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Bahlsen's Re-Design: A revolution that loses its target group

Lessons learnt for the design relaunch of established brands




If the "brand owner" no longer likes his own brand...


or finds the target group unsexy,

or wants to express himself,

or the agency is too good at selling aesthetics...


then brand design revolutions are created that are very beautiful, but might risk to miss the target group and appear " empty".


I recently discussed with one of our clients when and how a re-design is still an evolution and where a revolution begins. Examples always help to find the crossover. The "far right" of a revolution is certainly the Bahlsen Case.


Launched in 2021, probably started in 2019, we are now seeing the economic impact in 2023:


Facts & Results:


With a beautiful design and a hidden price increase of 34% (!!!), this is how customers reacted:


👉 - 8.6% penetration loss* among Boomers and Reconstructionists, who made up almost 60% of buyers.

A huge setback among the most important customers!


👉 + 5.8 % penetration growth* among GenZ (or iBrains), who only represent 1% of buyers.

Impressive growth, but on too small a base.


Dr. Robert Kecskes did a great job guiding us through the GFK analyses* at the Packaging Food Summit - thank you very much, Robert, it was exciting and informative!


3 important learnings from the case:


➡ Respect the value and codes of the brand.

The brand must be recognisable - even if this often restricts creativity and is less "fun".


➡ Design cannot compensate for weaknesses in product quality or price problems.

If the relaunch is accompanied by a price increase and the quality has not been significantly improved, that's a problem! Design can create momentum, but it cannot solve problems.


➡ Omnipresent branding is impactful, but needs a meaningful brand story.

Brands today need a perceptible added value or purpose that is genuinely and consistently lived. If not, strong branding comes across as "empty" and artificial.


It is not surprising that Bahlsen is now taking corrective action. The once celebrated design revolution shows that an established brand can only be led into the future step by step.

Impatient people often want rapid and massive change. This can be very dangerous for a midterm and longterm brand building.


Consumers are simply looking for their brand. And if it's "gone", they could be gone too.


We - humans - are too happy to develop "nice" things and not concentrate on the strategic goals. This Bahlsen case shows this very strikingly.


Author: Christina Rüter

Post from 21.11.2023



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