One look back, two steps forward

Why your brand’s legacy matters, and how it can shape your future

Winkreative’s Perspectives series shares our view on brand and business — the changing audiences, emerging trends and timeless tactics you need to understand how to stand out from the crowd. In this article, we explore the potential of a brand’s legacy; how it can be a tool to stand out, and a bridge between past and future.

We’re in an exciting time for branding. With the increased connectivity that social media brings, brands can now spring from anywhere and anyone, without the need for a traditional bricks-and-mortar presence. It’s an opening up that should, in theory, lead to more variety and innovation — all you need is an idea, and there’s a way to make it work. It makes for an interesting future, but there’s something missing. A distinctive element that new brands inherently lack: legacy.

In branding, legacy denotes substance. It’s a sign that an organisation can be trusted, and maybe even respected. That if you’ve been in business for a long time, you must be doing something right.

Brands with provenance, with origin stories to tell, with an assured sense of self, have an opportunity to connect with and retain customers in ways that newer brands can’t.

A brand’s legacy can be a foundation for experimentation and evolution — a way to bridge a storied past with a sense of vitality for the future. But how do you make the most of it?

Start with your audience

Established brands have long and deeply-held associations. To find out which ones are worth building on, you need to start with audience insight. You must understand what people want and expect from you as a brand. You need to learn how the context around your audience has changed and, within this context, how you can better serve their needs today.

Look inwards

While useful, audience research is ultimately not enough. Great brands are built over time. They are not malleable objects, constantly adapted to follow trends or shaped purely around consumer needs at a particular moment.

Bending to consumers — for example, through activations and executions that tap into what they want, right now — can help to generate short-term awareness and sales. But when it clashes with who you are and have always been, it risks long-term erosion of valuable brand equity.

To build on a legacy, you must look inwards and understand the history of the brand. Its origin story. Why it was created. What’s driven its enduring appeal.

Successful brands don’t throw out decades of heritage: they build on them because they know it conveys a provenance, truth and credibility. Making the most of your brand’s legacy means combining long-held brand associations and heritage with what your audience now wants, and applying it to how you position yourself today.

Evolve with confidence

Leading brands are confident in who they are. Their associations are strong, timeless, and consistently perceived by their audiences. It’s this confidence that gives them the freedom to experiment and move forwards without losing the essence of their brand — so they continue to resonate with loyal customers while attracting new ones. Put simply, you must be confident in the codes of your brand and bold enough to evolve around them.

Air Canada, a client of Winkreative’s, is an excellent example. When the airline decided to refresh their brand, they were bold enough to reexamine their entire experience. By looking closely at what connected the brand to its location and its audience, they were able to evolve their identity, storytelling and offer in ways that feel both authentic and energetic — confident in the knowledge that their roots would remain intact.

Are you a legacy brand in need of fresh thinking? Or a new brand looking to build associations and codes that will help you go the distance? Get in touch with Winkreative to find out how we can make your brand ambitions real: [email protected].