7.8.10

Brand story

As consumers, we are passionate about the brands we choose because those brands help us to define ourselves, to make a statement without having to speak. The brands themselves tell a story of our values and often allow us to convey things that are often better left unsaid. Many of these brands rely on authenticity to lend legitimacy to their experience. This story of heritage and origin becomes a key component of brand value as the brand matures and evolves.

However, the actions brands take today influence our perception of the past and manage future expectations. What you do today affects how people perceive what you did yesterday.


Coke
When Coke found that it was losing ground to its arch-rival Pepsi, Coke chose to reformulate and relaunch with a “new and improved” product which turned into, what many have called, the single greatest/worse move in branding history.
The company bent to the will of an outspoken public, bringing back “Classic Coke”. Coke’s new“classic” position was so successful that many believe this was the plan all along. To which Donald R. Keough, then President of Coca-Cola, said: “Some critics will say Coca-Cola has made a marketing mistake. Some cynics say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is, we’re not that dumb, and we’re not that smart.”
The Coke bottle is a world-renowned brand signal. It’s iconic shape and feel are a mental bridge to America’s past. A time when… (you fill in the blank). Today, Coke has further reinforced its rich history with a modern, plastic interpretation of its classic glass bottle. This has helped Coke to establish a position that defines the category, making others look inauthentic.


Oreo
With over 491 billion Oreo cookies sold since they were first introduced in 1912, Oreos are the best-selling cookies of the 20th century. In 1999 they drove their number one competitor Hydrox, out of the market. This wasn’t a question of big vs. small. While Oreos are produced by Nabisco (now a division of Kraft Foods), Hydrox was owned by Sunshine Biscuits (later acquired by Keebler, now owned by Kelloggs).
Families across America “know” that Oreo is the original sandwich cookie and Hydrox was the knock-off. Yet Oreo debuted on store shelves in 1912, four years after Hydrox was introduced (1908).
Regardless of the fact that Hydrox was the better tasting (by blind taste tests), Better engineered (stood up better in milk) or the original creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie, Hydrox is perceived to be the knockoff. Why? The company failed to leverage their brand’s heritage and tell the story of what makes Hydrox different, better and original. So, just as Kleenex, Xerox and iPod have all entered the public lexicon, Oreo is now synonymous with creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies.
“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”—Napoleon Bonaparte
Heritage isn’t the only path to brand authenticity. Where or how your brand is produced is also a signal of “genuine”. Above are two tales of brands that captured people’s memories with stories of heritage. One true. One false. Both authentic. Brands that tell authentic stories connect with consumers’ values and sense of self. Those that don’t, end up just another Hydrox.
Know of a brand that created authenticity or one that’s failed to leverage it? Share your thoughts.

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