By  on October 30, 2007

For some mature brands, reinvention is the only source of survival. For others, it's an impossibility that no amount of financial resources and design talent can accomplish.

Companies such as Burberry, Coach, Gucci, Lacoste, Dior, Diane von Furstenberg, Guess and J. Crew are textbook cases of brands that have reinvented themselves and enjoyed tremendous success in a second life. They could offer lessons to others such as Gap, Liz Claiborne, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, Halston and Tommy Hilfiger, all of which are currently in the midst of trying to reinvent themselves. These labels had overwhelming success during their heydays, but have matured and lost their way over the last few years.

Marketers caution that reinventing a brand can't be done overnight because the company can lose its loyal customers before winning over new ones, as was the case at St. John several years ago, which dramatically changed its fit and target customer with disappointing results. After several painful seasons, it has since returned to its original designer, Marie Gray, and traditional fit and is experiencing a comeback at retail.

Hiring the right designer is often viewed as the critical component to reengineering a brand, and total attention must be paid to the brand in an effort to return to its essence and reason for being successful in the first place, said experts. They also say it's easier to reinvent a brand when it's out of the spotlight (i.e., not a public company) and Wall Street isn't demanding improvements every quarter. But sometimes brands achieve tremendous success because they hit the market at the right time and no amount of reinvention can resuscitate them, nor can they flourish in the same channels as they had previously. These brands often need to consider different channels of distribution, or a time-out, so to speak.

WWD surveyed brand and marketing specialists about what it takes these days to reinvigorate a mature brand. Is it a new designer, an infusion of capital, a completely overhauled product line, a new channel of distribution, or a different business model?

"Brands, like people, have cycles," said Marc Gobé, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Desgrippes Gobé. "There's the genesis, the maturing, the brand ages, then you have to consider rebirth and reinvention. Some have a hard time to make that jump."

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