Rescuing a dead brand and nurturing it back to life is a special kind of business art that requires enterprise, vision and a bit of psychological savvy. Building a brand from scratch is easier, but it lacks the historic richness and recognition of a long established brand. Brands with history are already embedded in the public consciousness; whether memories are bad or good, the presence of any memory can be a marketing boon.

The burden of a brand revivalist is to rewrite the memories and reputation, erasing negative connotations and associations by reinforcing good brand qualities and rolling out new, impressive features. Following are typical strategies to reviving any brand.

Get a Second Opinion on Your Brandable Skills

Brands often fail due to the mismatch of skills of between brand and entrepreneur. Whether you are the original brand owner or the adoptive owner of a purchased and lagging brand, begin the reinvention by refocusing your identity. Get feedback from peers, former bosses, clients, professors and other evaluators about what your strengths are as well as your weaknesses. This can be done in individual interviews, emailed surveys or, preferably, in an all-day brand development conference. Be honest about how other professionals perceive your personality highlights and deficits.

Rather than forcing yourself to live up to a brand and, by extension, an impossible identity, tailor the new brand to fit who you are and your valuable traits. Let it be a distinct, custom brand that only you can present because it conforms to your experience, talents and skills.  In this way, the new brand identity is unique, memorable and in harmony with your identity.

There are situations, of course, when you need to completely change fields and markets; in those cases, you might need to undergo training for new skills but these should not be so beyond your natural aptitude that you feel ill-prepared as the executive behind the brand.

Create a Legend

Once you have your identity, immortalize it. Every reinvention needs a good narrative. This story must be truthful and it should narrate the crash and fall of your previous life, career or business in such a way that it emphasizes character and the values of your new brand. The general public loves a back story and can relate to underdog entrepreneurs who struggle to get back on top.

Once polished, this story can be disseminated through brand literature, advertisements, word-of-mouth and social media. Have a short-hand, pithy version of the story that can be used to influence your brand elements; the image in the logo, the colors, the slogan should all pay homage to the themes and motifs in the legend. Do not make the narrative too personal; the goal is tell the tale of how a brand, not your ego, got reborn.

Modify and Expand the Brand

Dead brands typically have a dearth of public interest, profit and innovation, generally because they failed to grow. They stayed unchanged while competitors in their midst evolved with the times.  Upon revival, zero in on nostalgic aspects and the few remaining selling points of the brand.

These features can attract brand loyalists and be used as a foundation that keeps the brand recognizable so that the public gets a sense of the business as the same but vastly improved. The improvements come from modifications, such as an expanded product or service line, a new building or atmosphere, a new style of marketing or a new community and social media presence.  All alterations should present the brand as fresh, in-style and contemporary.

Stage a Major Reintroduction

Once you’ve designed your elements, retooled your identity, salvaged the remaining positive brand features and expanded the offerings, now is the time to capture the interest of the public. The reintroduction campaign should be designed to impact offline and online audiences, local and remote audiences.  Activities can include the unveiling of a new website, blog and social profiles, special promotions and marketing campaigns, viral videos or memes, contests and old-fashioned live events in multiple locations.

Launching by partnering with related businesses to roll out bundled services or products has also been an effective reintroduction practice. Furthermore, if a formerly dead brand still has a warehouse of stock, interest in the brand can be revived months before the re-launch by selling these items as limited, commemorative pieces and collectibles.

Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. Willie writes about marketing, branding, innovation among other topics. In addition to writing for firms such as IBM, Colgate, Transunion, Webroot and a multitude of private clients and websites including Cloverleaf Innovation’s website.