We live in a business climate that embraces change so much that this week’s hottest startup can become next week’s old news. With hype being such a fleeting factor in this day and time, assurance and longevity become two valuable assets that even venture capitalists cannot buy.
Legacy. It’s a word that often becomes lost in the startup craze and can at times present challenges for brands that have been in existence for decades. Make no mistake: Product integrity and brand cohesion are essential; however, brands cannot rely on those distinctions alone. We are in an era where the choice to innovate and disrupt is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. We’ve seen brands such as Toys R Us, Blockbuster, Kodak and Xerox fail to re-examine their business model, customer disposition and the value they bring to a modernized marketplace.
In 2018, my team and I helped a logistics and transportation powerhouse company launch a startup — a B2B asset-sharing platform (think the fleet-sharing sibling to Airbnb) within their existing brand. The 85-year old trucking company was looking to create a product that catered to a new audience by renouncing their old-school trucking reputation and relinquishing the signature red-and-black font. The brand needed to resemble companies like Airbnb and Uber, which was a stark contrast to its current transportation and logistics image.
We understood that fresh brand characteristics, compelling visuals and easy-to-digest social content would capture interest from target customers and help drive customer acquisition. There are, however, different methods for distinctive brands when looking to go this route if they truly want to understand their place in today’s business environment and build upon a strategy that will allow them to remain relevant for years to come.
So, how can companies “build a brand” when they’re already running a successful legacy business and leverage their tradition while remaining relevant?
It’s important for brands to reassess how they are accumulating the information they use to designate where they stand among their customers and competitors.
Re-Examine Your Core Audience
Research is a key factor in this process. Many legacy brands start with one key demographic in mind and later find that their goals and aspirations must shift according to the changing interests, tastes and perspectives of their original audience. Brands can no longer bet to serve an audience in 2000 and expect that cohort of customers to remain the same 19 years later.
Diving deep into emerging audiences is how brands can go beyond the traditional and tap into new demographics and opportunities that push them ahead of the pack and keep them competitive. Our client recognized this and employed a similar strategy when ideating on how their own demographic had transformed and what their needs and business challenges were. By crafting customer personas and profiles and narrowing in on psychographic data such as interests, values and behaviors, they were able to create a product that aligned with customer pain points and provided a solution.
Craft Content To Fit Consumer Wants And Needs
When our team started working with this particular trucking company, we immediately knew and understood content would play a large role in transcending their traditional demographic.
Their new business model targeted individuals who wanted the accessibility to transportation, not necessarily ownership. Their model was very similar to brands like ZipCar or FLOOW2, as these business models are based on communities coming together to pool resources collaboratively. What was realized in the infancy stages is that a strategic Social Media content strategy would fuel their startup engine and set them apart from their traditional competitors.
In our fast-paced hyperconnected world, Social Media channels have become imperative for brands, regardless if they are legacy brands or burgeoning startups. A 2018 report from Statista shows there are more than 2.23 billion active users on Facebook alone, meaning that a company’s messaging can resonate throughout a myriad of channels quickly and effectively when used appropriately.
Our strategy was straightforward in scope and is one other brands can easily replicate. We used Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as primary social avenues to engage our client’s existing audience and attract new customers. Working alongside our graphics team, we created visuals to help our client introduce their new brand to their current audience. We also incorporated video testimonials from early adopters of the platform to express how the platform made their business run smoother.
Embracing and adopting an integrated Social Media marketing approach is an ideal way in which long-established brands can set themselves apart.
Differentiate From Tradition
This may be a soft spot for some, however, if you are a brand looking to appeal to a new audience or reinvigorate your current base, you must find and create new ways to challenge the status quo by engaging and delighting customers. This means taking on a much more expansive view of your customer’s lives and how they interact with your product and gauging how you can deliver in new and unexpected ways.
Heritage brands like General Motors launched Maven to appeal to the ride-sharing audience, while historic media conglomerate CNN launched Great Big Story, a venture they’re affirming is the answer to Vice and Buzzfeed. Are these brands disrupting tradition? Absolutely. They are doing so in ways some companies fear provide a path to dissolving their legacy products — not immediately, but possibly in the long term. Nonetheless, I believe using a customer-driven innovative approach to target new audiences and keep core customers engaged is how legacy brands will thrive in today’s fast-paced startup ecosystem.
Startups are often referred to as agile, disruptive and innovative companies — characteristics typically not associated with legacy brands. But this notion is constantly shifting. To flourish, legacy companies have to make a commitment to stay innovative by seeking fresh, unconventional methods that deliver lasting value for clients and customers.