By Harsh Pamnani
Growing a brand from scratch is difficult, but rebuilding a brand that enters a downward spiral is extremely difficult! Reversing that downward trend requires deliberate efforts to fix internal issues before fixing external matters. First and foremost is culture. I am confident you would have heard this statement “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If you read about the downfalls of the leading brands, one of the common reasons would be a culture of blame and fear.
The second is the bankruptcy of ideas. New ideas are required to create new categories, brands, and products and innovate around existing products to make them more appealing and valuable. The proliferation of new ideas requires a lot of cross-function collaboration, which suffers when bureaucracy, ego satisfaction, and self-interest take over the spirit of problem-solving.
The third is lost employee confidence and morale. When brands face an existential crisis, it is natural for employees to feel helpless and unhappy. When employees’ morale is down, companies move slow. Can you imagine a slow-moving incumbent winning over a fast-moving start-up? I don’t think so!
The point I want to make is to enable the bounce-back of a brand in the market; turnaround leaders have first to facilitate bounce-back internally. And once they have transformed their companies, they have to communicate this story through speeches, case studies, and media articles. The story you tell about your brand is critical and has to be credible. The storyline that works best to communicate internal transformation is – Rebirth. Now, I will explain the formula of the Rebirth storyline by breaking down Gatorade’s film ‘The Boy Who Learned to Fly’ based on the life of Usain Bolt, an Olympic legend and “The World’s Fastest Man.” I interpret that the message of this film is if you rise through internal pressure and pain, you can regain your growth momentum.
Beginning: Hero is shown as a normal person with a humble background. Here, we can talk about the early days of the company. The film’s start shows the childhood of Usain Bolt in Jamaica, an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea.
A glimpse of some internal factors: Here, we see a glimpse of certain internal factors. Some of them might be positive now, but their overdose could lead to negativity in the future. The film shows the winning and no worries attitudes of Usain Bolt. Whether it is about reaching school just on time or winning a race, Usain always had a strong desire to win.
Initial success: For a while, things go well. With hard work and determination, the hero achieves decent success. The film shows that Usain takes the running seriously, wins many competitions, and becomes the hope of Jamaica.
The dominance of an internal factor: In this storyline, the villain is an internal factor, due to which the hero gets into a negative phase. The internal factors like jealousy, greed, fear, anger, stress, etc., become a dark power and take control of the hero. The film shows that the pressure of winning every time becomes too heavy for Usain Bolt.
Dark phase: The hero feels like in prison because of the dark power, and his performance degrades. In the film, Usain starts thinking about what would happen if he didn’t win. He gets into isolation inside a dark room. He is so worried that he even forgets which shoe goes on which foot.
Miraculous redemption: A mentor helps to liberate the hero from imprisonment. In the film, Usain’s mother enters the room and makes him realise his no worries attitude. She enlightens him by saying, “You can always go fast when you keep it light.”
Spectacular success: The hero comes back with new energy and enthusiasm and wins again. In the film, Usain comes back to the running track, drinks Gatorade, and looks at the audience, competition, and media with a smile. While running, he also looks at his mother with a smile. He wins the race leaving everyone else far behind.
I tried making sense of how this film would have helped Gatorade. So, I looked at both the category and market segments of the brand. Gatorade invented the sports drink category in the 1960s and has remained a prominent brand for a long time. Suppose we look in terms of the benefit. These drinks are meant to provide energy. Gatorade not only faces competition from the other brands in the same category but also faces competition from brands in other categories known for offering similar benefits such as energy drinks, enhanced juices, protein shakes, tea, coffee, etc. The real benefit of performance-enhancing sports drinks as compared to alternatives would not be evident to every consumer. So, the popularity and penetration of this category are limited.
Now, let’s have a look at segments. I think we can broadly define segments as athletes, physically active, and health-conscious people. Perhaps, Gatorade’s core customers are serious athletes who are small in number but significant in influence. This film showcases the mini-biography of a renowned athlete and highlights his frustration. Placement of the brand at the right time in the film makes it appealing and valuable. The challenges shown in the film are not only faced by athletes but also by other performance-oriented people, so they can relate to the film. The popularity of Usain Bolt and the audience’s interest in his journey led to millions of views. Consequently, Gatorade got a connection opportunity not only with its niche target audience but also with the masses who watched this film, even just for entertainment and inspiration.
There can be many use cases of this storyline, one around the internal transformation of a company explained while breaking down the formula, another could be the inner transformation of a customer as shown in the film, and a few more.
The writer is the author of the book Booming Brands. Views expressed are personal and don’t necessarily represent any company’s opinions.
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