Seventies balladeer Olivia Newton-John had been stuck in syrupy love song land throughout her entire career until her management decided that her image needed a serious shaking up in the early Eighties. They placed her in a steamy exercise video dripping with sweat and come-ons (“Let’s get animal… nothing left to talk about unless it’s horizontally”) which resulted not only in a worldwide hit but landed in the number one position in Billboard’s list of the 50 sexiest songs of all time. This success story has been dusted off by possibly the most unlikely television ingénue of all: T-Mobile’s Lady in Pink.

The ad agency has taken the previously adorkable leggy brunette out of her pink flowing skirts and outfitted her in delectably tight black (and pink) leather from head to toe as she quadruples urban speed limits on her Ducati motorcycle. T-Mobile is illustrating to online marketers how any brand can overhaul their image overnight to appeal to an entirely new customer segment. (No, not just to illegal street racers.)

Show the Darn Car!

There are countless volumes written about what makes an advertisement more or less effective than the next and the debate on the issue is considerably more vivacious than any issuing from political quarters. T-Mobile’s latest campaign ventures into the territory that was once known as “show the darn car!” For a while years back, auto makers paradoxically decided to focus their advertisements on lifestyle portrayals without even once showing the vehicle they were selling. That policy met with mixed results, and perhaps it is better suited to a mobile carrier. After all, all smartphones look more or less the same, so T-Mobile’s ad is all leather and roaring steel and the cell phone is only on screen for two seconds. Indeed, if you were not acquainted with the Lady in Pink, you’d never know that it was a T-Mobile ad until the very end, as no mention of the brand at all is made until 56 seconds into the one minute ad.

The 5 Ways to Successfully Transform Your Branding

So what have we learned, Dorothy? If you are willing to completely overhaul your entire brand persona, you can emulate the successful precedents of T-Mobile and Olivia Newton-John:

  1. Associate your brand with a lifestyle – Young, aggressive, wild, and lusty is always preferable to staid and gray. The Lady didn’t just ride a motorcycle, she engages in an urban max throttle stunt that would scare MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.
  2. Go against type – Just like T-Mobile’s Lady went from adorkable Zooey Deschanel to OMG Kate Upton in just one commercial, your branding can be turned on its head: If you are currently light and breezy, go with assertive and brassy… or vice versa.
  3. Leverage aspiration – The consumer has been proven to react positively to advertisements that dangle in front of them a lifestyle that they aspire to. T-Mobile’s lady is seen prancing around a striking multi-million dollar condo before her abandonment of the pink sundresses.
  4. Retain some familiarity – When you’re overhauling your brand identity it’s best to retain some element that harkens back to your previous incarnation to ensure the customer still knows it’s you. T-Mobile retained its familiar logo and five note piano tone at the end – and, of course, their Lady.
  5. Make it sexy – Possibly the most important lesson email marketers everywhere can learn from T-Mobile’s latest campaign is the oldest lesson in advertising: Sexuality Sells. There is an undertone of feral pheromones permeating T-Mobile’s ad as it is not lost to the viewer that the Lady is shown dropping her pink dress before she zips on the tight leathers.

The mobile carrier’s transformation from doe-eyed and naïve to hip and hot can be a guide to what online marketers can do to shake up a somnolent brand and inject some excitement into their image. Your brand can emulate their success by following these tips, which will result in a complete revision of how the customer views a brand and its products if you approach the prospect with courage and imagination. But please… observe the speed limits!