Revitalising the Berghaus Brand: a no filter case study of a brand repositioning

The Value Engineers at AURA

At AURA's May 2018 event, First Aid for Brands, Fleur Horner and Susannah Cohen delivered to AURA members an honest account of a brand repositioning experience from both client and consultant perspectives. The refreshing ‘no filter’ format didn't gloss over the things that didn’t go as planned, and highlighted the elements that were really impactful both internally and externally.

Revitalising the Berghaus Brand: a no filter case study of a brand repositioning

At The Value Engineers, brand building and repositioning are our bread and butter…but rather than a glossy overview of our approach to brand positioning, this case study is intended as an honest account of a project in action, so you can steal with pride from what worked well, and learn from those moments we could have done differently…

At the back end of 2016, Berghaus approached us for help with breathing a new lease of life into their brand. In an increasingly competitive market with everyone from Aldi to Adidas entering the outdoor game, awareness had fallen year on year and they found themselves occupying an increasingly functional space in consumers’ minds…a “consistent and reliable brand” rather than a “stylish” or “trendsetting” one.

Through a robust 5 stage process, from exploration to embedding, and with involvement from 4 key parties, us, Berghaus, their holding company Pentland, and a large design agency Designbridge, we built a powerful and distinctive new positioning, and we learned an awful lot along the way…


What worked well:

  • Understanding the landscape from multiple perspectives

Before we could begin to define the new positioning it was important to immerse ourselves in understanding the lie of the land. Between an online portal of outdoor enthusiasts, in-homes looking at people’s kit cupboards and intercepting walkers in the Lake District we spoke to over 50 consumers to get under the skin of their love for the outdoors.

  • The answer usually lies within…

But we didn’t just look externally, we also went on-site at Berghaus HQ for 3 days to understand what made the business tick, talking to everyone from designers, developers and seamstresses to the company’s founders, to get the internal perspective.

  • An engaged core team

Establishing a proper partnership between with the Berghaus team right up front allowed us to truly challenge each other (in both directions) so we were able to have the conversations we needed to in order to really move things on.

  • Keeping it real

Brand positioning is quite an abstract concept: we used a variety of real life case studies from other brands to bring it to life and demonstrate the importance of the project to the whole business. 

  • Defining what it isn’t as well as what it is

Internal stakeholders can struggle to articulate who they are as a business, but they tend to find it easy to articulate who they aren’t. Not only is this a useful tool in defining the positioning, it is also critical in handing over the work, making sure that there are clear guardrails to be adhered to.

  • One project, many outcomes

The rich exploration at the beginning of the project meant the insight work could be easily re-packaged and used more widely in the business. Always challenge your agencies so you get the most ongoing value out of their work!


And the potential pitfalls:

  • Partnering with a large design agency

Working with a large design agency with established process and strategists of their own, we could, and should have triaged where processes were complimentary and where there were sticking points…but we didn’t know enough about their process to foresee the clashes. Although getting cracking is always the desire, spending time establishing ways of working from the outset would have been helpful.

  • Working with a brand in flux (within a group)…

A set of project principles (what and why) that were agreed on internally would have provided a consistent project narrative at the Berghaus and Pentland level and avoided any confusion further down the line with those further from the work.

  • …And a retailer 2 years ahead

Working with a retailer already creating collections for 2019 in 2017 (and planning for 2020) meant we could have worked closer with designers who could have been useful project advocates and helped us roadmap further ahead.

  • Overcoming the executional

Working with a very good and established marketing function who were very executional in their focus meant we could have achieved greater buy-in if we had helped them more to analyse what the positioning would impact and made it more tangible for them.

  • Balancing robustness with reality

Consumers can’t respond to ‘positioning routes’ but there was a drive internally for evidence-based decision making which meant that we possibly tested abstract concepts a little too early for the findings to be leveraged fully.

  • Recruitment expectations vs. reality can derail

As a company packed full of the outdoor elite, their perception of what an ‘accomplished outdoor consumer’ was at odds with the reality. Some people behind the mirror switched off to a lot of great insight when none of our respondents were regular users of ice axes!



The Value Engineers are strategic brand consultants. Specialising in brand strategy, innovation and consumer journey.


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