Radical Brand Evolution: A Case-Based Framework

Bill Merrilees
Griffith University, Australia

I would like to thank Mark Foote, president of Canadian Tire Retail (CTR), for his support of this research and for the material supplied in his RAC address (Foote, 2002). Helpful and insightful in-depth interviews were held with Tracy Fellows (marketing director, CTR) and Greg Kavander (group manager, Broadcast, Events & Promotions, CTR). Other staff members, including Tracy Stone, manager, Consumer Research, CTR, were also helpful. The author has no financial or related relationship with the company.

All brands need to be revitalized on a regular basis in order for them to be kept fresh, vital, and relevant to the contemporary market. Aaker (1991) and Keller (2003) each devote a chapter to this issue, but the debate is broad, lacking specific principles or theories to manage different types of brand revitalization. It is useful to refer to brand revitalization as brand evolution, as the latter conveys the impression that revitalization is continuous over time rather than a one-off minor change. We wish to focus on a particular type of brand evolution, namely radical (or revolutionary) brand evolution. Thus while brand evolution is continuous, from time to time a spike enters the trajectory, which we call a major or radical form of brand evolution. The essence of radical brand evolution is the need to take a brand forward as part of a major strategic imperative. Importantly, radical brand evolutions enable a quick, large increase in the scale of the brand, say a growth of 10 percent or more in just a year or two.