How can you measure the power of a brand? Branding is the underlying identity that runs through a company’s marketing and advertising campaigns, and the reputation that instantly marks any new products or services it offers. With enough brand equity, a company can achieve lasting consumer loyalty, and rest easy knowing its future products will be seen as having the same value as its previous products—without as much need to prove it.
One of the best ways to build a brand is with a long, strong history of operations. Take a brand like Lee, which has been around since 1895, or Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1886. Though the direction, operations, and marketing of these companies has changed significantly over the decades, their brand names have accumulated power because of their 100+ years of existence.
So why is brand history so important, and how can you emphasize it in your campaigns? And for new and prospective entrepreneurs, is it possible to compensate for a lack of brand history?
The Advantages of History
Let’s attempt to identify the key factors responsible for making history such an impressive brand factor:
- Proof of concept. Being around for a period of decades proves that your company is worth something. If it sold bad products or treated customers poorly, it would have failed within the first few years. Accordingly, people inherently trust longer-established brands more than newcomers.
- Accumulated advantage. The concept of accumulated advantage can apply to multiple areas of business management, but it’s especially powerful when applied to brand growth. Brands with history have a longer time to accumulate new brand loyalists, and those brand loyalists increasingly promote the brand to their friends and family members, resulting in a feedback loop that keeps customer loyalty running for generations.
- Effort redirection. In the early stages of startup marketing, most entrepreneurs focus on building visibility and ensuring that more people are aware that a company exists. Brands that have been around long enough to be instantly recognizable can redistribute their efforts, focusing on retention and new product promotion.
- Nostalgia. Nostalgia has always been a powerful marketing strategy, and brands with a long history can take full advantage of it. These companies can call upon the imagery or cultural touchstones of decades past, and help older generations relive the experiences that first made them fall in love with the brand.
- Failure tolerance. Over the course of a century, a given brand will have the potential to launch hundreds, if not thousands of products, and serve millions of customers. In the scope of that work, the importance of any single failure is instantly minimized. Accordingly, long-established brands have less to lose with botched product launches or PR disasters, and they can recover more easily.
Showing It Off
So what can companies do to show off their brand history?
- Talk about your story. Call up the story of your company’s history in your marketing and advertising materials, and make sure to create an emotional connection. Are you proud of your accomplishments? Do you want to call to mind the boldness and fear of your company founder’s beginnings?
- Show your evolution. Show how far you’ve come, either to support your new products or poke fun at your older stylings. Demonstrating your evolution sparks nostalgia, and shows your commitment to consistency over the years.
- Market to different segments. Marketing to young people requires a much different approach than marketing to older generations, for whom nostalgia is a more powerful emotion. Market segmentation is critical here.
Making Do Without History
If your brand is young, or new on the market, you’ll face some unique challenges. Obviously, you can’t cook up a history overnight, but you can compensate for the difference with the following strategies:
- Prove your worth. Without history, you’ll need some other way to convince consumers that your brand is worth investment. Social proof can really help you here, since self-promotion isn’t especially convincing to a skeptical new audience; in other words, get more and better reviews from your customers.
- Capitalize on your newness. You won’t outperform a long-established company in terms of history, so beat them with newness. Show off what you bring to the market, and highlight the energy and excitement of being a new brand.
- Break from tradition. Intentionally deviate from the norms of your industry. You can’t beat the old players at their own game, but you can make a new game—and set your own rules.
- Drive customer loyalty. And of course, you have to remember that customer retention is less expensive than customer acquisition. It’s much better to have a tight circle of brand loyalists at the beginning of your business’s growth than to have a few thousand consumers who don’t care about your brand.
Understanding the importance of history to brand development can help you improve your marketing strategy—regardless of how long your business has been around. Companies that focus on these principles and play to their strengths will always outperform their competitors.
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