What happens when a beloved business rebrands? Or when new product formats emerge that risk alienating some audiences while impressing others?
Taking a broader view, how can decision-makers keep up with evolving market demands and increasingly nuanced customer segments to craft the optimal brand experience for everyone they serve?
Susan White Frazier joined us during Alida Activate—Fall ‘21 to discuss these questions and more. As the head of market research at Wondrium — formerly known as The Great Courses Plus — Susan and her colleagues have embraced several key strategies to deliver extraordinary advancements in brand innovation. These tactics have not only helped the educational media business keep longtime customers satisfied, but they’ve also expanded the company’s reach to eager new audiences under a dynamic new brand identity.
Let’s dive into a few of the key tips and insights Susan shared with us during the session:
Choose the right moment for change
Founded more than 30 years ago, The Great Courses brand has built up a solid reputation among several generations of consumers who love to learn. But how can established businesses know if it’s the right moment to evolve their brands? As Susan advises, “A lot of it has to do with watching the marketplace and understanding when the time is right.”
In her company’s case, it was time to lighten the focus on physical media like CDs and DVDs and lean more heavily into online streaming. “So many people stream, there are so many options available for streaming. It’s really the way the world is moving. That was one of the reasons for the change” from The Great Courses Plus, which launched in 2015, to Wondrium in 2021, according to Susan.
Although there have been shifts over the years from cassette tapes to DVDs to streaming, this alone wasn’t enough for a rebrand. Instead, the new Wondrium identity was a key piece in making it so that, as Susan explains, “people who really love nonfiction content could come to us not only for college-level courses but for all manner of other things,” from documentaries to miniseries and licensed programs.
“The Great Courses will always be there, and it still is a significant presence on our platform,” Susan says. But in introducing Wondrium, “Part of the goal was to expand the range of content we can offer, both in terms of genre and format.” Now, the brand is on a “mission to allow everyone to have fulfilling, fun, mind-blowing experiences with nonfiction content.”
In other words, it wasn’t just the product’s evolving format that called for a new brand; the content itself was going in new directions as well, making it a great time to reimagine the brand experience.
2. Don’t abandon customers who aren’t ready
An important lesson to take from Wondrium’s evolution is that your business needs to change with the times — but as you rebrand and expand, it’s not wise to completely abandon loyal consumers.
As Susan shared with us, many devoted customers of The Great Courses were more traditional and slower to adopt new formats and offerings like online streaming. Some had stuck around for 20 or 30 years and had a continued desire for physical media.
In shifting more to streaming, Susan’s market research team paid careful attention to this audience. They worked to understand any barriers to trying streaming formats, and what these customers desired from the brand if they weren’t interested in going digital.
One solution was to offer digital downloads, which offered ownership but in a more modern and convenient format. Another was to make it clear that the same, beloved content from The Great Courses could still be easily found in a collection on Wondrium’s site. “We’re not removing that; it’s the heart and soul of what we do, and we are still producing it even as we move into new areas,” Susan adds, emphasizing the importance of balancing loyal versus new audiences during a brand experience shift.
3. Practice audience segmentation for deeper insights
As a rebranded, expanded entity, Wondrium’s market researchers are actively working to achieve a richer and deeper understanding of every audience they serve.
“We have just undergone a large-scale audience segmentation to start understanding our customers,” Susan says. This isn’t just about demographics and consumption habits, but it addresses questions like, “What do they want from us? What is their need state? And how can we think of them in terms of a much more nuanced perspective?” Susan explains.
Although the team is still in the early stages with this audience segmentation initiative, Susan is confident that it will help the brand “grow in the direction that people are wanting us to grow in, even if they don’t know yet that they want us to grow that way. If we can figure out what it is they need, then we can meet them there.”
She adds that some of these discoveries can come as a surprise, with a mix of comfort-zone customers and less familiar audiences. “Within our audience segmentation, there are segments who look like our traditional customer. But guess what? There are a lot more segments who look like new, interesting prospective customers, and so that gives us a lot to play with right now.”
Watch the full Alida Activate session on demand
It certainly is an exciting time in Wondrium’s brand journey, and we’re delighted Susan was able to share her insights with us. To hear the full conversation, watch the on-demand recording of “How Consumers Shape Brand Experience and Tips to Get it Right.”