#10Q: Every brand has a heritage

Idea Hive's Sizwe Dlamini says brands need to update their storytelling for the post-pandemic era.

Sizwe Dlamini, head of commercial at Idea Hive, a specialist digital brand-storytelling agency, says, in times such as these, people seem to be constantly looking back and dreaming of the “good old days”. But, to be successful in today’s increasingly connected and brand conscious world, brands that want to succeed need to update their storytelling for the modern age; requiring a fresh point of view, while seamlessly weaving stories of the past into the present in new ways.

1. What is a heritage brand?

In the traditional sense, a heritage brand is a brand that has been around for many years, maybe even centuries. However, COVID-19 has somehow shifted these “good old days”; to “before the virus days…” Hence, heritage branding has become a powerful tool.

2. How does heritage play into brand strategy?

Your brand doesn’t have to be a classic heritage brand to implement components of heritage branding. It’s not about having decades of history; it’s about telling your story and humanising your brand. Whether your business was founded in 1854, 1998, or 2016, there is always a story to tell. People have always loved to listen to stories because of the emotions and relativity it has in their own lives. Why, then, have brands not embraced this fundamental concept of brand storytelling? It could be the fear of the unknown or simply the lack of know-how.

3. So, how can brands set themselves apart?

Brands are always looking for ways to set themselves apart. While unique products, impeccable service records and other distinctive factors play a role, branding typically fosters a unique identity. Intricately connected to heritage is brand storytelling. It is how you tell your story that matters to a successful marketing strategy.

4. And, an example would be?

A brand that exhibits longevity, a track record, consistent core values and the use of symbols that stand for the brand over time, can use these elements as a means of taping into important impressions of their brand in order to procure loyalty and drive future sales. Lee, the popular apparel company known for selling denim jeans, is an excellent illustration. Founded in 1889 by H.D. Lee, the company has been synonymous with the term “blue jeans.” To this day, the company taps into this history by telling stories and publishing content that honours the past, while encouraging customers to remain fashion forward.

5. How has the concept of legacy branding shifted?

Today, you no longer need a legacy of years of brand equity. You simply need brand equity, full stop. Organisations establish brand equity by creating positive experiences, that entice consumers to continue purchasing from them over competitors who make similar products. You may not have 200 years of history, you may only have five. You may not have generational customers, but maybe you have clients who have been with you since the beginning. If you have some history, you can leverage the principles of heritage branding to your advantage.

6. How do brands do that?

Through storytelling, you can make a real-time investment in content marketing, you can tell your brand’s story and relay your heritage to connect with customers on an emotional level to encourage loyalty. Such as: record your history; authenticity is key to any rand or story; focus on people; evoke nostalgia; and never stop innovating.

7. What should brands not do?

You might not have a compelling history, but don’t try to compensate by fictionalising your past. Making up stories – or even exaggerating – will only come back to haunt you. An important question to ask is: What are your core values, the principals that attracted your loyal customers to your brand in the first place? Focus on those core values and research how people who hold those values are interacting with your brand, never losing sight of the fact that you have to modernise.

8. What’s the best way to tell your brand’s story?

Every brand has a story. To develop a heritage brand or one that will always be top of mind, it is imperative to take every opportunity to tell your story to avoid the latest brands from stealing your market share. Your brand marketing strategy is your plan for moving your brand forward with targeted messaging that communicates your brand’s values, promise and benefits to all the right people at optimal times. If you refuse to change, your hard work and dedication will be in vain and we all know that prevention is better than cure. Adjust your message to make sure your brand remains significant.

9. Do you have a life philosophy?

My life’s philosophy is the Nike slogan: Just do it – the worst that could happen is that you learn from that experience.

10. What is your superpower?

My superpower is persistence. As the saying goes, “If at first, you don’t succeed, get up, dust yourself off, and try again”.


– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here