Aaron Perlut, founder and managing partner of the brand consulting firm Elasticity, thinks SunnyD is on the right track, he said. He noted that Pabst Blue Ribbon was a rare sight in bars and stores when it was acquired in 2014. But the beer’s image was revamped thanks in part to an advertising blitz using National Public Radio, digital and guerrilla marketing.
“Today, you see it in a lot of bars, you see it on tap, you see it prominently on supermarket shelves,” Mr. Perlut said.
But not every refresh has worked.
When Kellogg’s Special K started a campaign to appeal to younger women last year, its ad showed women engaged in energetic activities, along with an affirmation: “We eat.” Some found it condescending and patronizing to portray “eating” as some feat that women had accomplished. Others found it confusing since everybody eats.
Special K wound up pulling the ads and changing the slogan to “we fuel ourselves.”
“We listened and responded to reactions in real time,” said Christie Crouch, director of Special K Brand Marketing.
Then there was IHOP, which faced a backlash on social media when it said it was changing its name to IHOB, after adding a new line of burgers to its menu. Later it claimed the name change was a joke, leaving some customers feeling duped.
IHOP may have gotten “millions of dollars in unpaid media exposure,” Mr. Friederichsen of the Blake Project said. “But I think long term they’ve done damage to their brand.”
It’s critical that brands refresh and reach out to new generations. Their future depends on it.
“It’s essential,” Mr. Perlut of Elasticity said. “As audiences age, they die, and you need to continually refresh your consumer base. And if you’re not doing that, your product ends up being just a footnote in history.”