How iconic brands are levelling up to stay relevant

When you think of a big-name brand, there’s often a lot of fond memories that come as part of the package. Whether it’s the flashback of a Happy Meal, hurriedly eaten under golden arches, a drunken ‘What’s Upppp’ back and forth in a pub garden over a lukewarm Bud, or Auntie Sandra getting flustered at the turtle-neck-wearing, Cadbury-Milk-Tray-wielding Casanova on her TV screen at Christmas – big brands have a big heritage. But what does this mean when it comes to engaging a younger, more diverse audience?

It’s true. Iconic brands create iconic moments that make for a pretty impressive legacy. The issue is, with audiences now demanding more relevance, diversity, and awareness from brands when it comes to advertising, the struggle to reconcile long-standing tradition with a more engaged – and activist-led – audience, is very real.

Caught between a fear of alienating a loyal, historic fanbase and facing backlash from communities that expect, and demand, a more progressive narrative, brands are finding themselves in a pickle when it comes to delivering something that still strikes a nostalgic chord – but won’t get them cancelled by Christmas.

Staying relevant – it starts with setting the right tone

The reality is all it needs is the right mindset. By taking a less singular approach when it comes to marketing strategy, some of the biggest brands on the planet are successfully pivoting themselves to hit that sweet-spot between lasting heritage and new-age relevance.

Let’s take a look at some old-school big hitters, and how they’re managing to appease generation WOKE and hold on to generational tradition.

A little bit of (puppy) love can go a long way…

Forever known as the harbingers of puppy cuteness, Andrex use of the golden retriever puppy as the face of their marketing efforts has kept them as THE loo roll leader since 1942. So much historic cuteness wrapped up in a non-offensive, picture-perfect aesthetic, it’s a wonder why would they would ever need to change – right?

However, in 2022 the brand leapt on the beating pulse of inclusivity and upgraded their tone of choice from ‘awwww that’s cute’ to a more emotive, purposeful communication that cut across demographics with the deft tug of a cushioned loo roll – and all while staying true to the good old pup too.

In their new ‘clean is a feeling’ campaign the brand struck gold, and not just the furry kind, creating an ad that showed all types of bottoms, in all types of environments, in a fun, emotive and still very much nostalgic way. And the crowning glory? The little tail wag at the end – proving that a slight tweak in tone can go a long way in preserving a rich history, while giving a prominent nod to wide-ranging audience.

To move forward, sometimes it helps to go back

Greene King. One of the oldest independent beer brewers in the UK, founded in 1799, was in danger of being forgotten due to the fast-paced emergence of craft beer brands. The brand needed a drastic shake up to stay relevant, but it was also set on retaining the historic roots of the business. A tough ask for any re-brand but one the Greene King team managed to pull off with conviction.

Keeping the brands origin story, but retold in the modern era, the folklore of Greene King was reimagined with a playfully abrasive and modern twist. Re-designing each beer with vibrant, illuminating colours and intricate illustrations inspired by historic woodcuts, the brand was able to tell a compelling story via each design.

The result? Greene King combined a modern colour palette with respected heritage, creating a sought-after product that put the brand firmly back on the map.

When keeping things simple can actually say a hell of a lot more.

First created to ensure their brand name took priority in shopping trolleys over cheaper supermarket copies ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ has served the baked bean powerhouse exceedingly well from its inception back in 1967. Remaining a staple in the brands marketing arsenal after all these years, you’d be hard pushed to find a consumer who didn’t associate baked beans with this leading industry icon.

However, with the zeitgeist now firmly focused on healthy, sustainable eating, it was time for Heinz to evolve.

The new reveal was a slightly altered strapline ‘Beanz Meanz More.’ Genius. In one small strategy refocus, the historic strapline endures but its latest model delivers on the promise that Heinz always has, and always can, deliver so much more – versatility, nutrition, and familiarity.

Time and tide wait for no brand…

The BBC. The 100-year-old television broadcaster has seen its fair share of scrutiny in recent times, plus with a rallying cry from younger audiences to end the license payer fee and accusing the broadcaster of being old fashioned and out-of-date – it was time to take the bull by the horns. The BBC responded with the biggest rebrand in the company’s history. One that realigned its wide-ranging channels into one cohesive – ‘digital-first’ – solution.

Listening to audience feedback that a more modern and easier brand navigation was needed, the broadcaster set about to evolve its identity.

Cleverly there was little deviation from the iconic block-like identity synonymous with the channel, but rather an intelligent extraction into a new, sleeker, simplified system of idents that harmoniously work together – but unique enough to be individual – allowing audiences to find the content they love faster and easier.

To summarise

The moral of the tale is, a rebrand doesn’t need to erase a brands history to cater for an ever-evolving audience. Rather, the need to stay relevant should be seen as an opportunity to elevate and re-align that history into the minds and lives of the modern consumer.

Here at Designmc we know how to leverage a rebrand to its most effective advantage, creating an engaging and inclusive environment for your customer and, most importantly, safeguarding the legacy of your business.

To find out more about how we can help, get in touch by emailing us at hello@designmc.org