Creative thinking that delivers results

23 Jul

Rebranding East Side Mario’s – When “new” isn’t always better

Category: Branding

I came across a rather interesting article in the June 30, 2010 edition of Marketing magazine that I wanted to share with you. The article talks about one of the more challenging tasks many established businesses face – whether or not to rebrand themselves, and if so, for what purpose (i.e. to go after existing clients in a different way or to target an entirely different client segment).

Oftentimes, businesses rebrand for the latter reason in order to go out after a more lucrative or attractive target market. In the case of East Side Mario’s (ESM), this was indeed the case. Having developed a strong brand as a “family friendly” restaurant with a gregarious New York City theme, it symbolized an affordable, convenient and comfortable place for families to eat out.

However, ESM was eager to move its business model up-market by appealing to a more upscale client. As a result, it removed its Statue of Liberty logo and replaced it with a more traditional Italian symbol – the tomato. It also got rid of its infamous marketing jingle, “Badda Boom Badda Bing” due to its association with NYC.

What happened next is an age-old problem that occurs when rebranding involves an attempt to enter a new market. By changing its target market through changes to its marketing messages, restaurant appearance and menu, ESM alienated its existing clientele while failing to make significant inroads with the upscale segment it was attempting to go after.

So what can be learned from this experience? First of all, rebranding should never be entered into by any business without considerable deliberation and analysis. And while going after a new and perhaps more lucrative client segment is always tempting, it may not necessarily be the best option, particularly when the new market you’re entering is as competitive as the restaurant industry.

Indeed the competitive landscape should always be a primary consideration in any rebranding exercise. Always ask yourself this question – does the image I’m trying to portray or the market I’m trying to appeal to create any competitive challenges for my business (i.e. are there existing businesses with similar ‘brands’ going after similar or identical customers, and if so how successful are they?).

The key to rebranding – and the key to developing a sound marketing strategy – is finding a niche in the market you can profitably compete in and exploit, one where your products and services effectively align with the needs and expectations of that particular target market. When you find that niche and are successful in exploiting it, you’ve latched onto the proverbial golden egg. And that’s why going after a new segment may not be the most sound business decision, and in fact can be highly risky. At the least, make sure your rebranding strategy is based on sound business fundamentals, and that these support the overall objectives of the firm.

To learn more about how you can successfully rebrand your business, contact us at Sydcam Marketing Communications.

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