The Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Brands, Part II

Not so long ago, I wrote an article for G3 on what land-based casinos should consider when moving online, The Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Brands. It has been a little while since I have published an article, so I quite proudly presented it to my husband after dinner one night and asked him to read it. When he finished, he said, “That’s a great article, Lydia, but I have no idea what you’re talking about with deconstructing and reconstructing brands.”

Since that conversation, I have wanted to approach the concept again, this time taking the time to explain it in more depth.

And I’ll do that with something very near and dear to my heart: food.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to get a seat at the now-closed 41 Degrees in Barcelona. One of their 41 (or so) courses was something called a liquid olive. When I tasted one, I had the most remarkable feeling sweep over me. It took me a few minutes to realise that my sense of wonder had returned, something I thought I’d lost when I first saw the Norwegian fjörds and thought, “Well, crap. Nothing can ever beat this.”

The incredible Adrià brothers, who ran 41 Degrees, launched liquid olives in the-number-one-restaurant-in-the-world-and-I-never-got-to-eat-there-which-I’ll-never-quite-get-over, El Bulli. A liquid olive is a green, spherical, gelatinous gloop that tastes like the best and most intense olive you’ve ever wished for.

It was like they found the original olive that all olives are just weak copies of, and then shared it with me. For months after, every time I’d eat an olive out of a little plastic tub I’d sigh and think “This isn’t a real olive. It’s just a metaphor of an olive. But I’ve had the real thing.” [1]

Adria brothers png

What I assume the Adrià brothers did was spend a lot of time working out what an olive really is. What is the essence of an olive? What does it mean? If someone eats an olive, what is the expectation of that experience? Now, how can we capture all that and produce it in a form that makes it better?

The reality is that they take a whole lot of olives, puree them, then take spoonfuls of the … If you really want to read about how they make them, go here.

But my point is this: if you want to create an experience that your users will dream about, and maybe even write slightly-crazed-but-enthusiastic blogs about, first you have figure out what you are about.

What is your brand’s essence? What does it mean? When someone interacts with your brand, what is their expectation of that experience? Now, how can you capture all that and produce it in a form that makes it better?

Let’s look at an example. Back when I was in university, Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) was the beer that we drank when we didn’t have money for anything nicer.[2] It was a step up from Bud Light, which was for the unwashed football-supporting masses, but a giant leap down from a proper beer like Beck’s.

Then something magical happened. In the early noughties, PBR redefined itself as a small, hard-working, almost artisanal company to make it popular to hipsters. And it worked. Their sales jumped 25% in 2009 after increasing the prices to fit the new clientele. It is now a hugely popular beer in the US. And, incredibly, they were able to leverage that success to launch into China, where they’re now selling for $44 a bottle to middle- and upper-class Chinese who don’t mind paying a lot for a premium American brew.

PBR png

The beer didn’t change. Their logo[3] didn’t even change (although they did use a new one for China). But their brand identity and brand image changed. And I’d imagine it all started because a bunch of the PBR execs sat in a room and asked themselves questions like “What is the essence of PBR? What does it mean?”

f you are interested in running an internal branding workshop to see if success like PBR’s is in your brand’s potential, it’s probably best to bring in an expert to help you out. I’m not suggesting that as a way to tout for Pegasus business, but because I honestly believe that having an outsider working with you on something like this is essential. That person or people can ask all those questions that at first seem really stupid, then start to feel more and more like what you should be asking yourselves every quarter. Like, if my company’s brand were a person, how would I describe him/her? It seems silly, but think about it a bit. You can follow this particular rabbit hole down to some important truths about your company.

But don’t take my word for it. According to marketing expert Eric Thoelke on rebrands: “It’s very rarely done for aesthetic reasons and almost always done to strengthen the business to compete better with rivals or to signal a change in the direction of the company, like a merger, acquisition or spin off.” Does that sound like it could describe an online launch by a land-based casino?

To sum up, if you are contemplating a major change for your company, the first place you have to look is within. As far within as possible. Long into the deep dark olives of the soul. If you don’t, you risk two major pitfalls: misunderstanding your brand and falling into brand dissonance[4], or undervaluing some components of your brand and thus missing out on revenue opportunities.[5]

Have you seen any truly successful rebrands? Please feel free to jump into the comments.


[1] If you too want to try a liquid olive, go visit the Adria brothers’ Tickets in Barcelona. Please go there even if you don’t like olives; these boys are possibly the best chefs in the world. Maybe with their food you can find your lost sense of wonder. It’s a quite remarkable feeling.

[2] Pretty much always.

[3] As exemplified here, your brand is not just your logo. Your brand is your company’s personality. It is often most visibly represented by your logo, but an effective brand should operate behind and in everything you do, from your call centre’s emails to the end users all the way up to your CEO deciding whether to move ahead with that risky acquisition. If your core values are not embedded in all your company’s actions, you end up with dissonance between your brand image and brand identity, which in turn breeds mistrust. Think of Comcast. They used to advertise their great customer support. Puh-leeze.

[4] Blog post on this coming soon!

[5] Now, please don’t read this and decide to change your logo and brand identity to something entirely new, even if you believe the new branding better reflects your company’s values. I’ll talk in a later blog about the disasters that can happen if you overhaul your brand in one fell swoop.

About the author

Lydia Barbara is the head of Pegasus Gaming Solutions, Microgaming's consulting division. Lydia has been in the gaming industry for 13 years and is considered one of the online gaming industry's top thinkers on poker and other forms of gaming. Connect with Lydia on LinkedIn.