How Changes in Perception Impact Your Brand

August 17th, 2010 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Factors like crisis, the environment or changing perceptions can dramatically impact a brand.

Let’s take a look at what happened to some brands that faced changed perceptions.


Kentucky Fried Chicken was a highly successful franchise selling fried chicken.  The company did not have a crisis like BP or AIG. Rather, the environment around healthy eating changed.  Fried foods were considered less healthy than grilled foods.

Response: They re-branded to KFC.  The acronym name derived directly from the then current name.  They went further and rolled out a lined of grilled chicken.


Prunes and prune juice are often associated with senior citizens or aiding bodily digestion.  California prune growers wanted to broaden their market.

Response: The growers went back to how prunes are created.  They are dried plums.  Therefore, they began advertising them as dried plums.  A whole new marketplace for snacks opened up.


Similar to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s healthy food challenge, read meat was vilified as being bad for you.  Pork was hurt by the decrease in “meat” sales while chicken was growing since it was not red meat.

Response: Pork was advertised as “the other white meat.” Immediately, sales began to rise and continued to grow.

The Takeaway

Remember the old saying, if you have lemons make lemonade. You can change the paradigm around your brand with innovative thinking.

Those are my ideas.  What do you think?  Please comment below.

  1. What other examples of re-branding can you suggest?
  2. What other reasons should a company re-brand?
  3. Do you feel KFC, Dried Plums and Pork were successful in their re-branding?

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  1. I love branding. It’s what I do for a living, so I really liked this post and will be sharing it.

  2. Great food for thought Rob! There seems to be a thread running through your three examples and that is, these companies rebranded in a way that has more appeal to younger or “hipper” / contemporary / health conscious consumers.


    • Rob Berman says:

      If you stay with your market as it ages you become the Lincoln Towncar. A model that no longer will be made. Think about oldies stations. What is too old?


  3. Laura Sheman says:

    These are all really good examples. I can’t seem to think of any others, but I know there must be many.

    It is interesting that prunes got a bad reputation. I have to admit that dried plums sound MUCH better and more yummy. ODD!

    • Rob Berman says:


      It is about perception isn’t it? Remember Gilligan’s Island. Some people wanted to be like Ginger and others like Maryann. It all depends on how you view things.


  4. Abercrombie & Fitch was a staid old chain that sold sporting goods and catered to older customers. It totally rebranded itself to appeal to young, hip consumers by using sexy models in provocative ads to sell a casual line of clothing. The younger generation probably doesn’t even remember the “old” Abercrombie. It’s one of the most successful rebranding campaigns I’ve ever seen.

  5. Julius says:

    Great post. It’s interesting to see how changes in perception impact your brand.
    I think it’s important that there actually is an impact on brands.
    The best way you can see how brands changed is by looking at the automotive industry. I mean now that everyone is demanding “greener” cars all the companies are trying to go with that wave. And I think it’s good that that is the case. It makes me believe that we still have a chance to change things in the world.

  6. I think rebranding pork as the other white meat was brilliant. I did try to think of another example of rebranding and cigarettes came to my mind. I recently saw the email that went around that had old ads with well-known stars like Lucille Ball and Ronald Reagan smoking and the camel ad that said “More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” (We certainly will never see another ad with Santa Clause puffing on a cigarette!)

    Anyways, I did a quick Google to see if I could find anything about how cigarette companies have responded to federal regulations and I came up with this post on how companies responded to having to change words like “light” and “mild”. These examples are showing how they’re using colors as a substitution. I’m not a smoker. So, I haven’t noticed these subtle changes but it is interesting when you stop to think about rebranding – especially when you’re forced to.

    • Rob Berman says:


      I looked at the cigarette blog post. Interesting approach to changing wording. No matter what they do it won’t be the same as being able to say “light” or “low tar.” Colors create certain impressions that can be played up in the branding. Thanks for the extra “homework.”


  7. Unbelievable that someone managed to sell pork as “the other white meat” and get more sales.

    It would be difficult to find something unhealthier than pork.

    Gucci did fantastic re-branding some 8-10 years ago. Would be hard to find a more successful effort.

  8. Rob – great points. Perception is everything. For a brand to change in accordance with public perception means they are paying attention to what the public wants – kudos to them. I have to laugh at Julia’s response, “Why not just call them prunes” – good one Julia :). I think calling pork the “other white meat” is brilliant. As far as Kentucky Fried Chicken – I still remember when I was a teenager (a LONG time ago) they got some bad publicity about someone finding a fried rat instead of chicken in their bucket. Not sure if it was true or hype, but it will take nothing short of a miracle for me to get that image out of my mind.

    • Rob Berman says:


      I remember the whole rat incident as well. I guess I am not as young as I think I am :). I have been reluctant to go there ever since. KFC continues to have ongoing PR challenges like that one.


  9. I just saw an ad for dried plums. My first thought was why don’t they just say prunes (I like prunes). It never occurred to me why they were doing that. Great strategy.

    According to my daughter KFC should rebrand again. After some media about cruelty to chickens, she calls them Kentucky fried cruelty.

  10. Some companies rebranding was around their logo, eg, Pepsi. How does this fit? Is it critical or optional to rebranding?

    I don’t know about the Plums success – I still don’t care for prunes!

    Public perception seems to be a big reason. I would think if a target market changed it would be critical to rebrand. Or if a position was weak from the get-go.

    Lots to think about. Thanks.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Logos are a shorthand for a brand. You see the logo and think of the brand. I think it is critical that the logo fits with the brand image.


  11. Susan Oakes says:

    The same portk campaign was done in my country as well and it did quite well I believe.

    One example that did not work was for a consulting company and unfortunately I can’t remember the name hat tried to go with.

    After spending a lot of money they rebranded and then had to change it. I think one reason for the failure was that they did not have the necessary customer insights needed if you are going to rebrand.

  12. I don’t remember the rebranding of dried plums but believe both KFC and Pork were highly effective rebrands. I still think of pork as “the other white meat”.

    Federal Express changed to FED EX, and UPS refers to themselves as “Brown”. Both of those seem to impact name recognition and positivity as opposed to rebranding due to a negative situation. Rebranding to accomodate the nuances of a new market or new generation seems logical if one wants to reach them.

    • Rob Berman says:


      United Parcel Service re-branded as UPS. They refer to themselves as brown because of the trucks, uniforms etc. Each competing shipper has its color. Think about sugar and sugar substitutes in restaurants. You have yellow, blue, pink etc packets.


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