Heritage can be defined as a connection with the past. This association can be in terms of people, places, purpose or experience. For example Castle Lager brand is associated with Charles Glass, its formulator, while Tanganda Tea is associated with the Tanganda River and the tea estates of Chipinge in Zimbabwe. Heritage brands are, therefore, brands with long histories in the markets they operate in and elsewhere.Heritage branding is the leveraging of heritage brands in order influence the market’s perception of them.
One would say that any brand has a history and they would ask what the heritage brands fuss is all about. Heritage brands present a number of advantages for the brand marketer which s/he can leverage to achieve a number of marketing objectives for the brand. Here a few of the benefits of heritage branding.
· Helps to maintain brand loyalty
Today’s customer is more informed, demanding and has more choices. This is coupled by reducing disposable income in most economies due to the prevailing economic crises which most countries are going through. Such a scenario makes it harder to retain customers most of who toss brand loyalty through the window and bargain hunt in an effort to stretch their dollar. Heritage brands help marketers to retain some of their customers on the basis of the attachment that the former have with certain brands. For example, prior to July 2016 up to 60 percent of Zimbabwean supermarket stocks were imports from South Africa and Zambia but those who could afford local brands stuck to heritage brands such as Olivine Industries’ Olivine cooking oil and National Foods’ Gloria Flour.
· Create nostalgia among consumers
Most Zimbabweans who are in their forties and above continue to remember Cairns Foods’ Willards Potato Chips of the 1980s and 1990s with a lot of nostalgia because of the both brand itself and their experiences around the brand. Such brands would continue to enjoy popularity on the market if they were still around as they would be “handed down” from one generation of consumers to another. This helps to maintain demand for them on the market. Brand like popular music are part of people’s history and they help to remind people of certain events in their lives. An unforgettable picnic with a loved one where Willards Potato Chips were shared, for example.
· Strengthening emotional connection with consumers
Brand building is about building emotional connections between brands and their users on the basis of the latter’s perception of the inherent value or benefits in the former. The stronger the emotional connection the more the consumers are likely to demand for the brands, building brand preference in the process. The highest level of brand preference is brand insistence which describes a situation where a consumer will only have their preferred brand or nothing else. This is every brand marketer’s dream and heritage brands help marketers to achieve this.
· Creating a reason to believe
Heritage branding creates a reason to believe that a particular brand is good. Many brands have been launched and many have failed and disappeared from the market. A brand’s heritage helps to convince a would be consumer that they are buying a brand which has not just been successful but for a long time too. Schweppes Zimbabwe’s Mazoe Orange Crush has been on the Zimbabwean and regional markets since 1930. A new consumer of the brand would be convinced by its long history that it is agood brand which has managed to outdo other cordial brands on the market for so long.
· Helping customers to find comfort in the familiar
The aforesaid dominance of the Zimbabwean supermarket shelf spaces by foreign brands makes shopping difficult especially for people who were used to locally-manufactured fast moving consumer brands (FMCBs). Although the new phenomenon of the flighting of advertisements marketing the brands on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television channel by South African manufacturers could go some way in assuring would be consumers, this would not compare with the heritage branding of local FMCBs as this is based on past experiences and connections with the brands in question.
Leveraging heritage branding
It is one thing having a portfolio of brands with great histories and quite another to take advantage of this to achieve a number of brand marketing goals like increasing sales, awareness or recognition. Leveraging heritage branding means making the most of the marketing capital which is locked up in various aspects of a brand’s history. A number tactics can be employed to fully exploit the brand heritage strategy for marketing purposes. Given below a handful them.
· Using a popular elderly person to tell the brand’s story
A retired soccer star such as George Shaya can be used to tell the story of such a brand as Lobels Bread. Given his age he obviously was around for most of the bread brand’s history. Today the brand’s marketing message is “The original Lobels taste”. Since its founding in 1957 obviously its bread taste has changed with changing bread baking technology and industrial trends. This is compounded by the fact that no one can re-produce the bread’s 1975 taste in order to compare it with the current one. People who enjoyed the bread back then are still around and only their word is required to certify that the taste is original and the company enjoys the benefit of the heritage branding of Lobels. Back then bread was sold in high density suburbs using vending carts. One bread vendor of the time can also be used to tell the Lobels story to the current crop of consumers.
· Emphasising value and benefits
Every brand has a heritage and a story to tell. This means that when using heritage to market a brand one should strive to make sure that their effort is the signal in the din and clutter of marketing messages from other brands on the market by stressing on the value and benefits of the brand rather than just rumble on and on about a brand’s history. The heritage should come in to reinforce the brand’s inherent value. Customer pay for value and not for history. After all, they also have histories of their own.
· Evoking nostalgia using memories of places of origin
Places of origin or founding of a brand can be used to leverage its history to achieve marketing objectives. For example re-tracing the history of Tanganda Tea, which would include the description or historical pictures of the rolling Jersey, Ratelshoek and other plantations in Chipinge, would appeal to Eastern Highlanders and even people from other areas who have worked in or visited the tea plantations where the tea leaves are grown. This could be done for other brands which are named after places to evoke past fond memories which can enhance consumers’ emotional connection with the brand.
· Celebrating anniversaries
Celebrating brand anniversaries is part of a marketing strategy termed milestone marketing. Anniversaries mark segments of brand histories. When celebrating anniversaries use retired founding employees or founders to narrate brand histories to give an air of “from the horse’s mouth” which lends credibility to the brand’s story. Hold open days where the media and members of the public can have a chance to see where and how their favourite brands are made. This can take the form of a documentary video which can air on national television. If the open day route is chosen one can include a photographic exhibition of the history of the brand which can include first premises or delivery trucks. This can also involve displaying the various shapes of the packaging of the celebrated brand over the years to satisfy the curiosity of brand consumers.
· Strive to maintain relevance across generations
A brand may be a hit with one generation and fail to interest the following ones owing to changing trends. One company which realised this is National Foods. In 2016 it realised that its 96 year old Gloria Flour brand ran the risk of losing relevance among the younger generations and embarked on a re-positioning exercise in March 2016 which was code named Project Sun. The project involved using young popular musicians like Selmor Mtukudzi, Sebastian Magacha and Mukudzeyi Mukombe (JahPrayzah) to record a song and perform at Gloria Flour road shows in order to appeal to the younger generation of potential Gloria Flour users. The campaign also included a sales promotion component.
Maintaining relevance may just require brand packaging freshening up. Early in 2016 Cairns Foods re-designed its Cashel Valley Baked Beans and Sun Jam brands in response to imports from South Africa and to maintain relevance. The old packaging design for each brand was more than two decades old.
Leveraging brand heritage can yield marketing mileage for brands with histories and rich traditions. To make the most of this marketers should plan this properly and set solid and achievable brand marketing objectives in order for the strategy to yield meaningful results. The strategy can be used as part of other brand marketing strategies like milestone marketing or exhibitions or on its own. Whichever way a marketer uses it, heritage brand marketing, done correctly,helps to build stronger emotional connection between brands and their consumers.