Evolving heritage brands for modern audiences

5 tips on how to successfully refresh a legacy brand

Legacy brands are some of our most interesting clients. They each bring with them a powerful asset—decades of brand equity built on tradition, quality, and customer loyalty. It’s real substance that our team can enthusiastically and creatively explore. However, many legacy brands also come to Traina struggling with their heritage, an anchor weighing the brand down, making it feel outdated and irrelevant.

Refreshing a legacy brand requires walking a tightrope—respecting iconic heritage while modernizing the brand to address today’s trends and audience preferences. That’s why these brands make such interesting clients and case studies. If your brand fits the legacy mold, here are a few tips to consider when embarking on a refresh:

1. Dig Into Your Roots

Before making changes, deeply understand the authentic roots of your brand’s heritage. What core elements initially made it distinctive and special? Build from that bedrock rather than discard everything. For example, re-examining the core ideology of our client Space Center Houston confirmed the brand’s unique mission and led to the creation of a brand purpose––to bring people and space closer together––serving as a contemporary rally cry.

We are passionate

A dramatic overhaul is usually DOA for a heritage brand because it severs any authentic connection the brand has with its current customer base.”

2. Evolve, Don’t Overhaul

A dramatic overhaul is usually DOA for a heritage brand because it severs any authentic connection the brand has with its current customer base. Instead, evolve the brand incrementally over time with careful, iterative updates.

3. Focus on Experience

Don’t just rebrand surface elements. Modernize the entire brand experience across touchpoints to provide new reasons for modern consumers to love your legacy brand. Our revamping of in-store branding for Stater Bros. Markets is one such example.

4. Target New Audiences

Identify the new demographics and psychographics you want to attract. But don’t alienate loyal legacy customers in the process. You need to court both groups. See our work with UC San Diego Health, helping them expand into new customer territories.

5. Lean Into Your Story

Your unique origin story and brand heritage are modern differentiators in a sea of sameness. Just retell that story in fresh, relevant ways that resonate today.

The underlying assumptions accompanying these tips are that your brand is clear on why current customers remain loyal and what prospective customers will find intriguing about your longstanding success. If you’re not sure, lean on your agency to conduct a quick market research study and a cultural trends analysis to shine a light on your brand’s past, present and potential future. 

Let’s move things forward.