Can a Brand Bring Back Its History and Make It Relevant?

What small businesses can learn from Carl's Jr.'s branding about-face.
Can a Brand Bring Back Its History and Make It Relevant?
Image credit: Carl's Jr. | Youtube
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Many a brand has tried to leverage its heritage to show that it’s still relevant. Back in the day when long-standing brand loyalty was the goal, then this strategy made sense. Consumers valued a brand’s history and heritage and saw it as a signal of unique expertise.

I’m not sure that this is still true with our newest generation of consumers. Millennials value the fresh face, the startup innovator, the underdog “new kid on the block.” They’d rather try high risk/high reward than the tried-and-true.

While I understand intellectually, as a marketer I shake my head emotionally. But, even I recognize that resting on your brand laurels doesn’t necessarily work anymore. It takes considerable skill, and a finely crafted brand narrative.

Which was exactly what I was thinking as I observed the new brand refresh from Carl’s Jr., the iconic fast food burger chain. The company brought back "Carl Sr." to set the younger generation "Carl Jr." straight. Seems he’s been taking too many off-brand chances -- like this little ditty with Kate Upton -- according to the Sr. Take a look at the new ad by clicking here

So what do I think? Emotionally I like the homage to the past generation.

But, intellectually, I think the brand is trying too hard, to be honest. The campaign is so over the top that it’s just not believable. And, in a world where we now value trust and authenticity over “fake news,” it feels a little fabricated. Just being honest.

But, I’m a big believer that marketing is a spectator sport, and we can learn from each and every piece of brand activity out there. So, let’s learn from this one.

If you are going to leverage your heritage, make sure you think about these things:

Get real.

Talking about your history can’t be overblown and full of hyperbole. Speak about the facts, and use them to justify your expertise. Gloating and boasting will only result in skepticism. And, if possible, let your customers do the talking for you.

Speak to the benefits.

Ask yourself, “What’s the benefit of our long history in business?” Because that’s exactly what your customers will be asking of you. Show how your history has allowed you to build expertise beyond anyone else in the category. Saying you’ve done it all is one thing, but showing how that helps your customers is quite another.

Differentiate.

In the end, your heritage should differentiate your abilities from anyone else in your industry. So, use it to show how you’ll perform better than anyone else, leaving everyone else looking inexperienced and unable to measure up.

This is particularly true for entrepreneurs and small business owners. You are even closer to your customers than the big brands, so your experience plays an even bigger role. It’s much more personal. So, it’s even more important to be authentic and sincere in how you serve up your expertise. Drama probably won’t work here at all. Trust is paramount and experience is required. Be honest in how you serve up your skills, and show how they benefit your customers. Then, and only then, will your experience truly mean something.

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