This is a photograph of cans of Miller Lite through the years, ranging from original Pre-1974 version to the latest version in 2014.
Image from MillerCoors

In the never-ending battle to win new customers and inspire brand loyalists, companies are investing millions of dollars in innovation initiatives to generate engagement and accelerate growth. They build substantial R&D capabilities, introduce new products and line extensions, engage agencies to reposition their brands and launch clever marketing programs.

Too many companies, however, ignore a freely available source of brand inspiration ─ the treasure trove of heritage assets that lies buried in plain sight within their own organizations. These rich resources can provide inspiration, answers and concepts from the past that can fuel future success.

You’d think in an age when consumers are demanding more authentic engagement from the brands they love that marketers would regularly consult the chronicles of their own histories to uncover legacy ideas that could be reimagined for today’s world.

The fact is that the best companies and brands are doing just that!

Luxury brands are among the best at demonstrating the valuable link between heritage and contemporary consumers. Baccarat has launched an experiential heritage program for its most affluent clients. Brand aficionados get the opportunity to re-create the company’s 250-year journey through history as they embark on a trip that encompasses New York, Seoul, Paris, Istanbul, Moscow and Tokyo, all for a mere $300,000!

Many in the beer category have also embraced heritage in their packaging and marketing programs. Miller Lite returned to its roots in late 2014, reintroducing its original packaging. This throwback branding has captured the attention of distributors and more importantly consumers, translating into an 18-percent sales increase in a category that has been consistently flat.

Carlsberg has also embraced its heritage to reestablish its brand positioning as a craft beer. By resurrecting yeast cells discovered in a 133-year-old bottle, the brand was able to re-create 30 bottles of its original brew.

Consumers were able to sign up online for the opportunity to sample this newly old product at various marketing events. A short documentary film added a creative flair to this innovative heritage campaign promoting the brand’s unique history.

Keds has also looked to its heritage to help guide the repositioning of its brand as part of a centennial campaign, “Ladies First Since 1916.” In a recent interview with Branding magazine, the company’s chief marketing officer commented about the program: “I think when you take a step back and think about what Keds stands for and what our campaign means, which is “Ladies First Since 1916,” we fundamentally believe in female empowerment and frankly we have the heritage and the DNA in our brand to own such a positioning.”

Auto manufacturers, such as Ford and Jeep, also find inspiration in their histories as they introduce new or updated models. Ford recently unveiled the 2017 Ford GT ’66 Heritage Edition, whose styling hearkens back to the GT40 Mark II racecar, reimagined for today’s discriminating buyer.

This is a photograph of the Polaroid Model 20, nicknamed the Swinger because it hung from around the user's neck.
The Polaroid Model 20 “Swinger.”

A popular name from the past, Polaroid, has recently hit the iTunes store with the new Polaroid Swing app. This app is a perfect example of how a brand’s heritage can be the driving force behind product development and innovation. Tommy Stadlen and Frederick Blackford created the app out of a deep respect for the significance of the Polaroid brand and its role in the innovation of photographic technology throughout the years.

And, of course, there’s Pokémon Go, which launched in the U.S. on July 6. In an echo from the past, this augmented reality game, based on the mystical Japanese anime phenomenon that debuted over 20 years ago, has quickly transfixed a new generation of fans. In fact, with more than 30 million downloads across Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, Pokémon Go quickly became the fastest app to reach 10 million users, according to USA Today.

With so many brands successfully using their heritage to fuel the innovation needed to develop authentic and original products, other companies can no longer afford not to. Will your company take advantage of its brand heritage to inspire the future?

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