When we think about how to re-invent an industry, we usually look to emerging brands: start-ups that have disrupted stodgy industries, iconoclasts who have re-imagined existing frames of reference and shattered expectations and others.

This is limiting because we’re all not in the process of launching new brands. Sometimes, we’re working on existing brands – and we have legacies, brand equity and other people we need to satisfy along the way.

Can you re-invent an existing brand?

In the process of researching Killing Giants, I came across a few interviews and stories that didn’t neatly fit the mold I had intended – and this is one of them. All Whites – the egg white only substitute from Michael Foods – gives us an interesting story on re-invention, not only of a single brand but of an industry segment.

 “It’s exciting when two people can take down a brand like Con Agra,” brand manager Melanie Taurig told me a few months ago when we spoke. In describing her efforts with colleague John Williams she described uncovering a nugget in the brand’s existing research that gave her the hand-hold she needed to re-launch the product.

“Our All Whites consumer is eating it for what it’s all about,” Melanie told me.  “It’s about protein, it has no fat, it has low calories, it provides them a way to be better at leading their healthy lifestyle. We took this nugget and started advertising in health clubs.”

The alignment of connecting All Whites with a proactive lifestyle and advertising the brand in health clubs – creating a smoothie using All Whites that was available at your local gym, where you’re physically exercising and acting out the active lifestyle you emulate – is an example of a self-defining Eigen Value. It doesn’t simply say it’s an active lifestyle brand. It’s in your gym and is an ingredient in the after-workout low calorie drink that provides the extra boost of protein you want anyway.

Key Takeaways:

Create the self-defining truism – the Eigen Value. Remember the definition? “This sentence has five words.” Unarguable, self-defining. A truism. Promoting and selling a healthy egg substitute in a place you associate with healthy activity is unarguable. It taps not only your own feelings of consistency, but also borrows some authority from the fact that you learned about it at the gym.

Finish well. All Whites didn’t just advertise at the gym – they made the product available at the gym in a manner that the patrons found natural and expected. No one was pushed out of their comfort zone. This is a good example of a “just noticeable difference,” the anchor point that provides the setting for contrast. And brains love contrast.

Re-invention means re-thinking old patterns. It’s not just an egg that you scramble, it’s a smoothie additive that’s more healthy, safer and more convenient than dropping a raw egg in your drink. Use it for baking and the 1,100 calorie muffin is now 500. Triathletes the world over rejoice. A new, young, fresh audience learns about egg substitutes.

Did the campaign work?

If you’ve read any previous posts I’ve written, you’ve noticed that I focus on this question. (Old Spice, anyone?). In All Whites’ case, it did.

“Our sales started to grow 20% week over week” after the campaign broke, Melanie told me, growing 30% in a flat to declining market. “Our push with All Whites also brought along our Better ‘N Eggs brand which helped us gain momentum and lock up our distribution.”

Re-invention isn’t always for the new brands. You can re-cast even the stodgiest brands with the right thinking.