Leadership Blog

3 Keys for Modernizing a Legacy Brand


Some brands have become so ingrained in society’s collective brain that they’ve reached icon status. As such, they pack meaningful emotional connotations among consumers, maybe becoming akin to family.

Yet as we all know, familiarity can breed both contentment and resistance. Thus, mature brands have to straddle the careful balance beam between staying relevant for legacy customers and wooing younger buyers with trendier options and selling techniques.

Those that succeed in walking this tightrope will have a distinctive leg up among other less flexible historical companies, as well as emerging industry disruptors.


Upshots and Downfalls of Legacy Brands

Obviously, being a classic has its serious benefits. According to Interbrand’s 2018 list of the best global brands, more than half of the top 20 companies are at least 50 years old. Businesses that have been around for generations — and, in some cases, more than a century — have finances and teams to figure out how to navigate the nuances in marketing, product development, and other areas.

For instance, when my company started advertising, there were just 165 local television markets and about four stations in each market. Now, we can choose from a plethora of traditional and digital media outlets and systematically target customers with personalized messaging. It’s not simple by any means, but when we leverage our past experiences to guide us, we connect with younger consumers who want to create custom products and support socially responsible organizations.

Of course, playing the part of the “big kid on the block” isn’t a cakewalk. Finding relevance among Millennials and Generation Z’ers can be challenging. Younger people now live with their parents longer and wait longer to have children; as a result, they have different purchasing triggers than more established, older buyers. If a company is bogged down with a “we’ve always done things that way” mentality or has layers of molasses-level bureaucracy, it’s ripe for eventual ruin.

Despite the downsides of being as seasoned as a Cajun gumbo, legacy brands do have an opportunity to rise above the rest and remain top dogs in their fields. If you’re representing a historically recognized entity, you’d be wise to take these strategic steps to heart:


1. Become a data enthusiast.

Imagine the insights available to a business that’s been around the block thousands of times versus one just picking up speed. Surprisingly, far too many legacy corporations don’t leverage the data they’ve accumulated, despite the fact that 65 percent of professional marketers told Econsultancy and Adobe that they were planning to increase their data analysis protocols last year. Truly, data from the past and present will hold the key to driving higher sales in the future, especially with the help of artificial intelligence and high-tech software.


2. Focus on authenticity.

Millennials have an inherent distrust of big business and the media. To that end, they strive to know where their money is going, what ingredients are in the products they use and consume, and what brands stand for. The best way to educate them on your historic name is to connect with them via people they trust through word-of-mouth referrals in person and on social media. Being genuine and fostering sincere two-way relationships is a good way to remain viable.


3. Meet customers where they are.

In the old days, we showed customers a problem and presented our product or service as the cure. Now, they self-identify issues and actively seek solutions. Because consumers have stopped being passive, brands have to follow suit and be where customers need them, when they need them. A good example is by creating messaging, such as a landing page or a blog post, written specifically for a target persona. Readers feel connected when they’re treated personally. Not sure what your audiences want? Gather them in-house or through an online chat forum and ask what they need. They’ll tell you.

The older a brand gets, the richer and more robust it should become. Ideally, it becomes a part of society as a whole, appealing to people at as many levels as possible. The end goal? To achieve a spot so dominant that it would be sincerely missed if it disappeared.