Heritage. Old rubbish or the renewable energy inside your brand?

Goodwood Festival of Speed
the added value of heritage

It’s official. Old is the new black. Heritage is cool. Last century’s stuff is now in vogue. So, dig out your old products and brands, because there’s gold in them there hills! After years buried away and forgotten in the corporate rubbish heap, forced downwards like fossils under the weight of ‘the next big thing’ the back catalogue of products and activities that have been ignored and forgotten have slowly transformed into valuable commodities.

And it makes sense when you think about it.

The disciplines of marketing, communications and sales are all converging online around the need for ‘content’. The insatiable need to find ways of connecting your brand with your customer and starting a meaningful dialogue. The ‘stuff’ that people want to talk about, not just the latest brand advert.

Take any brand from Shell to Coca Cola, Volkswagen to British Airways – the thing that links them to their customers is not just the push to sell the new stuff, it’s actually what their customers want to talk about. The buzz online is not always driven by clever new videos or games; it’s often people talking about the things they have bought, the good times (and the bad). Just take a look at the comments on Twitter or Facebook around a product – there is almost always a reference to a previous era.

‘I remember the smell of oil when my Dad used to drive us in his old Ford Cortina to school. Happy days.’

‘Coca Cola always makes me think of Christmas and the adverts with the red trucks’

And that’s what social media offers… it is the ultimate freedom of speech with people able to say what they want on a platform others can see and hear. And as a result of listening to these conversations brands are finally recognising that their ‘old stuff’ isn’t just a bit crusty and embarrassing, it’s actually part of people’s lives and a great way to connect with them.

This month’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK is perhaps one of the best examples of how to bring customers and brands together. The 4-day car event has vehicles from ‘way back when’ through to new models being driven for the first time in public. 150,000 people pay to attend and they can choose whether they look at the old stuff or the new products – all of which is driven in front of their eyes. Now in its 19th year the event has come alive to a new audience through social media and provides the brands with new ways to talk with their customers.

To be fair, some brands have always been good at this. Volkswagen has consistently embraced its older vehicles and heritage with the Beetle, followed by the Golf and of course the Camper vans and talked about them down the years.  But it is only in recent years that marketers in many other brands (not just cars) have finally developed the confidence to talk about stuff beyond the current products, overcoming a mis-informed fear of losing sales.

Ferrari has a great back catalogue, but it has not just acknowledged it, the Italian supercar company embraced it and used it for commercial return. The Ferrari Classiche department now provides full restoration services for customers, with access to the records of every car ever made in Maranello. And not a new product in sight. But a healthy contribution to the company’s bottom line – and an endless stream of conversations online around the topic.

We all like to reminisce and it is through the products (cars, music, whatever) that we have a link to those special moments. So, jump on board – find out what your customers are talking about and bring the conversations to life through your own back-catalogue.

In the UK, the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association of which I happen to be chairman, has just announced the first Heritage Event – a workshop for communication professionals to explore how best to use the opportunities that live in every automotive company. The event combines ‘ride and drive’ in some of the classic Ford products, along with sessions from Volkswagen and others into how they make use of their heritage.

Coca Cola announced this year that instead of spending billions creating their own campaigns from ad agencies, they’re going to focus their content on what their customers are talking about. And that includes heritage.

Nostlagia ain’t what it used to be. It’s now part of the future.. so embrace it!


About Al Clarke – I am a marketing and communications specialist who has worked in the motor industry at board level since 1997. I have held senior positions in global brands such as Ferrari and the BBC including a decade working as a journalist.I am a member of the Institute of Directors, the Public Relations Consultants Association, an expert member of the digital community Smart Insights and Life President of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association.I speak regularly in the field of marketing communications to businesses and the media with particular reference to digital media. Find me on Twitter @alclarkeltd and LinkedIn.


Comments 1

  1. Interesting article Al! A couple gems that stick out; brand, heritage, content and engagement. As you point out through social media various audiences can begin to engage with a brand in different ways relevant to their needs and interests. Without traditional research methods, brands could never glean this level of information so quickly or respond as effectively but social media has quickly changed that. Through user or brand generated content brands can now relevantly engage with their audiences from fans and aspirational buyers to prospects and existing customers creating conversations, engagement and interest in what their ‘followers’ like. Brands with rich heritage have great opportunities to create conversations around points of interest – bringing the nostalgia into the future!

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