CPR For Your Brand's Legacy

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

It’s interesting the small things that turn out to be make a big difference when reviving legacy brands for a younger generation. I was reminded of this when recently reading about Wieden+Kennedy’s rebrand of Old Spice years ago. Early in their research, they learned that 60% of women purchased body wash for their husbands. Out of that was born the uber-successful 2010 “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like” campaign, which specifically targeted women. The campaign continues to this day, with the “man” character evolving in clever, always on-brand way.

Actionable data nuggets are one example of how brands can bridge the gap between loyal consumers and new consumers. Kentucky Fried Chicken is another that found a way to modernize and broaden its consumer profile thanks to clever TV ads. Domino’s, on the other hand, revived its brand through innovative activation ideas.



Legacy brands are often stuck in a moment of stasis: Your research shows you that while older demographics remember your classic ads fondly, the younger generations have no frame of reference for it -- thus creating a schism. Still, there’s also an opportunity to find the elements of your brand to that crossover, and appeal more broadly. 

Perhaps it’s the taste or effectiveness. Whatever it is, there are elements of your branding over the years that resonate with both new and old customers. The trick is to find them and put them to use for the brand.

So what are the specific challenges agencies and brands face when trying to revive a legacy brand? First and foremost, hold onto your brand’s loyalists while bringing in new fans. You can’t go 100% in either direction. If you cater solely to your loyalists, the brand is on a slow road to extinction. If you go for the young consumers only, you run the major risk of alienating your base. 

Our advice for companies reviving their legacy brands is to consider the following three things:

-- Nostalgia is nice, but it is also a trap. Brands need to hold on to their past, but they need to move on from it as well. That fear of letting go of what may have worked decades ago holds many back from breaking through in a bigger way.

-- Unless you need to totally reinvent the brand, which is rare, find the connective tissue between what was true about your brand back in the day and what is still true now. Ask yourself: What about the brand never changes?

-- Hold onto your base. Yes, you need to be looking for branding avenues to find new consumers (hello, TikTok) but maintain that base of consumers that love your product. One or the other is not the answer.

Start by becoming your brand’s own cultural anthropologist, and search for that connection between its past and the present that will help unlock your brand's future.

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