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Six secrets of brand longevity

Coca Cola bottle

What is it that keeps some brands alive for decades, or even centuries, while others suddenly emerge and just as quickly disappear? Steve Olenski, writing for Forbes, identifies six approaches that distinguish we-established brands from the rest.

Olenski sees brands as being pressured by the marketing hype surrounding each new trend, and by continuous demographic shifts. The ability to transcend all of this ‘noise’ and stretch out a brand’s lifespan is seen at its most extreme in cases such as:

  • Cambridge University Press – since 1534
  • Moët & Chandon – since 1743
  • im Beam – since 1795
  • Colgate – since 1806
  • Macy’s – since 1830
  • Dr Pepper – since 1885

If you would like your brand to enjoy anything like that kind of longevity, you would do well to adopt the following traits which they tend to share:

1) They make clear brand promises – and they keep them. Customers have always known what the brand celebrates and values, and they can expect the same experience time after time.

For example, the Coca-Cola Company, founded in 1892, is still known for its familiar logo, bottle shape, flavour and promise of fun. It may have experimented with other products, with varying success, but the core product and its values are still going strong.

Today, companies often include brand promises in their marketing campaign. American Addiction Centers, for instance, gives the following guarantee – which is more than just words – with its product: “If you successfully complete our 90-day programme, we guarantee you’ll stay clean and sober, or you can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.”

2) They understand the emotional connection. This is created through experiences associated with the brand. If it is nurtured in the long term, the effect will last. Olenski cites Tropicana (fruit juice) and Gap (clothing) as brands whose logo changes have damaged the emotional connections they had previously made. He warns: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

3) They evolve in a way that seems natural. Change is inevitable, but long-established brands reassure their customers that their values and promises stay the same. There is an understanding that any change is designed to enhance the customer’s experience and to adapt to a changing environment.

The Lego brand, for example, has pursued a core mission to encourage children’s creativity ever since its foundation in 1932. In recent years it has added to users’ experience through partnerships and tie-ins with NASA, Microsoft’s Minecraft game, popular films and other brands.

4) They find ways of continuing to stand out. This is exemplified by New England Coffee, a popular and longstanding brand on the East Coast of America. Despite the wealth of choice available, customers appear to be motivated by the promise of a reliably good coffee experience which reflects the passion demonstrated by its maker.

Customers are perceptive enough to see past the marketing fluff and recognise when a company genuinely works hard to deliver high quality. That consistency keeps them faithful to the brand.

5) They ignore any negatives along the way. The brands that last have an ability to keep on course without being put off or diverted by negative views. They are undaunted by those who doubt their chances of survival, who point to strong competition or who would actually like to see them fail. While planning ahead, they remain true to their past.

6) They choose the right channels to maintain brand awareness. Olenski notes that brands with longevity always know which platforms will work best in reaching out to their audience. This changes over time, and a mix of traditional and modern approaches is needed. It might include, for example:

  • Radio, print and digital advertising
  • Social media
  • Experiential sampling
  • Coupon inserts in newspapers
  • E-shots

Test the media and compare the response to find the best way to engage the audience. This, together with the lessons drawn from history, should help your brand to stand the test of time.