My favorite film is “The Count of Monte Cristo.” In a nutshell, a guy is betrayed, loses everything, ends up in a dark dungeon for years, and from there embarks on an adventure that catapults him right to the top. I love a good redemption story! And here in Tampa, we have our own redemption tale. You might have noticed it if you’ve ever driven around the city. It’s on car bumpers and windows, on billboards, houses… heck, even on people’s dogs! It’s the iconic white or blue Tampa Bay Lightning bolt. And it’s everywhere!
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The Struggle Is Real
The Lightning is the local hockey team and even though today they’re a force to be reckoned with, they haven’t always been in that position. Sure the team had its moment of glory when it won the Stanley Cup in 2004, but from then until recent years, it was in its own dark dungeon, just like our pal Edmond Dantès from “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Poor performance saw this championship team reach all-time lows between 2005 and 2010.
New Focus, New Image
But then change started to happen. On Monday, January 31st, 2011, the Lightning unveiled a new logo and jersey system. They called it a part of “a complete brand and business transformation.” Changes in management, coaching staff, and players led the Lightning down a path that would see them end up as Eastern Conference Champions and battling at the Stanley Cup Finals for a second time during their 2014-2015 season.
Since 2011 fandom has intensified for the Bolts (as the team has come to be known). Drive around Tampa and you’ll see the brand stamped all over the city. If you’re downtown during a game night be prepared to spend some time in traffic, as thousands of fans flock to Amalie Arena to cheer for their team. Tampa is a small city, but as I learned from Gasparilla and am now learning from the Lightning, this city has a big heart and they stand behind their identity. And, you know… it helps to have a well-designed little lightning bolt icon to brand yourself as a fan.
Other Stories of Brand Redemption
The Tampa Bay Lightning is one example of brand redemption among many. In reading Howard Schultz’s Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time and Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, I caught a glimpse into Starbucks’ humble beginnings, the decline of its brand integrity, and how it climbed back to the top to become one of the strongest brands in the world. It required major restructuring, its founder returning to run the company and restore the brand’s soul, and some crazy initiatives that shook the company to its core, but it all paid off in the end.
Old Spice recreated itself from a brand that no man under 60 would dare associate himself with into a brand with wit, character, and appeal. After an ad campaign featuring former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa went viral, Old Spice Body Wash sales rose 11% in a year. The product didn’t change, but the image associated with the product did, making it a very successful rebrand.
Target was once indistinguishable from its competitors Walmart and K-Mart. Nowadays, it’s the second largest discount retailer in U.S. Harvard Business School calls Target’s strategy “cheap chic.” The store took two major steps: revamping its branding and striking deals with designers such as Issac Mizrahi, Mossimo Giannulli, Michael Graves, and Fiorucci to offer pared down versions of designer apparel and merchandise. And the strategy worked like a charm, taking the retailer from being plain-old Target, to becoming the phenomena known as “Tar-zhay.”
Get Back Up
The greatest of all time, the late Muhammad Ali, said, “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” That’s true about a man, and it’s true about a brand. The Tampa Bay Lightning saw dark days. There was struggle. There were failures. But there were also changes made to management, coaching staff, players, and to their image. There was hard work. There was consistency. And now the Bolts enjoy a loyal, passionate fan base eager to brand themselves as a part of the Bolts Nation.
In 2011, when announcing the new brand and company direction, then new team owner Jeff Vinik said the new vision for the team was “inspired by championship values; an organization committed to Tampa Bay, giving back through leadership, mentoring and charitable contributions; a state-of-the-art venue; and the recognition that our greatest assets are our fans… The logo change is very emblematic of our new direction.”
Getting up after falling down, rebuilding, evolving, and staying loyal to their followers… that’s how brands stay relevant and build a loyal audience.