Managing a heritage brand: How to keep it relevant…

Sometimes your greatest brand strength can also feel like your weakness.

Your brand was first to market, has always been the market leader, has a heritage that its competitors lack. But now your competitors are targeting this strength. They position themselves as modern, as innovative, as different from you and your very strength can start to feel a little tarnished.

So what do you do? If you move too far away from your established positioning you could undermine everything you have always stood for and alienate your existing customer base, however, without some action your competitors are chipping away at your share and your brand is looking increasingly dated.

A brand is not a single entity, it consists of many different elements. When you can identify the emotional impact of each element upon your consumers you can identify which aspects are still positive and which are the ones that are no longer so relevant to todays’ consumers.

Your consumers experience your brand as a journey. Your advertising and communication sets up an expectation which is underlined by your packaging, colours, on-pack comms. etc. The consumer then opens the pack, observes, feels and smells the product, they then experience a consumption journey from initial impression through the eat, the swallow and the aftertaste.

As your consumer moves through this sensorial journey, they also experience it as an emotional journey as the different elements of the branding and their product experience prompt a whole series of emotional responses within them. This is rarely a smooth single dimensional emotional journey, it has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, and these are the uniqueness of your brand.

We can track this emotional journey and how and why the different elements of the branding and the sensorial journey prompt these emotional reactions. We can also track the emotional journey cued by your competitor brands and how and why the different elements of their branding and sensorial journeys cue their unique consumer emotional journeys.

 Once this is achieved, it becomes relatively clear not only which elements of your branding and your sensorial journey are prompting the more negative emotional responses in your consumers, it also becomes clear what tweaks are required to improve these journeys – to up-date the brand whilst still maintaining its valuable heritage elements.

Managing heritage brands, keeping them current and relevant in todays’ fast moving markets whilst maintaining the essence of what makes them great, is not easy. Many Brand Managers prefer not to ‘rock the boat’ and just to move on before they lose too much share. But it can be done and it can be done very effectively and with outstanding results. It starts with understanding the consumers’ emotional journey with your brand. Once you understand this emotional journey you will have the secret to stay ahead of the competition.

Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:

Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.