The cat’s out of the bag: Coach Inc. will now be known as Tapestry as of October 31. Yes this is big news and not just for the fashion world, but for anyone who owns a business, handles marketing for a company going through M&A, works in marketing for a small business, or has ever thought of rebranding. Why is that? Because the rebrand of this multi-billion dollar fashion conglomerate, which includes Coach, Stuart Weitzman and the recently acquired Kate Spade, is a wonderful lesson in what you’ll want to avoid when announcing the rebranding your company.
Let’s me explain where it’s gone awry thus far:
1. Choosing A New Name
Ok I get it. “Coach Inc.” no longer represents all the brands that are now part of this fashion house following the Stuart Weitzman acquisition in 2015 for $574 million and the Kate Spade acquisition for $2.4 billion this past May. However, how does “Tapestry” bring these three very established brands together? Are they woven together like a tapestry that hangs in your grandmother’s house?
A quick review of their social media accounts and website and guess what? Nothing! There is no explanation for their consumers (or shareholders) as to exactly how this new moniker is a better fit. (I’ll address more owned vs. earned media later.)
Deeper research reveals they released a statement with this explanation captured by Today.com:
We are now at a defining moment in our corporate reinvention,” Chief Executive Officer Victor Luis said in a statement. “In Tapestry, we found a name that speaks to creativity, craftsmanship, authenticity and inclusivity on a shared platform and values.”
Was there more to this explanation? Let’s continue…
2. Discombobulated Launch Campaign
This week they break the news of the name change AND they launch a redesigned website, BUT the name change isn’t actually in effect until October 31. Um, why did they release this in a piecemeal manner? Yes there is probably a host of PR professionals who have carefully orchestrated the release of the news to generate a longer news cycle and continued discussion over the coming weeks, but whether or not it’s the BEST way to do that is up for debate.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “Well Channing, that seems brilliant. We all want the press talking about our companies for as long as we can!”
And yes, a thoughtful approach with multiple weeks worth of potential earned media is highly encouraged.
But here’s why this is currently a problem for the brand:
Their main target market is confused! If you’re shoppers don’t understand the changes, where is the brand loyalty? Where was the social media post for shoppers and potential shoppers alike that connected the dots between the acquisitions that led Coach Inc. to become Tapestry? Why did they feel this was the best name for the company?
In an interview with The New York Times the CEO explained:
“It’s a wonderful metaphor for what we believe in, which is individual threads of different colors all working together to create a picture,” said Victor Luis, the chief executive.
Yet it took more than a little digging and LOTS of reading to find this, which leads to the next word of caution:…
3. Relying Entirely On Earned Media
Why did they rely on earned media for the messaging and not own any of it themselves? Check out the new website and what you won’t see is an announcement or explanation. A big shift like this and not a single announcement banner or homepage message? Here’s what the homepage did say:
Ummm, what now? There should be a reference right out the gate connecting the dots – at least for a few months until the brand connections are concretely tied in consumer’s minds to Tapestry and not “Coach Inc.” Again, if your current consumers don’t understand and you don’t explain it to your PROSPECTIVE consumers, then you’re fighting a very intense uphill battle to keep or convert them into regular shoppers.
And with earned media, comes social media. Shocking I know, but social media is part of our lives and crisis communication is no longer an option. It’s a requirement. (See if they did a thorough launch campaign, this wouldn’t be an issue.) Even top retail executives like Andrea Wasserman, formerly of Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom, is confused:
And that was just the first tweet she made. The comments and retweets get lengthier as you dive down the rabbit hole.
How did Coach (the handbag brand, not the parent company) respond? A single tweet this morning:
Oh, and let’s not forget the economic fallout: the announcement had the company’s shares fall by as much as 3 percent in early trading yesterday. Looks like I’m not the only one left scratching my head here.
How to avoid this with your own rebrand?
Take a note from everyone’s favorite bad a** PR spin doctor Olivia Pope and “Control the narrative.” Earned media is GOLD (seriously, as a member of the press there is no way I can or would deny that), but make sure your PR strategy includes some owned media too so you don’t alienate current consumers. Make it easy for them to get the information (i.e. delivered to their inboxes) or find it on the marketing channels you utilize every day.