Advertising has effectively transformed many brands. It can be done. But it’s much more difficult for advertising to transform a service brand.
I read a blog recently by Chris Bevolo about advertising and it’s ability to change a brand. There are many excellent examples of advertising changing and transforming old brands. The most vivid current example is Old Spice cologne. Old Spice was my father’s brand. (For some it was your grandfather’s brand.) And it stayed my father’s brand. It did not resonate with a new generation of smelly males. There were other more hip, cooler brands that took the market. Old Spice became irrelevant.
But today Old Spice is making resurgence. Did it change its formula or alter the smell to fit a new generation? No. It’s the same fragrance my father wore. But the brand has been transformed. How? Advertising! The Old Spice Guy has made an old stale brand hip and relevant again. The TV spots and videos featuring Isaiah Mustafa as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” have become a marketing phenomenon. The spots just received the Film Grand Prix Award at the International Advertising Festival at Cannes. And the videos have become the No.1 all-time most-viewed sponsored channel on YouTube with over 94 million views. And its market share has grown over 8% in a flat product category since the advertising campaign broke.
So yes, advertising can obviously transform a brand. But Bevolo went on to make the very valid point that it’s much easier for advertising to change a product brand than a service brand. The product sits on the shelf and a consumer decides to buy it or not based on advertising, promotion, price and a few other various factors. But the product does not interact with the consumer other than through advertising and promotion. A service brand is different. A service brand interfaces with a consumer in a very active manner. There are many more factors at work than simply advertising and marketing.
Consumers’ attitudes toward service brands are determined by their engagement and interaction with the brand. You cannot simply advertise and expect the brand to be different. With service brands, the brand is defined by each customer contact, with each customer experience. If the hospital is not clean, if the staff has a bad attitude, if the food and service are poor, no amount of advertising will change the brand perception.
A service line brand is transformed from the inside out. It is defined every day. Advertising can be very powerful. But for service brands it can only be effective if it is consistent with the consumers’ brand experience. The brand promise must be delivered clearly and consistently. If it is, then advertising can take a transformed brand and effectively reposition it in the mind of the consumer.