as shown by this Nixon rebranding are a key component for any rebranding.

Even after Watergate, Nixon continued to rebrand himself and the media and public continued to buy it. He was a mater at rebranding and offers lessons that companies can learn from to this day.

The Danger Of Tying A Brand To One Person – Subway and Jared

Many brands base their marketing and publicity strategies on a public spokesperson. Lincoln has Matthew McConaughey. Priceline has William Shatner of Star Trek fame. Wendy’s used its CEO, Dave Thomas before his death. Men’s Warehouse used its founder, George Zimmer until he was ousted from the company. Very often the brand becomes identified with its spokesperson. To the public, the spokesperson equals the brand, its products and values. A brand’s reputation rises or falls with its spokesperson.

Subway, the restaurant chain is finding the downside of having a spokesperson as its public face. Jared Fogle shot to fame when his story of losing over 200 pounds went public. Fogle based his weight loss on visiting a Subway restaurant and ordering a low-fat sandwich. From that sandwich on, he dropped more than 200 pounds in about a year while eating Subway’s turkey subs and veggie subs with no mayonnaise and cheese. When Subway learned of his story, he became the face of Subway promoting their healthy alternatives to fast food. His story became the Subway story. Consumers identified with his everyman story and could relate to his weight struggle. Franchise owners reported increased sales when commercials and other promotional material featuring Fogle ran. All told he made over 50 television commercials for the chain. The company hyped him as the perfect family man whose values were those of Subway. To the public, Fogle and Subway were one and the same.

On July 7th, that perception became a nightmare for Subway. The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service raided Fogle’s home seizing electronic equipment with the clear implication from media reports that he was suspected of being involved in child pornography. A Florida woman came forward and said that Fogle had made remarks to her that were so inappropriate and shocking that she had contacted law enforcement officials. This happened two months after Russell Taylor, the former executive director of the Jared Foundation, which Fogle started to raise awareness to and combat childhood obesity, was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Fogle has not been arrested and his attorney issued a statement saying he is cooperating with authorities. Overnight, Fogle became the punch line for late night comedians with Subway included in the jokes. There was also a sense of public revulsion.

Subway issued a statement expressing shock at the events that had unfolded. Then the restaurant chain went further and announced that they were suspending it relationship with Fogle but they were not terminating it.

The question for Subway is what do they do next?

  1. They need to terminate their relationship with Fogle straight out. Whether Fogle is cleared or not, he is damaged goods and will remain so. Comedians will continue to joke about him and if Subway remains connected with him, Subway will be included in those jokes. There are three things people cannot fully recover from – scandals involving race, animals, and children. The sooner Subway formally severs all ties with Fogle, the better for the company.
  2. Develop a new branding strategy that doesn’t focus on any single person but rather on the company’s food and brand. Or if they want a person as the spokesperson have that person be Suzanne Greco, Subway’s president and sister of founder and CEO Fred DeLuca,
  3. Refresh the look of Subway and introduce new menu items with the new strategy the company is launching.
  4. Support organizations that battle exploitation of children.
  5. Develop a crisis communications strategy and have it in place if and when Fogle is indicted that separates the company totally from Fogle and condemns such actions that he may have committed.

The Jared Fogle/Subway story is a cautionary tale for a brand becoming to identified with its spokesperson. The important thing to remember when using a spokesperson as the face of the brand, the brand’s fortunes becomes tied with that person for both good and bad.

Rebranding @HillaryClinton

The wait is over. Hillary Clinton announced via YouTube and Twitter what everyone already knew. She is running for president. Her candidacy presents both opportunity and challenges from a public relations and branding perspective.

Hillary Clinton launched her campaign with a rebranding effort. Taking a page out of Richard Nixon’s playbook, she is introducing the ‘new Hillary’ (just as every election cycle there was a new Nixon, who always seemed to return to the old Nixon). The previous brands of ‘ new Hillary’ have included:

  1. Bill Clinton’s partner in the White House who had more influence than Vice President Al Gore.
  2. The wronged wife.
  3. New York’s Senator who worked across the aisle to get things done.
  4. The candidate who would break the glass ceiling in 2008 and become America’s first female president.
  5. America’s chief diplomat above politics, as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

Just as with Richard Nixon, none of these ‘new Hillary’ brands succeeded. The media and the general public didn’t quite buy the new brand and viewed her as the Hillary who polarized Americans during Bill Clinton’s failed health care reform efforts. There was a belief that each rebranding effort was just an attempt to get Americans to forget the old Hillary.

Now with the launch of her campaign, the new Hillary brand is that of the loving grandmother. This is the latest attempt to soften Hillary’s image and allow her to connect with voters.

To be successful, rebranding must be fully transparent, sincere, and authentic. At this point of Hillary’s rebranding, the public is skeptical. Many in the media and even voters see it as nothing more as a gimmick and expect the old Hillary to remerge.

So what should she do?

The biggest problems with Hillary’s rebranding efforts in the past have been a lack of transparency and when she has encountered difficulty or criticism, she has reverted back to the polarizing Hillary of 1992 – 1994. If she is sincere and wants voters and the media to believe her, she needs to be transparent, fully answer questions, and allow herself to be vulnerable. Beyond that, throughout the campaign, she needs to stay consistent with her new brand and act accordingly.

Her second obstacle that she faces is offering a new vision for America without running away from an increasingly unpopular President Obama. If she can do that, she will succeed where Adlali Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and John McCain all failed.

Trying to extend a third electoral victory by one political party is rare (excluding succession due to the death of a president). George H.W. Bush was the last presidential candidate to achieve that. Before him, it was Herbert Hoover in 1928. Both Bush and Hoover ran promising to be a third term of the popular incumbents (Reagan and Coolidge) while moving the nation forward. Even Richard Nixon in his failed 1960 presidential campaign attempted to convince voters that he would be an extension of the popular Dwight Eisenhower with a youthful vigor.

Hillary Clinton if nominated will not have the luxury of a popular president. She will face the challenge that Stevenson faced in 1952 with Harry Truman; Humphrey faced in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson; and John McCain faced in 2008 with George W. Bush. All failed to give a clear vision of how they would be different and each feared to repudiate their president for fear of losing their base. If Hillary distanced herself from President Obama (whose Secretary of State she was) she would alienate her base and bring back stories of the ‘old Hillary’ hurting her rebranding efforts.

So how should she handle this dilemma?

She needs to communicate to voters that she will preserve the Obama policies that are popular and enhance them. But beyond that she needs to outline her vision going forward in clear language. She needs to make clear that while she supports her party’s leader, she hopes to take America a step forward and by her work with the President and her own husband has learned what to do and also what not to do. She must be willing to communicate a big vision that will allow her to expand her base rather then just cater to it.

As the campaign unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the ‘new Hillary’ succeeds or she bombs like New Coke. And even more critical can she communicate a vision without running away from her President.

The wait is over. Hillary Clinton announced via YouTube and Twitter what everyone already knew. She is running for president. Her candidacy presents both opportunity and challenges from a public relations and branding perspective.

Hillary Clinton launched her campaign with a rebranding effort. Taking a page out of Richard Nixon’s playbook, she is introducing the ‘new Hillary’ (just as every election cycle there was a new Nixon, who always seemed to return to the old Nixon). The previous brands of ‘ new Hillary’ have included:

  1. Bill Clinton’s partner in the White House who had more influence than Vice President Al Gore.
  2. The wronged wife.
  3. New York’s Senator who worked across the aisle to get things done.
  4. The candidate who would break the glass ceiling in 2008 and become America’s first female president.
  5. America’s chief diplomat above politics, as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

Just as with Richard Nixon, none of these ‘new Hillary’ brands succeeded. The media and the general public didn’t quite buy the new brand and viewed her as the Hillary who polarized Americans during Bill Clinton’s failed health care reform efforts. There was a belief that each rebranding effort was just an attempt to get Americans to forget the old Hillary.

Now with the launch of her campaign, the new Hillary brand is that of the loving grandmother. This is the latest attempt to soften Hillary’s image and allow her to connect with voters.

To be successful, rebranding must be fully transparent, sincere, and authentic. At this point of Hillary’s rebranding, the public is skeptical. Many in the media and even voters see it as nothing more as a gimmick and expect the old Hillary to remerge.

So what should she do?

The biggest problems with Hillary’s rebranding efforts in the past have been a lack of transparency and when she has encountered difficulty or criticism, she has reverted back to the polarizing Hillary of 1992 – 1994. If she is sincere and wants voters and the media to believe her, she needs to be transparent, fully answer questions, and allow herself to be vulnerable. Beyond that, throughout the campaign, she needs to stay consistent with her new brand and act accordingly.

Her second obstacle that she faces is offering a new vision for America without running away from an increasingly unpopular President Obama. If she can do that, she will succeed where Adlali Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and John McCain all failed.

Trying to extend a third electoral victory by one political party is rare (excluding succession due to the death of a president). George H.W. Bush was the last presidential candidate to achieve that. Before him, it was Herbert Hoover in 1928. Both Bush and Hoover ran promising to be a third term of the popular incumbents (Reagan and Coolidge) while moving the nation forward. Even Richard Nixon in his failed 1960 presidential campaign attempted to convince voters that he would be an extension of the popular Dwight Eisenhower with a youthful vigor.

Hillary Clinton if nominated will not have the luxury of a popular president. She will face the challenge that Stevenson faced in 1952 with Harry Truman; Humphrey faced in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson; and John McCain faced in 2008 with George W. Bush. All failed to give a clear vision of how they would be different and each feared to repudiate their president for fear of losing their base. If Hillary distanced herself from President Obama (whose Secretary of State she was) she would alienate her base and bring back stories of the ‘old Hillary’ hurting her rebranding efforts.

So how should she handle this dilemma?

She needs to communicate to voters that she will preserve the Obama policies that are popular and enhance them. But beyond that she needs to outline her vision going forward in clear language. She needs to make clear that while she supports her party’s leader, she hopes to take America a step forward and by her work with the President and her own husband has learned what to do and also what not to do. She must be willing to communicate a big vision that will allow her to expand her base rather then just cater to it.

As the campaign unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the ‘new Hillary’ succeeds or she bombs like New Coke. And even more critical can she communicate a vision without running away from her President.

Should You Rebrand After A Crisis

Rebranding can appear like a solution for a company after a crisis. Yet there is no guarantee it will succeed. Simply changing a company’s name or logo doesn’t win back trust. Successful rebranding means changing the corporate culture of the company.

In the 1990s, ValuJet faced safety issues culminating in the crash of Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. ValuJet equaled air disaster and cutting safety corners. Seeking to recover, ValuJet merged with the smaller Airways Corporation, parent of AirTran. The merged company used the name AirTran, even though ValuJet was the survivor of the merger because the ValuJet name was irreparable. The rebrand succeeded because the company’s message reflected a break in the past and emphasized safe cost-efficient air travel. Consumers believed the message and ValuJet faded from memory

Private security contractor, Blackwater was employed by the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan faced a crisis for the methods it employed that led to the deaths of innocent civilians and refusal to cooperate with Congress. The company underwent two name changes. Yet the rebranding has failed because it did not communicate a new culture or shed its past.

Some say that Malaysia Airlines rebranding (after the tragedies of flights MH370 that has yet to be located and MH17 shot down over Ukraine) making Malaysia Airlines synonymous with disasters and a punchline for comedians. A new name won’t change that perception. Unless the airline overcomes the perception of incompetence and shows that it places safety first, rebranding will fail.

Rebranding is a first step after a disaster. By itself, a new name won’t fix things. Successful rebranding must communicate a fundamental change in the company and its operations taking time.