A mountain bike component company enlisted my help to repair their brand reputation.
After years of product quality and reliability problems, their reputation had hit an all time low. Online forums and social media channels were filled hostile and negative comments, and stories of broken and failed products. Sales were down; consumers were switching to other brands, and some dealers were refusing to stock the products. New management had been brought in to address the product quality issues, but the brand was facing an uphill battle to repair its reputation and regain trust.
We analyzed the market and determined that the specialist media was influential in shaping perception. We interviewed the most influential editors worldwide about their perception of the brand, products, and marketing and determined (1) the products were regarded as attractive but fragile or unreliable, (2) most editors had not reviewed a product from the brand in several years, and (3) the brand had a very low association with professional athletes, despite the fact that many top riders were choosing to use the products.
We also analyzed how the brand had presented itself in previous years. We determined that lifestyle and athlete imagery was underutilized, and that the brand aesthetic was due for an update.
We crafted a marketing strategy based around education, transparency, and social proof. We realigned the brand closely with professional athletes across all disciplines and re-weighted emphasis on specific disciplines. We updated the brand aesthetic to reinforce strength and confidence, as well as signal to the market that brand had turned a new leaf.
We launched an aggressive PR campaign to educate mountain bike media, dealers, and consumers about the new management team, dedication to quality, and reliability improvements that had been made to the product. We developed tight-knit relationships with editors, offered them exclusive product-driven stories, and secured front-page coverage during key times of the year. We also enlisted the them to communicate about new products and prove their quality through real world, long term, independent testing.
We revitalized relationships with existing athletes, and identified new athletes to endorse the brand. We leveraged these relationships through advertising, PR, social media, and guerrilla marketing, creating a strong connection to the athletes. This offered social proof that the products lived up to quality and performance claims, and made the brand more aspirational in the eyes of the core audiences. Specific guerrilla marketing tactics further highlighted top athletes using and winning races on the products, and increased visibility and brand perception through editorial coverage.
We updated the brand aesthetic to be more powerful, confident, and energetic across all touch points including website, social media, advertisements, and packaging. Bold and provocative headlines and imagery of top athletes helped to reinforce the message that products were tested and proven in extreme conditions by the world’s best riders.
Historically, the brand had hidden from its problems, ignoring or playing down product quality issues and, in some cases, even blaming consumers for product failures. The new strategy was to be transparent and forthcoming; engaging with consumers through social media, admitting and apologizing for past mistakes, explaining what steps had been taken to address them, and reiterating the commitment to quality moving forward. We organized an open forum on the world’s largest mountain bike website, offering direct engagement and transparency with millions of consumers, marking a major turning point in brand perception. Once consumers felt they had been heard, and that the brand had owned up to its mistakes, they were receptive to its messages and willing to give it a second chance. Many of the brand’s biggest haters on social media, became its biggest defenders.
In just two years, the brand went from rock-bottom reputation to being voted the #1 most desirable brand in their category. The brand regained the trust and respect of consumers and dealers, launched one of its most successful product lines to date, and sales soared.