A Century-Old Manufacturer Shouldn’t Look or Act Like One


September 13, 2018 // Thought Leadership

Many great long-time companies, especially those more than a century old, can realize powerful gains by embarking on a thoughtful effort to revitalize their brands. At one point, many of today’s great companies were young, thriving trendsetters in their industries. They were led by daring people who created a new way to do something or a product that would play a role in a growing industry.

Now, many of them look tired, beat-up and outdated. A quick walk through their factories and offices will reflect that narrative: they are a mishmash of old signage and conflicting logos from different eras. The tone of their people often is apologetic, somewhat embarrassed when speaking of the company and almost always humble, to a fault.

In fact, people of these companies should feel and act the opposite. They have been doing something great, something outstanding, or they would have long ago vanished. If anything, they should have a swagger and a strong belief in themselves, their product and their relationships with customers.

The key is to objectively identify, or discover, what is at the heart of the company, why was it founded, how in the world has it lasted this long, and what is it all about today. Usually, the answers to these questions form a compelling story that is inspiring.

Like a house that is expanded over time by adding rooms or different floors, a company’s image takes on additional messaging and personalities over time. Just as that house ends up looking cobbled together and unattractive, so does that brand. It becomes watered-down and awkward; it’s an eyesore in need of a fresh rebuild.

The secret, or maybe better said, the beauty, of re-engineering your brand is that you focus on the magic, the inspiration, the truly great things that the company does and stands for. You throw out the junk that has been bolted on over the years—the tired logos, the cliché images, the trite messaging—and you honor the greatness in your branding.

The branding process is more about uncovering, discovering and focusing on the positives more than anything else. Sometimes, the greatest gift a marketing communications agency can give to clients is to tell them what not to change and to instead focus on and amplify their unique differentiation.

A company that has been successful for decades, let alone a century, should look more vital, confident and alive today than the day it was founded. After all, it has proven itself and it should act that way.