LONDON: Revitalising a brand may be necessary not only to avoid becoming irrelevant in a fast-changing environment but also as a relatively low-cost, low-risk alternative to new product development, according to a leading industry figure.

In a Warc Best Practice paper, How to revitalise a brand, Giles Lury of The Value Engineers, sets out the steps marketers can take to reinvent a brand that is showing signs of stagnation, starting by asking 'Where are we' and accepting that this approach is actually necessary.

Following on the 'where', marketers need to understand the 'why' and that, says Lury, means "taking an honest and fresh perspective on recent performance of the brand, its competitors, and consumer needs and expectations".

There are several reasons a brand may find itself in this situation, from natural ageing – "all brands (and products) go through a natural lifecycle and will plateau and ultimately decline" – to neglect or abuse (via over-extension for example).

A more specific form of abuse, which Lury terms sabotage, was evident when Volkswagen suffered huge damage to its reputation having admitted cheating emissions tests in the US.

Sometimes external factors, such as new players or natural disasters, can be the catalyst for revitalisation.

After 'why', marketers then need to identify where they want to be and how they are going to get there.

"There are three methodologies for exploring alternative strategies to get the brand in a better place," advises Lury. "In exploring ways to build a new future for a brand, it is important to look backwards, forwards and sideways."

Thus, brand archaeology can be a powerful tool to help reinterpret founding principles in the light of changing consumer trends.

And looking at what rival brands have done or brands in a similar situation in other categories can provide valuable learning. As Lury notes: "Stealing with pride is a well-practiced technique in innovation but can work equally well in the realm of brand revitalisation."

The final step is monitoring performance and adapting the strategy if required.

It is important to recognise that revitalisation is unlikely to be successful, especially in the longer-term without new investment, Lury adds. "Expecting to turn-around an on-going decline without additional resources is unrealistic."

Data sourced from Warc