The One Thing Volvo, McDonald’s, and Old Spice Have in Common

The biggest issue for old, established brands is that they can sometimes be viewed as boring and archaic in the eyes of today’s young consumers. Understanding this, Volvo, McDonald’s, and Old Spice – three brands that dominated the baby boomer generation – have made significant pivots in order to become relevant with millennials.

Volvo Transitions from Safe to Premium

Volvo has always made high-quality vehicles and parts, but the brand’s name has traditionally been associated with words like “safety” and “reliability.” These aren’t bad associations, but they certainly aren’t sleek or sexy.

“The build quality of the brand’s cars has always been unimpeachable but styling and performance appeared to be way down the priority list for the Swedish firm,” says one car expert. “However, the last few years have seen Volvo undergo something of an image revolution; all without relinquishing its position at the front of the pack for safety. Volvos have been steadily becoming more elegant and desirable, and have crept up among the premium brands.”

In addition to redesigning the appearance and body style of its traditional vehicles, Volvo has also heavily invested in performance parts and technology made for racing cars. In particular, Volvo’s 242 Turbo Evolution performance model elevated the brand to a status synonymous with “power,” “speed” and “fury.” This racing car’s upgraded parts included an improved suspension, a bigger turbo, and a bigger intercooler than the Volvo parts used in the standard 242.

The redesign and rebranding appears to be working, with Volvo reporting record sales of 503,127 in 2015. This was the first time the company sold more than half a million vehicles in its nearly 90-year history.

McDonald’s Cafeteria Redesign

Facing a multi-year sales slump at the hands of increased competition and rising attacks against “unhealthy” fast food, McDonald’s recently decided that something must be done to stay relevant. Their biggest decision was to update each franchise with a handful of upscale, modern redesigns. The goal was to move away from that old cafeteria feel and towards a more comfortable and intimate restaurant.

“A lot of the things we’re doing now in terms of menu, technology, and customization, I don’t think you can do that effectively in a non-modernized restaurant,” says Max Carmona, the company’s senior director of U.S. restaurant design. “Modernized restaurants are the foundation for all these great ideas and innovations.”

The redesigns have been rolling out for a few years, but roughly 80 percent of the chain’s domestic locations have yet to be updated. The impact of the redesigns isn’t known, but the fast food giant is hoping it’ll spark new interest in the company’s classic burgers.

Old Spice: Not Your Daddy’s Product

For years, the younger generation saw Old Spice as a grooming product for their fathers and grandfathers. Understanding this conundrum, Old Spice executives invested in a major rebranding effort.

Ditching archaic product names, Old Spice debuted new products with names like “High Endurance” and “Red Zone.” However, it was the company’s ad campaigns that truly took the brand to the next level.

The “Smell Like a Man, Man” ad campaign was a huge success, sparking both sales and brand recognition. In the six months after the new products and campaign launched, Old Spice body wash sales increased by 27 percent.

Rebranding into Relevancy

Longstanding, traditional brands have certain forces working for them and other forces working against them. To their advantage, they have a lot of brand equity and reputation, as well as existing marketplace recognition. To their dismay, these brands are often seen as archaic and outdated.

While not easy, these three brands show it’s possible to leverage brand equity and defeat an antiquated image by using unique and modernized approaches that reposition value offerings in the minds of consumers.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.