Heritage is so Passé

Heritage is so Passé


In Practice

Branding, by nature, rests on the notion that consumers want recognisable, trusted symbols that have been fine-tuned over the years, to help them make choices when faced with similar products or services.

This idea is being swept aside in mature economies, where instant trust is being afforded to new concepts. So what is it about clean slate brands that is making consumers so immediately comfortable with them?

1. They’re immediately known.

Through the Internet and social media, the newest of the new is instantly reviewed and rated by consumers. Since they are brand new, they also can’t have sinned or gained a bad reputation.

Online customer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and advice, with a 70% trust rating. The most trusted recommendations come from friends and family, with 92% trusting these sources.

2. They reflect the times.

Businesses founded a century ago in the era of industrialism or capitalism undoubtedly have outdated values – like secrecy as the source of competitive advantage. New businesses, by contrast reflect ‘new’ values such as higher environmental and social responsibility and ethical standards.

3. Transparency forces truth.

For lean, simple operations that are easily accessible and understandable, the level of transparency from fair labour practices to CSI often makes them more trusted by consumers. Recent horsemeat scandals have been blamed on excessive complexity, so it makes sense that simplicity is the name of the game.

4. Under the microscope.

Because of the Internet and social media exposure new businesses face, their practices are transparent – or waiting to be exposed – meaning consumers are ready to trust them from the get go if they act correctly.

Lusting after the new

This pace of innovation has never been seen before and this is especially true in the online world with its relentless acceleration and amplification of information, excitement and attention. And while online apps can be instantly successful – like Draw Something that scored 35 million users in just six weeks – their success can be fleeting once users drop off to seek something new. But when it comes to consumers excited by positive experiences of a ‘new’ that is genuinely ‘better’, they’re hungry for more.

By being completely transparent, companies also evoke loyalty. In December 2012, US-based start-up company Coffee Joulies, the supplier of a product to keep hot beverages hotter for longer, asked its consumers to vote on a decision to move its manufacturing operation from the US to China, where it would be cheaper to manufacture.

Consumers could decide on the location by using either a USA or China coupon code. To reflect the cost savings of moving to a Chinese manufacturer, China coupons gave a $10 discount, while USA coupons offered only $5.

The rise of status stories

Today’s generation is about out-doing each other with being in the know, and experience-rich status stories. With so much identity now expressed online, status stories are fuelling customers’ demands for new and different.

In April 2012, Nike launched a number of highly collectible, limited edition sneakers using a Twitter reservation system. Stores would randomly tweet specific product hashtags during the day of release, and the first follower to include this in a direct message to the store would reserve a pair of the sneakers.

Clean slate brands

If you have an existing brand you needn’t panic, clean slate brands aren’t going to wipe out desire for established brands with history and heritage – all consumers aren’t interested in new, all the time. And there’s always going to be a place in the market for time-tested, illustrious brands that carry with them their own social status.

Make clean slate brands work for you

  • Differentiate. Learn from the newbies and take the chance to do things differently.
  • Keep it simple. Reign in your product portfolio and make sure everything is understandable to your customer — from product descriptions and applications, to your business practices.
  • Ooze responsibility. People don’t just want products and services, they want to be part of a story and they want to be part of a good one. Get involved in environmental and social initiatives.
  • Speak your customer’s language. Have something interesting to say in a way that your consumers can connect and engage with. It’s the best way to generate followers.
  • Partner with small guys if you’re too big. Don’t think you can’t get on the clean slate bandwagon because you’re too old and big. Help nurture new companies and brands through collaboration and mentorship.

Visit Trend Watching  for a full round up of the top trends in 2013.


Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.