The Re-Brand Blues: A Cautionary Tale

Posted in Insights


Launching a redesign often forces brands to tip-toe along the fine line between their existing audience of die hard fans and a new target audience that will play into the brand’s continued growth. Understanding the relationship between these two groups is crucial to pulling off a successful re-launch, striking a balance that embraces the new while celebrating the old.

Our Art Director Mehran Azma knows a thing or two about this specific level of brand advocacy—and as an aficionado of Norton Motorcycles, he’s felt the acute disappointment that comes with a miscalculated rebrand. We’ll let him tell it, and you can read the full article with lessons learned online in HOW Magazine.

*Brand Obsession Fuels Brand Revival
By Mehran Azma

I’m a loyalist — a fervent fan who consumes inspiration and sticks by historic brands I worship. I assume most creative sorts have found themselves at one point or another obsessing over some timeless source of inspiration, too. Once our allegiance is sworn, we become advocates — an invaluable asset to any brand.

A successful brand redesign takes into consideration how deep and detailed this loyalist connection goes. For me, both the case in point and cautionary tale is the brand redesign of Norton Motorcycles. Admittedly, my level of obsession goes beyond mere business considerations. But it serves to show how deep the core goes and how much is there to mine.

After several stunted comeback attempts and ownership transitions, the brand returned to its British heritage in the late 2000s and underwent a massive revitalization campaign with new, race-focused models for higher-end markets. And it is here, in the contemporary landscape, where the brand is compromising its very own legacy of innovation, speed, and pedigree.

By pushing for diversification, Norton is attempting to cast a wider net to attract a larger audience (with bigger pocketbooks for higher profits). But the simplicity in this principle is its very flaw; Norton is isolating its original, fiercely loyal, customer base.

Meanwhile, peers like Triumph and Royal Enfield have retained their popularity and stability through the decades by honoring their design traditions, retaining classically styled models, while thoughtfully progressing to contemporary standards. It can be done.

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