Spreading the Word (and Faith) of Rebirth

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As I sit and write thinking about the recently celebrated holidays of Easter and Passover, I almost sacrilegiously wonder if the notion of rebirth extends to inanimate objects or concepts, such as a brand. After all, the idea of "resurrection"-and even the term itself-is recognized as much as a business or personal image challenge as well as a belief of faith. Only recently, I gave some of my clients a talk about how we needed to "resurrect" their brands' image and appeal, how we needed to unearth the secrets of past success and make them relevant for today. It really was quite telling when the words and phrases we were using freely in a conversation about a brand felt like they came straight from the pulpit: "The competition is crucifying us-we're being nailed to the cross." If this is the language of branding and business, then, we had better give thanks above, everyday.

In my world, destiny after brand death is often rebirth by another word: Relaunch, revitalization, rebranding, revisioning, reactivation or reengineering are just some of the "re" words marketers put toward the divine intervention of resuscitating business.

Consider the T-shirt. In the early part of the 20th century, it was discovered by American soldiers in Europe and became popular as men's underwear. Movie stars like Marlon Brando made it sexy as outerwear, and retail stars like Mickey Drexler made it, and The Gap, the choice of the young, hip and stylish. Talk about rebirth through marketing. From undershirt to sex symbol to "individuals of style."

But in the end, the ongoing reactivation of the T-shirt could have been predicted. What keeps it hot, hip and desirable, to one degree or another, is its original appeal-it's underwear that everyone is allowed to see. The T-shirt has always been a statement of rebellion. As The Gap continues to lose its appeal with trend-interested youth, it might be a good time to think about rebirth, revitalization or re-engaging Mr. Drexler, whose past successes continue to foretell the future of whatever he is involved in.

Looking at it this way, we see that the present is only a link or moment that extends back to the past and forward into the future. It's a process. The past provides the history that will predict the future. Focusing on the latent aspects of a brand that needs a shot in the arm and unearthing its original roots of success will allow for rediscovery. The job of the marketer or advertiser is to make that DNA relevant for the times at hand. Revival from the roots up.

The birth of Sony is a great case of success from the roots up that inspired the rebirth of something much larger than itself. When Akio Morita began to manufacture his first products for his post-World War II company, he tapped into a deep consumer need at the time-to be able to cook, eat and bring more joy to everyday life. One of the first Sony products was an electric-powered rice cooker. It marked the birth of Sony as well as the rebirth of hope for a country and its people.

How many times have you said or heard the phrase, "There is nothing new under the sun?" The exact phrase is, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." It is from the Bible in Ecclesiastes 1:9.

You can obviously argue that there have been a lot of new things in the past 3,000 years, but I would hazard a guess that if you are able to trace the roots of something, it will have a place in history that is merely being repeated in an updated version. Sometimes as marketers we try to resurrect a business, a brand, an image, a product or a service without doing our homework and researching roots, primary and secondary attributes and history of success.

Sometimes we focus too much on failure: Why did the brand fail in the marketplace? What went wrong? If we want to truly resurrect something, we need to look at what went right and re-engineer a program to cause it to happen again.

Rebirth by all its names-in history, in religion and in life-does not happen because an almighty being decided to do a post-mortem on what went wrong. Rebirth is a positive, a reward for success or goodness, and only happens when all involved celebrate what went right.

Reclaim. Recommit. Recapture. Rediscover. This is the new gospel, according to Peter.
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