When Iconic Category Leaders Rebrand—A Game of Risk vs. Reward

January 8, 2018

Consumer packaged goods companies spend years, and potentially millions of dollars, to develop a brand and build customer loyalty. When the decision to re-brand is made, often for a variety of reasons, the ultimate risk is consumer rejection. Think back to the Tropicana’s re-brand in January 2009, when the brand symbol of a straw in an orange was replaced with a glass of juice. Consumers sounded off with their displeasure and orange juice sales for the brand leader plunged 20 percent.

Photo courtesy of Chobani

Up at bat now is Chobani, the Greek yogurt leader that has taken the dairy aisle by storm in the 10 years it has been on the shelf. In late 2017, Chobani removed the words “Greek yogurt” from their wordmark and replaced photos of fresh fruit on packages with folk art-inspired illustrations. According to a November 2017 article in the Chicago Tribune, company leaders said the redesign was part of a move to branch off into other food categories.

“It will be interesting to see if consumers accept the new branding,” says Daymon Creative Director Steven Cox. “There is some risk and that’s the case for anything heavily part of one category. After all, they are known as the Greek yogurt people.”

A fellow dairy competitor, Danone, is also strategically developing a new portfolio of “manifesto brands” that reflect the company’s commitment to deliver a positive food future.

“The French dairy giant, which spans a stable of brands including Activia® yogurt and Evian® mineral water, is using its new ‘One Planet, One Health’ positioning to communicate the company’s desire to help consumers make healthier choices,” says Daymon Senior Manager Christine Bellamo. “Danone is embracing what it sees as a revolution among consumers to reclaim their connection with food, breaking down the barriers to establish food sovereignty. What they are doing is a pretty radical new approach to support consumers in their choice for healthier and more sustainable eating.”

Yet, as evidenced by the Tropicana redesign (which the The New York Times reported cost an estimated $35 million dollars), there’s no guarantee the skeptical public will be willing to accept a product when they know millions of dollars are being paid for their attention. “Consumers may not be willing to be swayed by a blanket advertising campaign,” Cox says. “Shoppers are more educated and more skeptical as to what is the value for their money. New package or not.”

The key to reducing this risk, says Bellamo, comes down to retailers and brands using a re-brand or re-design as an opportunity to better understand their customers.

“Consumers are more actively engaged than ever before in choosing what foods and brands they want to buy. Given the speed that information travels, trust in a brand can increase or erode very quickly,” Bellamo explains. “When it comes to private brands and customer loyalty, staying close to the consumers can help retailers differentiate themselves from their competition. Re-branding and/or re-focusing brands to be more closely aligned with consumers can help retailers in earning or maintaining trust and driving sales.”

Cox agrees a successful re-brand can be a boon for retailers. “The ability for private brands to branch into every category allows retailers to gain customer trust as they try products across a variety of categories. That yields ultra-loyalty.”

As for what the future holds, Bellamo predicts the moves by Chobani and Danone could lead to an expansive selection for the consumer. “Danone has already changed the game in dairy,” she says. “And besides Chobani, brands such as Yoplait, Dean Foods and Sargento Foods may follow the trend and re-brand in order to offer product differentiation to the many faces of today’s consumers.”

To learn more about Daymon’s branding and design services, contact Aimee Becker, Senior Vice President of Strategic Services, at abecker@daymon.com.