We're Not Clueless: What Movie Makeovers Teach Us About Effective Brand Refreshes

We're Not Clueless: What Movie Makeovers Teach Us About Effective Brand Refreshes

Charles Bloom
In a recent call with a client, I quoted a movie (yes, probably Clueless), prompting an entire conversation likening brand refreshes to makeovers. We promote brands as living beings, personalities with which to establish a connection. But living beings need to grow and adapt. Why then shouldn’t they deserve the glow-up treatment, a chance to reflect, recenter, even reinvent?


So grab some popcorn and indulge me while I reminisce about iconic movie makeover moments through the lenses of strategy and creative. We’ll take a look at similarities to the rebrand process: what the movies get right, and what they get wrong. Spoiler alert, they get so much, so wrong.


You’ve got something going for you that no one else has.

What spurred your rebrand? Are you the new kid in school (or in the store) looking to make a splash with a new audience, earning a spot at the primo lunch table (or avoid the bargain bin)? Have you been here the whole time, overlooked and misunderstood, looking to gain the popularity you know you deserve? Perhaps there’s a big event at which you need to impress—the prom(!) or the buyers meeting for wider distribution? Is it all for a bet? (That’s weird.) Going undercover in a beauty pageant? (Even weirder.)

Whatever the reason for rethinking your brand, the intent needs to be carefully considered. The weaker the purpose, the shakier your trajectory.

In Mean Girls, to run with the popular Plastics, new girl Cady rebrands from a place of insecurity, suppressing what makes her, her. An insincere transformation that chases trends sacrifices credibility and loyalty. Brands should focus on their ownable strengths and values.
Fear not: Moxie Sozo can help you tap into that Main Character Energy with our strategy offerings


No strategic analysis? Big mistake. Big. Huge.

Being intimately familiar with a brand doesn’t automatically equate to knowing where a brand needs to go. Rarely does a memorable movie makeover come at the hands of an old friend—it’s a new character with a fresh perspective who can more objectively speak to what your audience (old or new) is looking for. It’s no secret that your brand is not what you say it is; it’s how others perceive it.
Unfortunately, the Paolos and the Victor Mellings stop at the superficial edits, not going as deep as your brand strategy partner should.
At Moxie Sozo, we don’t take your needs at face value. We scrutinize to make sure your plans align with your business objectives. To do that, we lead immersive, collaborative workshops that often uncover new truths about what defines your brand. We assess where you’ve been and where you plan to go—alongside your competition. And while we know you’re itching to skip right to the makeover montage, this early on we steer conversations away from visuals.
We question. We pressure-test. Do you have enough equity in your current brand, or is this a full-scale revolution? Anything off-limits? Why? Is Grease’s Sandra Dee ready to shift from the Innocent archetype to the Rebel? Is your brand ready to shift from Sage to Hero?
From here we refine key messages (or build new ones) as well as voice and tone to establish how we communicate as a brand from channel to channel. Often this is where a stagnant brand needs the most reworking, so we equip you with consistent messaging to apply every day (not just sporadically). 


Glasses and a ponytail?!  

Break out the scissors, fill the tub, cue “Supermodel." It’s finally time for the makeover. 
I won’t rattle on about Moxie Sozo’s devotion to arresting, slow-motion-reveal-worthy visuals that effectively reinforce business objectives and strategic foundations. Our work can take care of that. I will, though, address the four-eyed elephant in the room.
It’s an oft-ridiculed trope that corrective lenses are a sin, the ultimate affront to beauty. How many times has a character’s stunning makeover involved removing glasses and letting hair down, rendering the subject unrecognizable? Absurd, yes, but hear me out: sometimes that subtle shift is all you need.
Armed with a focused strategy to guide us—a cleaned up mark here, a standardized palette there, a shift in messaging priorities—these can all cast a new light and have tremendous impact. In our recent refresh of Birch Benders' packaging, we kept all the elements that pancake consumers loved: inviting landscapes, charming characters, warm, deliciously illustrated pancakes. Then we turned up the volume on the food imagery, logo prominence, and brand blocking. What whispered meekly before now confidently shouts. 

Authenticity? For brand loyalty? Groundbreaking.

Now that our makeover subject is ready for their debut, it’s up to the audience to decide. (Maybe there was even a testing detour á la My Fair Lady's racing scene, where Eliza's elocution lessons get a trial run.) Truly, this reintroduction is where all the groundwork is put to the test. Was your transformation insincere and ill-founded? Did it alienate your loyal following, or did you bring them along on the journey? Will your new audience stick around past the end credits?
Despite his new look, Encino Man's Link (our neanderthal-turned-prom king) is still a caveman to the core, instinctually reacting to his new world. He doesn’t actually change his personality yet he proves appealing. Same goes for Gracie in Miss Congeniality, who never abandons her relatable, unfiltered, defining attributes. It endears her to her fellow contestants. It's not the only factor, but authenticity is attractive.
Look, I’m not trying to fool anyone—I know that Moxie Sozo’s process would make a terrible movie, an earnest flop. But with our proven approach, we can absolutely help make a brand a hit on the shelves. We love a happy ending, and we love a sequel, too.