Online rebranding can have a profound impact on the success of a business. There are terrific examples to support the need to rethink your branding.
Over the past few years, Fortnite has established itself as one of the most lucrative properties in the world.
Its ‘freemium’ model has proven an immense success for developer Epic Games and has propelled them to new heights, now hosting internationally watched esports tournaments and announcing their own bespoke launcher for PC.
The impact is undeniable, although many thought the virtual juggernaut would last long into the future.
And yet, over the weekend, the world of Fortnite literally exploded, leaving nothing but emptiness behind for its players.
Typically, you would predict a move that affected so many consumers and prevented them from accessing the product would be met with no small backlash from its millions of fans.
However, that’s not what happened. Instead, out of the dark, Fortnite now has a bigger spotlight on it than ever.
Fortnite Rocks Gamers
What’s interesting is that the game as we now know it radically different than the original released four years ago.
In fact, it had a massive rebranding not too long ago, moving from a paid, co-operative format to a free-to-play model where there was a much bigger emphasis on competitive play.
It piggybacked off the success of the ‘battle royal’ movement; a trend of titles that a set number of players would fight in a ‘last man standing’ competition.
With no paywall, Fortnite became the default for fans of the genre.
The developer capitalised on this by implementing paid incentives, such as the battle pass subscription that would reward continued play with items, outfits and more.
It was a bold move as none of these rewards offered competitive benefits, instead serving a purely cosmetic purpose. They were entirely reliant on their customer’s willingness to buy things they didn’t even need to play the game. But it worked, spectacularly so.
Now, Epic Games are being bold again, seemingly wiping Fortnite completely, restricting access to the game and replacing the world with a black hole.
While some players are frustrated about it, the majority are anticipating the next announcement.
To summarise; a company has spontaneously ended a service provided to millions that make millions with no forewarning.
There’s no doubt that, when the next chapter launches, these enthralled spectators will be there from the get-go.
Re-brands are daunting; it means the end of a campaign or product that has worked and the start of something new, with no certainty of success. The temptation here is to play it safe, replicate the same values or practises that have helped in the past.
However, as we’re now seeing with Fortnite, sometimes, the radical pays off. With that in mind, let’s look at a few more iconic products and services that have successfully reinvented themselves.
Kanye West; From Yeezus to Jesus
Now Kanye might not be a product, but he has done everything he can to make himself so.
He has experienced ups and downs in his career. A horrifying accident that nearly took his speech, maligned for his political beliefs, and struggling with mental health issues.
If nothing else, Kanye started as he meant to go on. He is no stranger to a headline and has made many for his on-stage antics and larger than life persona.
The latest instance of this came at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, where he confirmed his recent conversion to Christianity. The news coincides with the release of his new album ‘Jesus Is King’, which has clearly been inspired by this.
It is already late, with an original release date of September previously announced by his wife, Kim Kardashian.
These concept records portray West as a godlike figure, most noticeably in the titles ‘Jesus’ and ‘Gandhi’, two religious’ icons.
Ironically, his shift away from this egocentric persona has led to even more faith-like performances.
He didn’t just find god this year, he found a new avenue for his artistic expression and potential revenue.
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Greggs Vegan Roll
From Kanye to Greggs, a smoother transition you will not see.
Greggs has long been entrenched in British life and has marketed itself as a symbol of the working class.
It isn’t the vegan option that has gained so much attention, but how they connected it to the cultural image Greggs represents.
Let’s start with the product itself; the Vegan Sausage Roll.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Vegan Roll became a nationwide fad, so much so that many shops ran out of stock.
Part of this involved purposefully engaging with their biggest critics, none of whom were more high profile than Piers Morgan. The GMB outrage machine has become the unofficial spokesman for anti-veganism, lambasting any company who venture into such territory.
However, Greggs was more than prepared for this wave of backlash.
Digital Brand Communications Manager Neil Knowles acknowledged this on Twitter, replying to Morgan with ‘Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you’.
It’s a very clever strategy; kick the hornet’s nest and use the resulting drama to drum up interest.
This isn’t the first time they’ve used detractors to propel themselves either.
They went to a fine-dining festival as ‘Gregory & Gregory’, disguised as an upmarket option in May of 2018.
The team asked the unwitting attendees to try the food and give their thoughts, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response.
Greggs will always have their core consumer base, but they’re also one of the few brands to successfully gain new ones.
Channel 4 ‘Complaints Welcome’
Every example so far has generally been a case of positive audience interaction,
There may have been elements of conflict, but never an outright confrontation.
Well, in the case of Channel 4 in 2019, they did the unthinkable and went to war with their viewers.
In their ‘Complaints Welcome’ campaign, the broadcaster had celebs read out genuine viewer complaints.
It covered a variety of topics; from telling veteran newscaster Jon Snow he ‘knows nothing’ to gay actor Kieron Richardson reading ‘why do we have to have gays kissing at dinner time.’
There is a tendency for TV networks to apologise for being offensive or remaining neutral on issues they probably shouldn’t.
By reading actual comments using the people they are aimed at to deliver them, Channel 4 accomplished two things.
They were able to show how often they receive backlash, but also how little this affects them as a brand.
Channel 4 has always been one of the more socially progressive broadcasters out there, but even for them, this is a brave strategy.
They are challenging their audience. The identity of the channel revolves around this celebration of diversity.
These adverts were an extension of that, effectively saying ‘react how you want, we’re not going to change our programming’.
Channel 4 has committed to this so strongly, endearing themselves for the foreseeable future.
Paddy Power and Huddersfield
We finish with one of the true kings of marketing; Paddy Power.
Many have been good-natured; others less so, and the brand has a slightly controversial reputation as a result.
Paddy Power has always been ‘cheeky’ to say the least, taking risks no other name in their business would dare.
Nobody was surprised when they announced they were Huddersfield Town’s new sponsor represented by a giant sash across the shirt.
They were angry though, as many saw this move as an affront to everything sacred in football.
The financial gap between the top tiers and bottom wider than ever before.
Clubs like Bury have been casualties of this and, in the eyes of many, this was blatant disrespect.
Commenters labeled it ‘the worst kit ever’. Many pointed to the nature of the strip as Paddy Power’s indifference to the importance of football’s more sentimental aspects.
Paddy Power had pulled a huge bait-and-switch; after playing a pre-season game in the shirt, they revealed the stunt was a hoax. In actuality, Paddy Power was removing the shirt sponsor altogether.
The criticism showed the importance of the kit to fans and how sponsorships have ruined its nature.
They even took aim at fellow betting companies, criticising that fourteen English Championship teams had sports betting brand sponsors.
Suddenly, Paddy Power went from the class comedians who made careless jokes to a company championing the fan’s footballing integrity.
Some said it was all just for good PR, which is probably true.
It’s the classic redemption story; once seen as an agent of those forces that would destroy the integrity of football, Paddy Power has redeemed themselves.
The rebranding itself might have been for Huddersfield, but it’s the Irish bookies that profited.
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