Whining, Dining, and Other Unpaid Observations

Wrangler Rebranding: E for Effort?

Posted in advertising by KP on September 21, 2009

Businesses are hurting. Retail is struggling. Non-essential, non-luxury products have taken a nose-dive. So it makes sense that certain brands would like to increase their consumer baseĀ  to include new, different, more demographics.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” And in most cases, it’s true. Many brands are afraid to get old and die, so they make sweeping efforts to shift their images into something more appealing, more modern, more upscale, more desirable, more sellable.

We’ve seen it happen with Target Stores and Levi-Strauss. But does it always work? Nope. Case in point: New Coke.

Now it’s Wrangler’s turn to pull out a new direction. It’s too soon to speak for its success or failure, but it’s safe to say that Wrangler is one of our country’s more iconic brands, possessed of a concrete, steadfast and well-known image. What do you think of when you hear Wrangler? Cowboy. Rugged. Rustic. Rural. Western. Man’s man.

I’m not implying that it is impossible to alter this image, to make it something different. But it will be tough. There may be a resistance to accept a new connotation for Wrangler. It may be nearly impossible to rid its original image from many consumers. Current Wrangler customers may be put off by its posturing to a different market. Said different market may scoff at Wrangler’s attempts to reach them.

The Wrangler brand makes a statement, and it’s been a consistent statement since its inception.

Wrangler.com still features rugged spokesmen Brett Favre, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Stran Smith. But their new ‘WE ARE ANIMALS’ campaign, masterminded by French ad agency Fred & Farid, speaks to a different audience altogether.

In this “Stop Thinking” spot, manly activities are still present, but my, what a tone. Who and where are these ominous, philosophical tough guys to which they’re trying to appeal here? I can’t help but like the aesthetics of it, although the copy quickly becomes redundant and the guttural voice-over is rather off-putting (and reminescent of Christian Bale’s ridiculous Batman growl in The Dark Knight). But the strategy? Not exactly kissing cousins with the typical Wrangler ad fare. And although that’s the point, the rebranding effort feels much too forced, too extreme, to stick.

The other commercials, one featuring the existentialist question “Why do we live when we know we will die?” and the other, a :14 home video-style shot of a crawling baby, have been removed from YouTube due to terms of use violations. But we still have this haunting beauty which is, I believe, the first of the series: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/tv/wrangler_animals.

Okay. If you’re going to go that far off the lam from traditional Wrangler, why keep the cowboy-western-rope-typeface? It’s such an odd, jarring, nonsensical juxtaposition.

But that’s not the biggest issue here. The cinematography is, admittedly, gorgeous, but it’s so abstract, so far removed from the beaten path that it comes across as silly and try-hard. Creative for creative’s sake does not always translate into higher sales and a bigger bottom line; there has to be a strong, purposeful strategy running parallel. This new campaign will certainly get press and word-of-mouth, but will it rustle up a new generation of Wrangler-wearers? At this point, it’s looking like a negative, cowboy.