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Is the Idea of brand heritage dead?

Posted on 10/04/2012 by Emma Dadswell

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Kodak – established in 1892 was the inventor of the digital camera and its predecessor, the original handheld camera. Last year its digital imaging patents were sold off to hold of bankruptcy, and this week it was announced that the firm is to cut 1,000 jobs by the end of the year. Meanwhile Instagram, at just two years old was sold to Facebook for $1bn, which begs the question – is there still value in brand heritage?

Traditionally company heritage was a badge of honour and brand longevity brought connotations of quality and desirability. A recognisable logo is historically a mark of trust, but today it seems this is not enough to sustain high brand equity.

Nokia was once the biggest mobile business in the world, but the company’s share price has fallen by more than 85% in the last four years and dropped further last week when it failed to announce a release date or pricing for the next generation of its phones. Nokia’s fall from grace seemed to coincide with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone, when the brand failed to stay ahead of the competition in terms of innovation. The latest models are seen as a make or break moment for the Finnish firm, which posted a £650m loss in a recent quarterly report.

It may be that some global market leaders become complacent and rely on their former glory rather than continuing to push the boundaries of creation and innovation. Like the hare who outran the tortoise, huge brands run the risk of resting on their laurels as fledging start-ups snap at their heels.

Company heritage is still a valuable promotional tool for established brands – but history alone is not a sufficient marketing angle. Organisations need to move with the times to hold their title at the top. They have to stay one step ahead of the game without forgetting their core values.

The world’s best brands still celebrate their stories. Burberry successfully promotes its ‘Est. 1856’ message through social media channels in real time, Gap’s denim rage is branded ‘1969’ and Universal Pictures has rolled out a programme of events to celebrate its centenary. The secret to longevity is constant and unrelenting progression while still maintaining the emotional reassurance that the brand image offers.

The world’s most recognisable brands need to invest in quality talent to outrun the pace of change. In this digital age reputations can be built and destroyed within hours -  and design, marketing, creative and HR professionals need to work together to harness the opportunities that this evolving landscape offers.

The idea of brand heritage is still very much alive – but today’s fast-moving consumers want more than a history of success. In 2110 will Instagram be celebrating its centenary?