We’ve seen many top brands mining their past, with ‘The Co-op’, ‘Guinness’ and more recently ‘MasterCard’ having returned to form with logos each echoing their 1960’s predecessors, but all for very different reasons.
Heritage and history are valuable commodities for any brand; a history is distinct and ownable. They can be used to re-dress a business to change the public’s perception. Although there is now a climate in which any company with a decade under its belt is proudly declaring its provenance, in good branding, heritage is more than a battle of ‘who has been around the longest’. Authenticity is what roots itself in the consumer’s mind. No wonder many businesses are chasing a ‘heritage brand’, trying to unearth their own engaging story. Storytelling gives a brand a platform to speak to us on emotional level, a recent article in Wired even argues that a well spun tale side-steps our reasoning and normal defences.
For a brand like The Co-op this sort of re-brand seems like an obvious move. In many ways – seeking to resuscitate a tarnished reputation – their hand was forced. ‘North’ the design studio behind the re-brand surmises as “evoking nostalgic memories of local shops and dividend stamps”, in this way it’s is harkening back to a fondly remembered time. It is not as much about telling ‘it’s own story’, but rather trying to buy into another. The Co-op is using its heritage to once more try to position itself and it’s values to an idealised past – where no one locked their door and the postman wore shorts. As it happens The Co-op has a longer and richer heritage it can mine, dating back to the early 19th Century, but that doesn’t align with the message and values that they want to project now, but in reality no one cares about a brand’s uncurated history. What matters is story telling. In essence, branding is about sowing seeds in the imagination.
A good example of this is the recent Guinness rebrand, working with an illustrator who had drawn their iconic Guinness harp of 1968. The logo evokes notions of craftsmanship. It is textured and complex and is a breath of fresh air going against the current trend of minimalist design. Compare it, for example, to Mastercard’s recently unveiled logo – minimal to the utmost. Guinness’ logo is distinct and physical, the hand process is trying to reconnect with a 250 year old brand. The beer market finds itself in a time where every label is emboldened with the word “craft”, Guiness’ re-brand is about differentiation they are attempting By contrast, Guinesss are trying to tap into the idea of traditional craftsmanship. The same idea is behind the medieval heritage of Stella Artois’ Chalice design.
In a saturated market many brands are staking their claim as ‘the originals’, using their heritage as a tool to reposition themselves with storytelling. Heritage is an important factor to establish a consumer trust, but it is no longer about who planted their flag first. A trustworthy brand is not simply the one that has been around longest but rather the one crafting an engaging tale, a story that reflects that brand’s values. Today’s motto appears to be, If you don’t have a story these days, make one. In design terms we can safely predict a few more brands drawing upon the hand-crafted imagery, moving away from the clean lines of digital, yet as The Co-op and MasterCard show its not just about rejecting the contemporary ‘flat design’ that surrounds us. Branding appears to have fixed its gaze on ‘heritage’, is this a trend that’s set to continue?
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