Stroll a few aisles of the supermarket and you’ll witness a barrage of new CPG products introduced just in the past year. Walk trade shows like Fancy Foods and The Natural Products Expo and your head is sure to spin with an overwhelming volume of new brands hoping to become the next standout. Our collective understanding of the highly fragmented consumer population seems to inspire the introduction of new market entrants that cater our needs and desires. Consumers not only expect to discover new brands and innovations on their weekly shopping trips, they seemingly crave it and have few barriers to trial. In fact, if we believe the research, some sub-segments of the population (ahem, Millennials) assign a higher degree of trust to new, smaller brands than the highly established CPG brands their parents and grandparents grew up with.
So in this CPG world of sideways hyperactivity, does a true Heritage Brand even stand a chance? Aren’t third and fourth generation brands quickly becoming irrelevant? Not necessarily.
In their annual Food & Drink Trends report, Mintel predicts that in 2017, “consumers seek comfort from modernized updates of age-old formulations, flavors and formats.” The report goes on to attribute some of this behavior directly to the breakneck speed of modern life.
“The rapid pace of change, the unpredictability of current events and contentious political environments in many countries are leading people to the safety of products that are recognizable rather than revolutionary. Food and drink with authentic connections to history or tradition provide an inherent element of trustworthiness that many consumers yearn for in a tumultuous world.” — Mintel, 2017 Food and Drink Trends
Look around. If you are in proximity to teens and 20-somethings, note the footwear they are wearing. Keds. Vans. Converse. Just when we thought “Chucks” were ready for bronzing, here they come again! Old Spice, PBR, Jack Daniels. These three brands collectively boast 404 years of existence. These brands your grandpa may have loved have been re-discovered by a new generation. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Hostess snacks, Red Vines. Well, these comebacks just make sense to me. We have to balance out all this Crossfit and kale with something don’t we?
HERITAGE BRANDS HAVE 5 PRIMARY ADVANTAGES OVER NEW BRANDS
Heritage brands enjoy familiarity status to large audiences, a higher standard than the simple brand awareness that most new brands are striving to achieve. They don’t have to spend nearly as much to get on the radar screen.
Many Heritage brands are adopted by new generations through parental influences. The brands that were mainstays in the households we grew up in are adopted in our adult households. This holds true in some categories more than others (ie toothpaste, detergent). Apparently, sometimes Mother did know best.
Brands with long histories have often created multiple emotional connections with consumers. From childhood memories of products used by family or friends, to happy jingles that still sing in our heads, to the comfort of familiar smells, over time they have developed the power to stir our emotions through memories both collective (nostalgia) and individual.
Status/Badge/Sense of Belonging
Because they are recognized and understood by many, Heritage brands can convey status and social belonging. They have the ability to represent something bigger about the consumer.
It’s an attribute that cannot be bought but instead hard-earned over time. Heritage itself is rolled up in a respected and time-honored blanket of sincerity. In this way it is a powerful competitive advantage for those who use it wisely.
REKINDLE OR RELEGATE TO THE ARCHIVES?
Even with all of the above advantages, not all Heritage brands are worth their weight in gold. Some truly have seen their heyday pass and should be allowed to rest quietly in the brand archives. When trying to determine whether a brand is ripe for restoration, here are a few questions we like to challenge ourselves to answer. Whenever possible, we affirm our thoughts with primary consumer research, a small investment to avoid potential costly pitfalls.
Is there a passion (internal and consumer) around the brand or is this a case where the parent company/ investors are simply looking to squeeze out any remaining dollars?
Is the foundation of the brand still relevant today? Is it still relatable?
How big is our audience of people who recognize/ relate to the brand? Is this big enough to matter?
Who are the brand’s true-believers? The closer we can define the niche of consumers who love the brand the most, the better we can understand the opportunity at hand.
Understand the dirty laundry. Like people, brands make mistakes over time. If well-handled, most are easily overcome and forgotten. Before investing in a brand restoration, do a little digging to make sure the brand doesn’t have any significant baggage still lingering near the surface.
Needless to say, every Heritage Brand is unique so there isn’t a one size fits all solution to brand restoration. However, there are three steps that remain fairly consistent in our experience.
Evolve or modernize aspects of the brand or product line to cater to new consumer needs. Think beyond a logo refresh and think about the entire brand experience. Where do you have permission to adapt, refine or rejuvenate without isolating the core? (ie Campbell’s V8)
Tap into nostalgia. Remind/ reintroduce consumers to a lost love, a special memory. Sometimes brands are simply out of sight and therefore out of mind. This is especially true to smaller brands who found themselves overshadowed on the shelf and in the media by big CPG brand blocks and media spends for a long period of time. The consumer never lost their love for them, they simply need to rediscover them.
Make history count…authentically. Authenticism seems to be the buzzword of the decade when it comes to summarizing what matters most to consumers in a brand. What is more authentic than history? It’s a deep-seated sense of values that has remained unfettered over time.
So when you’re cleaning out the closets and doing that brand portfolio review, give some careful consideration to the old timers. As we have often discovered, your fastest future growth opportunity may be just a few tweaks away.