Back to the future: when brands use the past for future profits.

Consumers and brands…at a crossroad

When Lacoste presents the edging attached to its clothing as an allusion to its tennis heritage, or when Samsung claims to create an emotional connection with its consumers by emphasising on its heritage, these two brands rely on their past to add value to the present, namely their brand heritage. But what is it? Not that easy to distinguish between heritage, authenticity, nostalgia, or retro-marketing. And how do brands construct their heritage? For what use? Here are a few questions raised by Fabien Pecot and Virginie de Barnier in their recent paper published in Research and Applications in Marketing.

Brand Heritage…

Where does it come from?

Heritage, history or inheritance? The two authors first take a look back to Social and Human Sciences to trace the origins of “heritage” notion. From this, the authors draw two main traits that characterizes heritage: an identity-related representation of the past (which differentiates heritage from history), and a dynamic construction oriented towards the future (hence different from inheritance).

And in marketing terms?

When applied to branding, heritage is a source of equity. To understand the nature of this value, the authors question the elements of brand heritage, its construction process, and its effects.

Longevity and stability are the two dimensions of the concept. The brand’s longevity links the identity with the past (e.g. using the founding date “since…” in the logo) while the stability bridges the past, present and future, reflecting the timelessness of the brand (e.g. claiming a continuous know-how).

How to construct a heritage?

The authors identify three antecedents to brand heritage. The first is the brand’s inheritance among which managers select elements. The second is a set of borrowings to the collective past which managers integrate because they enhance the brand’s identity. The third relates to the elements influencing the construction process: brand strategy, attitude towards time, and the degree of internal acceptance of heritage.

And what of its effects?

Have you ever felt this bitter-sweet feeling caused by temporal or spatial distance? Consumers exposed to brand heritage could feel personal or vicarious nostalgia, but also form associations of authenticity.

However, the likeliness of these associations to occur depends on age, geographical origin, level of education, brand knowledge, and on their acceptance of the heritage’s legitimacy. For brands, the internal maintenance of the brand heritage requires managing rather than preventing change in the brand’s identity. From an external perspective, brand heritage can be used in a specific retro strategy, or in brand revival, or for a brand going back to the market (but not only).

Brand heritage: which contributions to the research in brand management?

And so what? The authors answer this question with a list of avenues for further research in brand management. They suggest two main directions: the brand construction and brand maintenance processes, as well as the role of the consumer in the value creation.

Brand construction and brand maintenance.

They suggest exciting avenues on the legitimacy of heritage (how different internal stakeholders contribute to the heritage construction? What is their legitimacy?), on its transmission (how it is transmitted? Which actors are involved in the transmission? Under which modalities?), but also forgetting (how to manage an embarrassing inheritance? How to forget a negative element from the past?)

They raise other relevant questions: to which extent the evolutions in our relations to time influence managers? Which impact on brand heritage has the different conceptions of time (e.g. West vs. Asia)? Finally, how to make the most of a brand’s heritage depending on the market it operates on (traditional vs. innovative)?

The role of consumers in the value creation.

Several interrogations relate to the measurement of brand heritage: how to measure its perception? What are the dimensions of the concept? And its effects? What value does it bring to the consumption process? How to avoid negative consequences?

Finally, what do consumers think? How do they accept or reject a brand’s heritage and construct an alternative heritage? What is the impact of consumers’ skepticism on brand heritage’s acceptance? Is there such thing as a continuum going from full acceptance to full rejection of brand heritage?

Ready to jump to your roots? 

Pecot F. et De Barnier V. (2017), Patrimoine de marque : le passé au service du management de la marque, Recherche et Applications en Marketing, First Published February 3, 2017

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Creative crowdsourcing: in search of memorable moments

How do you speed up the development of the first connected toothbrush when you are the biggest name in hygiene? Procter & Gamble Oral-B responded to this challenge by calling upon eYeka, a platform dedicated to creative crowdsourcing with some 300,000 users worldwide. Within three weeks, Oral-B had received 67 ideas from 28 different countries. P&G’s marketing director, Stephen Squire, summarised the benefits of creative crowdsourcing: “We knew time was critical and the company that could launch the first product would have a huge first-mover advantage. The eYeka community gave us the head start needed and helped us anticipate some of the problems that we had to consider in the development of the product; especially the importance of content, gamification, family interaction and socialisation” (eYeka website).

Creative Crowdsourcing

The neologism “crowdsourcing”, which was introduced in 2006 by Jeff Howe in an article in the American magazine Wired, refers to a business practice that involves tapping into a crowd to draw on their creativity and skills with the aim of generating inventiveness. Crowdsourcing is therefore a form of business outsourcing that is directed at a multitude of potential contributors rather than at other organizations.

Fundamentally, crowdsourcing brings three categories of actors into play: the business that outsources, the crowd that contributes and a collaborative platform that connects the two. This platform can be either a product of the business itself (e.g. Amazon Mechanical Turk, My Starbucks Idea, Dell’s IdeaStorm, Lego Ideas) or a third-party operator with the capacity to assemble a pool of potential contributors. Whatever the platform’s status, they generally manage three types of crowdsourcing: routine tasks (e.g. video camera surveillance), creative activities (e.g. solutions to scientific problems, creation of adverts or new designs) and content supply (photos, thematic information).


Just playing from the designer Rafael Alejandro Garcia

Responsible for creative crowdsourcing, the inventive platforms use competitions to connect businesses seeking solutions and innovative ideas with potential contributors, who are often promised some form of remuneration or reward for the most deserving contributions. These platforms operate in the area of research and development (e.g. YourEncore, InnoCentive, TekScout) or on more specifically marketing-related thematic (e.g. eYeka and Creads).

When managing the optimal experience can attract the top contributors to an inventive platform

The liberating power of inventions

Attracting the most talented contributors and developing their loyalty is a major marketing challenge for inventive platforms. Understanding the top contributors’ experience is therefore likely to help strengthen the efficacy of creative crowdsourcing. This is the viewpoint developed by Morgane Innocent, Patrick Gabriel and Ronan Divard in an article published in the French journal Recherche et Applications en Marketing. Their study, which was based on the interviews and short messages of 93 contributors across 3 creative platforms, reveals the singularity of the inventive experience. Like other forms of consumer experience, it mobilises dimensions relating to pleasure, to the meaning given to the experience and even to the actuation of the individual. But on top of that, the inventive experience brings a rediscovered sense of freedom to the consumers taking part in a competition. This liberating power stems from the perception that the range of possibilities is extended and from the feeling of taking back ownership of the possibilities for individual expression. It supports the personal development of the inventor (the eudemonic dimension of the inventive experience). However, the presence of the liberating power of the inventive experience assumes that the contributor is given a high degree of autonomy by the platform in terms of the way in which they solve the problem posed.    

Moments of truth… self-organized by necessity

Despite being invested with the virtue of freedom, the inventive experience does not escape the rule of the optimal experience, which is that any memorable experience must include “moments of truth” characterized by their strong intensity. It is not obvious to the platform manager how they should deal with the emergence of these extraordinary moments because the guiding principle has to be that the contributor is allowed to be self-organized. A welcome suggestion from the researchers in this context consists in helping the future inventor to better evaluate the difficulty of the inventive task. We know from the work of psychologist Csikszentmihalyi that a balance between the contributor’s skills and the demands of the creative task is a good predictor of access to the creative consumer’s optimal experience.

So, are you ready for a liberating experience on an inventive platform?

Innocent, M., Gabriel, P., and Divard, R. (2016), Understanding the participation experience of the top contributors in a crowdsourcing of inventive activities context, Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition), 4, 1–19

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Goodbye my dear castle…or how to innovate with wine bottle design

Do you know Badoit Rouge or Vittel water bottle with a red cap? What a color for just a mineral water! Isn’t it? Yet, these two products represent a real success of two brand strategies aimed at standing out from the crowd by choosing different visual codes commonly used in this category. It particularly aims at being more visible in the retail place, catching the consumer’s attention and arousing his curiosity, being more memorable, and finally communicating a different image from the competitors. However, how well do you remember Essensis from Danone and its pink packaging inspired from cosmetics? And how about, from the French wine market, the e-motif, Chamarré or even the Rock’n’Rhône? Probably nothing, but it is not a surprise. These products with a supposed innovative packaging have been quickly withdrawn from the market due to a strong rejection or ignorance from consumers.


How do we make consumers accept new visual codes for a well-known product category?

The research led by Cehlay and al., published in 2016 in Research and Applications in Marketing, brings to light new elements with the comparison of wine bottles tags from Bordeaux (France) and Barossa Valley (Autralia). While the French Bordeaux wine is known for its traditional tag design, the Australian Barossa Valley wine bottles are generally described as having a specific “style”, which has “revolutionized the packaging of wine bottles” (Ian Kidd, Australian designer).

Communicate on new themes

A content analysis among a sample of 117 wine bottle’ tags from Bordeaux and 161 from Barossa reveal that Australian wine bottles share, in majority, the same visual codes as the French bottles’ tag regarding the layout, the composition, the fonts, and colors. However, these bottle tags differ in terms of illustrations, which are more diversified. While the majority of Bordeaux bottles’ tags have a castle illustration or a blazon, only few of Barossa wine bottles use it. Unlike the Bordeaux, a large majority of Barossa wine bottles’ tags have an illustration related to the nature (vine stock, vine leaf, wine grape, tree, flowers, animals, etc.) or to the wine-grower (artisan or artist). The semiotic analysis shows that new themes and styles of illustrations introduced by Barossa are meaningful and relevant for the product category: the wine is indeed a natural product of which the quality is highly related to the natural environment, but the wine is also the result of the wine-grower work. The wine is often perceived as an artisanal product and sometimes as a work of art. Thus, the use of these new themes for wine bottles illustrations let’s develop brands’ storytelling more and more various which are structured around two main opposition: “nature/culture” and “place of production/winegrowers.”

Put into practice two key principles

Results suggest that Barossa wine brand respects two main conditions to innovate in terms of design:

  • The well-known MAYA principle from Raymond Loewy (1951), according to which a design must be “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.” By sticking to traditional visual codes from the wine category, Barossa wine bottles provide to the consumer an acceptable base on which the brand introduces new and innovative illustrations.
  • A level of ideal incongruence by introducing unexpected illustrations themes (i.e. new or different) but relevant (i.e. enabling to develop a brand storytelling consistent with the wine universe).

When will the French Bordeaux wine will illustrate its own bottles with a wine-grower portrait or animals? Other French terroir has already gone for it!

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