Reinventing brands with intention

Written by Andy Ashton, Head of Innovation

Alongside disruption, brand reinvention is the thing to do in 2023. From organisations to individuals there is a whole lot of reinventing going on. Madonna is reinventing plastic surgery and her brand, whilst the corporate world uses a significant brand project,to demonstrate their progressiveness without making any significant shift in offer, process, product and activity.

Old school brand reinvention

In 1991 I remember when every branch of the Commonwealth Bank closed on a Friday and opened on Monday across the country with a new identity or marketing campaign. Another Cato project was the rebrand of media outlet Channel 7, which launched on New Year’s Eve 1999, to coincide with a new Millenia and Olympics year in Sydney. Those brand moments were big deals. Put out in the world with significant resources and effort amongst a plethora of community effort and feedback, all without social media. These brand reinventions made the news, however what was lost in all the hype was – why change? Why reinvent? Why make the effort? What’s the story to connect with? 

The Channel 7 reinvention turns out to be a strategic brand equity building project. The Sydney Olympic Games was touted to be the largest Television Broadcast Operation in history – a progressive, modern, bold brand on billions of TV screens is one enormous passive brand building opportunity. 

Why did the Commonwealth Bank brand reinvent? How does a national brand shake off the shackles of a traditional government brand to the corporate world and Mum and Dad share investors? How does a brand tell the world it is independent and like its competitors? 

Creating reinvention in a disintermediated world

Today brands are reinventing every week it seems, the majority making news with a few moany brand designers, or political typesthat  leak the project budget. How do you bump people’s automatic “too busy filter” and get the talk ,talking?

As thinking around the power of brand is ever growing, organisations reinventing are more focused on – what their brand is.The potential of how it can manifest in the market and making their brands work harder in a saturated media space.

In a media space that is saturated with ideas and expressions, how can brands and methods stick?  The brands that are making waves are completely conscious how they appear to consumers. A clip with Oprah the other day made me think of this idea – she was asked about her experience with successful people, her response – these people know. Know who they are, know what they want and know where they are going.

How do you know what to reinvent?

I can’t help thinking about ideas that Simon Senik kicks about. Senik’s Why and Leadership books are old news in the marketing world, however there are provocations and sentiments in regards to change, reinvention that stick. The deeper question to ask is what is the case and motivation for change? Some brands are on the extremes of declining market share, brands like F45 urgently need attention while Grilled seems to be in a more competitive place. The extreme end needs some extraordinary thinking across the business, while the brands in competitive space have the space to think, explore and reset. 

Brands are ultimately a people thing, and starting a customer centered approach puts brands in a place to assess real connection with consumers. Senick’s Why book proposed that making more revenue is a result of a smart consumer centered approach, connecting with purpose and using a compelling story, creates real cause to get behind. True validation of this effect is ultimately measured by connection. Test, rethink, prototype, review your customers will give leadership through the connection they have made. Great work is happening when the consumers connect in ways expected and unexpected, the challenge is designing seamless, strategy, marketing and creative to keep reinvention real, and cunningly seductive – easier said than done.

The best reinvention comes from the heart 

The attitude for reinvention, and understanding how this manifests in your organisation, is the only place to start. Reinvention is a group effort, how do you work it in your world? Are we in denial? Is reinvention a buzz idea, but we're in a fine situation? Is there a will to try something new? Is there a drive to make reinvention work? Or are you in an organisation that is constantly working with and excelling with change as a norm? Getting the pitch right and building trust is fundamental. If the intention doesn’t come from the heart of the business it will miss the opportunity, regardless of the degree of reinvention.

Reinvention at its best surprises, delights, inspires 

While you work out how far you can push asking – what if? There are so many types of reinvention that people have heralded change. 

What’s your attitude, make a call, own it – When Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard made the ultimate call for the Patagonia – giving the company to the environment. The stir the announcement created in the market, created excitement and opened up possibilities. 

Celebrate quality and experience – when KFC dipped into its past and celebrated it’s tradition, the money people partied too. From a constant sales dive pre 2019, sales up 11.1% in Australia Y22, is just a sample of KFCs incredible performance. 

Switch it up. Marvel believed in their storytelling ability when they switched their much loved founding channel print to motion, film. With a team focused on film, bankruptcy rapidly switched to unprecedented growth.

Go nuts, celebrate your passion. The art of creating for all ages is a master move by Lego, in a world where people can easily simplify the value of play for all ages. From a children’s toy, to all age play in lifestyle, film franchise to architecture, reality shows to blockbuster films. Lego at its core is all reinvention – build Lego and all manner of opportunity will come. 

Bring fresh eyes to it. Make a call, are your classics working, find, refine, build new ones, just make sure you surround yourself with crew that, get your brand, see it in new and old ways, and build it from the factory floor up, by thinking in terms of – I am because we are.   


Bring new relevance and new markets to great products and trusted brands. The arts in general in Oz have a broad desire to bring their product to younger and new audiences. Classical music, ballet and theatre programming is an interesting space to observe and learn from. Arts organisations are inventive as a constant – NGV’s culture / entertainment mix attracts record audiences with hunger to learn how creativity is alive in culture. The record breaking Sydney Theatre Company production directed by Kip Williams of The Picture of Dorian Grey – thrilled audiences with the merging of performance and digital media, all around the world.      

Clever cost rethinking that builds on the experience.

Often reinvention comes with a real and urgent need to keep a brand financial. Aggressive cost cutting can do brutal damage to great brands, see the latest news on F45’s firesale equipment offload. I loved that Delta Airlines invested in a second hand fleet, to reduce the financial load while the brand rebuilds.

Putting people in that are prepared to think big, know what they want, and see the potential in good people and put them in place. There are so many stories of amazing reinvention from making smart choices in people. There are as many stories where people get so wrong too – Think Homer Simpson and the car he designed for his long lost brother. Brand’s that know who they are, know their people.

Identify an audience and let your reinvention be their story to tell.  Four Pillars brand with their crafted modern take on gin was cleverly brought to market via focusing on influencers, before the term influencers existed. In 2014 Four Pillars seemed to be sponsoring every major creative event I attended at the time. Each table place was set with a beautiful sample pack, Four Pillars was served as you walked in, founder, marketing champion, Stuart Gregor up on stage briefly telling us the story of their Gins. Is it any coincidence that a great brand, incredible design story and experiences were solely from passion, hard work and Aussie luck?

Good luck with reinventing with intention.


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