Refreshing to Stay Relevant: Legacy Brands to Learn From

Today’s digital technology, with its many complexities, is presenting business challenges across the board on how to stay relevant and recognized. A few legacy brands lead the pack with their innovative brand refreshes—setting themselves up for continued success well into the future.

Apple is one of today’s most innovative and iconic brands, valued at over $265 billion dollars in 2018, but what’s leading the way in industries across the globe now didn’t start out that way. In the early 90s, Apple was struggling with low sales and minimal consumer interest in a competitive emerging industry. A brand that didn’t seem to hit on much was completely flipped when it repositioned itself as an image of simplicity and modernism offering innovative new products, marketing ads and campaigns focused more around the experience versus the actual products and services being offered.

Mastercard, formerly known as “Master Charge,” had already undergone a business shift once to get away from that association and is now going through yet another shift to establish the brand as a “technology company in the global payments business.” And to help Mastercard break through the clutter, it’s offered a simple solution for visual clarity. It has dropped the “Mastercard” name from its logo, which also works in its favor to symbolize the product it’s now focused on selling: online payment.

Once known as just the “PDF program,” Adobe has made a series of savvy business decisions to stay competitive and successful. Adobe took on the internal challenge of making tough product decisions over the past three decades. The company shifted and reconfigured its core business, while maintaining a loyal audience through the transitions and the growth of its platform enhancements and offerings.

While still positioning the General Motors brand as “refined luxury,” Buick has been successfully refreshing its identity to get away from being known as the stodgy “moving couch” line of vehicles into new sportier and tech-advanced offerings focused on attracting a younger, more performance-oriented consumer. Marketed with the “that’s not a Buick” campaign, the brand has been diligent in giving itself a new identity. Recent model releases have shown how Buick has capitalized on its heritage while also maintaining its ability to recognize and adapt to the market trend of innovation and style desired by today’s auto shoppers.

Old Spice had been the preferred men’s grooming product brand on shelves since the 1930s until a competitor’s new line of products targeted at millennial consumers forced a refresh. The brand went through a full transformation to establish a new “Swaggerized” identity that was carried out through messaging, packaging, ads, and displays to attract a new, younger audience. Tag lines and commercials helped further sell the new messaging to crowds while still staying true to the bread-and-butter product line that meets men’s personal hygiene needs

An apparel retail brand that’s made huge strides in identifying and targeting a new consumer is the classic Champion brand. By blending nostalgia with innovation and consumer trend influence, Champion has successfully reinvented its brand to be back on top. Just a few years ago, Champion was so generic you could find its products in a discount store. But through strategic market research and targeting shifts, the brand was able to identify its two key markets, athletic wear and a trendy clothing line, and then position itself to stand out in those markets to the younger audiences. Today, you can still find your classic fleece sweatshirts and pants in most big retailers or go for the more exclusive, trendier lines found in specialty stores and flaunted by celebrities.

Any brand struggling to stay fresh and relevant in the constantly changing marketplace can take a lesson or two from these successfully revitalized brands. For even more brand refresh lessons, check out our latest white paper, Best Customer Myth: The Gold’s Gym journey of discovery & brand evolution through audience insights.

Written by Morgan South

Keep reading in Strategy