Chris Cooper
Chris Cooper 11 January 2019

Lazarus Brands: How Legacy Brands Can Become Social and Innovate in Digital

Though a respected legacy brings with it consumer recognition and trust, both are difficult to maintain in today’s jam-packed marketplace. So how do older brands maintain relevance?

Nothing is as valuable as a respected legacy. Longevity brings with it consumer recognition and trust, both difficult to attain and even harder to maintain, especially in the jam-packed marketplace of the 21st century. 

In today’s landscape, populated with digital brands that have been built upon the principles of creating momentary hype that will fizzle out in just one week, legacy brands have an opportunity to re-establish themselves for a younger generation of consumers.

Dixons, Comet, Maplin. Some of the UK’s largest consumer electronics retailers fell victim to the brick-and-mortar malaise in 2018, stemming from competition from online rivals and ever-declining instore footfall. The death of the British high street has dominated headlines in recent years, with even heavyweights such as Debenhams and House of Fraser in serious trouble.

The rise of e-commerce tends to absorb most of the blame for the current state of physical retail, but in truth it is just one of several factors. Shopper behaviour has changed forever. Customers have embraced an omnichannel approach to shopping, blurring the lines between retail channels.

Though a respected legacy brings with it consumer recognition and trust, both are difficult to maintain in today’s jam-packed marketplace. In a landscape populated with digital brands that have been built on the principles of seizing every available platform, legacy brands must also embrace this shift. To achieve this, they need to adopt a much more dynamic customer journey to best play to their strengths, online and offline.

Immersive experiences are key to remaining relevant

In the new age of the experience economy, shoppers are after multifunctional and experience-based environments that offer much more than transactions. John Lewis and Target have taken to presenting products by room instead of category, an effort that has helped shoppers contextualise and get a sense of real-life functionality.

Apple adopted the brand ambassador method to help shoppers understand how products can help them in their day-to-day lives.  Google took an immersive approach to launching its Pixel 3 model with “Pixeldilly Circus” acting as a discovery hub without pushing for sales.

In the world of fashion, immersion is even more prevalent. From Selfridges’ skate bowl installation, inviting youngsters in for lessons from the pros, to Converse’s One Star Hotel pop-up, which offered an element of theatricality, several legacy brands have recreated themselves as destinations that go beyond shopping – perfect for the Instagram generation.

Department stores are hard at work blending digital shopping features, such as AR, VR and AI technology to produce an entertaining experience instore. However, the experience itself is only part of the package. How it is communicated is just as important.

Social determines the survival of the fittest

Consumers are keen to interact with brands in a number of ways on social: by following them and asking questions, interacting with content produced by the brand itself, creating their own content to share with the brand and their peers alike and sharing their own recommendations.

Burberry is a prime example of a legacy brand that was an early adopter of social integration. From streaming runway shows on Snapchat to offering immediate purchasing through its e-commerce store, the heritage British brand has managed to remain relevant and even re-establish itself with a younger demographic. Not only this, but it was the first to turn user-generated content into its own platform with Art of the Trench. Other designers have followed suit, releasing snapshots of their collections  on social media ahead of their catwalk premieres.

Net-A-Porter and MR Porter are two of the most exceptionally social retailers, thanks in large part to THE EDIT and Journal, the two magazines they respectively produce. The editorial, complete with high-concept photography and video content, offers consumers much more than a simple product showcase, capturing shoppers’ imaginations.

It is no accident that social media platforms are investing in new ad formats, ranging from stories to 360 videos to live features. This is all in the name of boosting their capabilities of search and discovery, which will come handy for any brand wishing to establish itself online.

Creating communications strategies through data

Sentiment expressed on social media can be utilised to analyse consumer engagement, while time of purchase can help offer insight into when people are likely to buy and how much. The vast array of data available nowadays can help legacy brands address their touchpoints and how to refine them to better engage customers.

Beyond social, legacy brands need to take a leaf out of the books of their e-commerce competition, mining data to create meaningful communications. Online retailers were smart to offer targeted content that takes into consideration everything from previous purchases, purchasing habits, special anniversaries and even browsing histories.

Gap realigned itself to this approach by creating a contextualised loyalty programme. The app, Gap+, helps form lasting customer relationships by tracking every interaction, which in turn allows for more personalised recommendations and virtual shopping experiences. This has allowed the brand to offer more than simple discounts.

This hyper personalisation is key to increasing sales by better engaging consumers with content they will want to receive, whether refined email subject lines, promotion of particular products and access to exclusive content. Segmentation is everything.

The road to digital innovation for legacy brands is not a one-off transformative event but rather a continuous effort facilitated by the healthy amount of data businesses have at their disposal. To innovate is rolled up into a brand’s ability to remain relevant. Consumers are fast becoming digital entities themselves, therefore rethinking how a brand’s current strategies respond to the customer experience is key.

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