June 15, 2016 | Article | by Pete Larmey | Branding
Rebranding in Aisle 3!
There comes a time in every company’s life when the organization needs to reinvent itself. Many times this is beyond the company’s control. External market forces, technology changes, and increased competition can all be factors in a company’s evolution.
Reinvention can take many forms. It can be very subtle – a company may adjust its product line or messaging to better “speak” to customers’ current needs. Other changes can be more drastic – increased competition can force a company to reassess its position within a marketplace, causing the company to overhaul its messaging and brand strategy.
This occurred to me during a recent trip to my local grocery store, which was part of a significant transformation in 2014. That’s when executives at Lowes Foods initiated a major rebranding initiative to separate its stores from the Harris Teeters, Krogers, and Food Lions of the world.
Understanding that there are a lot of options for someone looking for bread, milk, and wine (don’t judge), management sought to carve out a unique niche for Lowes Foods. Taking a cue from local farmers markets, they redesigned and rebranded all of its stores to reflect a completely new and unique customer experience. Rather than having aisles upon aisles of just food and fluorescent lights, they rolled out “Boxcars” where customers could get coffee and chocolate; “Beer Dens” that sold drinks that could be consumed while poking around the condiments, along with growlers of locally-made brews; instituted in-store cooking classes; and more.
Its messaging was, and continues to be, pretty specific and ingenious. It’s all very customer-focused, friendly, and somewhat cheeky. Store management have really gone out of their way to make their customers feel as if they’ve stepped back in time, when visiting the grocery store was a pleasant affair, rather than just another errand to check off the list.
I pondered this as I walked through my local Lowes Foods, sipping from an Aviator pale ale and sorting through the vegetables and fruits. I thought, what a great concept! No doubt a tricky one to have implemented, but, arguably, a necessary one, particularly in such a competitive market.
This concept certainly doesn’t just apply to grocery stores, or consumer products in general. It seems like every day there’s a technology company cropping up with a new networking or cloud solution. The services that appeared so innovative and fresh only a couple of years ago have quickly become highly commoditized, making it difficult for companies to make themselves stand out.
It may not be necessary for these organizations to pivot to the extent that Lowes Foods did, but they’re probably going to need to make at least some adjustments. Advertising and branding certainly play large roles in this strategy, but PR should also be a core component – perhaps even the core component.
That’s because, at its heart, public relations is about one thing: the message. It’s about making sure that customers understand exactly what a company is trying to tell them. Now, we use a lot of different tools to do that, especially these days. Press releases, media interviews, social media interactions, infographics, ebooks, blogs, and all of the other tools at our disposal are simply different methods of getting the message across.
When it comes time to reinvent or rebrand, the message is the most important thing to consider. What do you want to convey? How do you want to be perceived? How do you want people to feel? What do you want to be known for? These are all questions that PR can help you find the answers to. Then, we can help you get those answers across to your customers in multiple ways that reflect your unique and singular position.
No, we probably won’t do the chicken dance for you. But we will help you redefine yourself for an ever-changing and fickle world.