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Creating a digital strategy for a legacy brand | #HistoryMonth

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Simon Corbett, CEO at Jargon PR and Adam Smith, Managing Director of Rawnet, discuss why legacy brands need to reconsider their digital strategies and reap the benefits, and how customer-centricity will be the key to a successful digital transformation.

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Simon Corbett

Many names probably come to mind when thinking about legacy brands. They often have a significant amount of heritage behind them, and are woven into our daily lives. The nature of legacy brands means that they typically mean a great deal to us, as consumers, and we feel an emotional connection towards them.

In recent years, however, we’ve seen many legacy brands fall to the wayside due to their hesitance in adopting a digital strategy, which has resulted in younger, less-established brands overtaking them due to their focus on digital transformation.

In order to innovate and maintain a competitive advantage, legacy brands need to reconsider their digital strategies and reap the benefits. From creating a customer-centric approach, to identifying more cost-effective solutions, adopting digital can be hugely transformative for legacy brands. 

What is a legacy brand?

We’ve all grown up with legacy brands, they were perhaps the brands our parents used, which we now purchase for our children. Our longstanding relationships with such brands mean that we’ve developed a strong connection with them, and have a great sense of brand loyalty.

For me, a legacy brand isn’t simply that it existed before digital; a true legacy brand also comes with a sense of nostalgia, has a special place in the hearts of its customers and importantly, just the brand itself, carries a heavy amount of equity,” says Adam Smith, Managing Director at Rawnet, a leading digital agency that combines customer engagement with business efficiencies to create a long-term, positive commercial impact.

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Adam Smith

It’s clear that legacy brands can leverage their longevity and heritage to invoke emotions with customers. But, how far can these connections go for those that fail to keep up with the changing demands of digital?

The impact of COVID on legacy brands

The pandemic quickly shed a light on the brands that have succeeded in developing their digital strategy, and those that haven’t. Unfortunately, for those that were lacking in digital, they either had to rush to implement new solutions in order to continue reaching their customers, or get left behind.

The impact of COVID on legacy brands depends on their attitude towards digital prior to the pandemic. Just having a digital strategy won’t cut it. Great, industry-leading digital, not just ‘digital’ in general, is now a necessity for survival,” says Adam. “Those ahead of the game, were allowed to keep on playing. Companies who failed to make the proper effort prior to the pandemic, struggled. Yes many managed to quickly innovate and adapt as the world changed, but it was all reactionary, when it didn’t need to be. The signs have been there for a long time.”

Now we’ve come out of the other side of the pandemic, the digital revolution is clearly here to stay. The digital strategies that brands have adopted over the last two years have enhanced our customer experience and enabled brands to develop more insights into their customers, resulting in companies being able to create tailored, personalised offerings. Legacy brands can now build on the digital strategies they implemented during the pandemic to maintain this momentum and keep ahead of the digital curve.

Implementing a digital strategy

As we’ve seen over the last few years, particularly during the pandemic, digital strategies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and they need to be present in all parts of the business to fuel its success.

Digital strategy is not a silver bullet, and it’s time to drop the term ‘digital’ from ‘digital strategy’,” says Adam. “If it’s siloed or not embraced by the entire C-suite, it fails. It can’t be a disparate stream with a separate team, it needs to be central to the entire company’s growth strategy.”

Once a legacy brand has implemented its digital strategy, this isn’t then a matter of ticking a box and thinking this is complete. In today’s technology-focussed landscape, solutions are always developing, and brands must monitor new trends to stay competitive. 

Take Hornby Hobbies for example, a British Manufacturer of model railways. Hornby already had a digital strategy in place, however, the team identified that the company’s systems had become inflexible, and needed to improve this to enhance the user experience.

Hornby set about rebuilding a bespoke and scalable platform that frees the business from ongoing licensing fees and a rigid user experience to focus on making a real difference from other competitors in their industry, as well as the online B2C retail market.

As a result, Hornby saw a 157% increase in revenue in the first year, as well as a 459% increase in the second year in comparison to 2020. Through implementing a holistic digital strategy, including optimisation, user experience design, a solid bespoke infrastructure and digital marketing strategies, Hornby saw an increase in revenue while costs were massively reduced.

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Every day that passes, those maintaining momentum and not investing, will fall behind. New companies have such a huge advantage over large, legacy brands. They’re agile, they experiment, they pivot quickly, they meet a new breed of customer needs head on. At some point, this starts to be more significant than established heritage, no matter how strong the brand,” continues Adam. “Consumer expectations are exponentially growing. They need curated, personalised, individual products, they want everything fast, they don’t tolerate poor service. Digital aids all of this.”

Now that the pandemic has fuelled the necessity for legacy brands to prioritise their digital strategies, they must identify how to upgrade their existing strategy, or know where to begin. For many, not only can new, innovative strategies help them establish a competitive edge, but they can also be the key to learning new insights about their customers, and creating a more personalised offering for their audiences.

Concluding on digital strategies, Adam said, “a better approach is to visualise the end point. Why do you want a digital strategy? What does it achieve? How will customers benefit? What demand is unmet? From there, there’s going to first be some fairly boring foundational work, maybe internal process changes, cleaning data, swapping out outdated and useless ERPs. It’s important to learn it’s not all fun and exciting designs from day one. Think long term, not plastering over cracks.”

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