Bring your heritage to life in your brand today

How do you talk about your organization’s past? What is important and distinctive to you? What do you point to from your history to help people know you? Are there parts of your past that you’re proud of and why? These questions aren’t meant to suggest you boast about your accomplishments or continually look to the past. Rather, they’re meant to identify how your past is a part of who you are today and to help you think about how your past is still shaping your future. How you feature your heritage through your brand matters. Every organization needs something that gets people excited and makes them proud that they choose you.

Your brand represents your past, present, and future

Maybe you provide great customer service. Perhaps you have a stellar product. Maybe your company is known for being trailblazers in your market. But how did you get here? Your history precedes all your current attributes and is the foundation of your brand. As such, it should be managed as an essential element in your brand shaping. Your story of why you’re in business, and what you’ve done to get you from there to here, matters.

Some organizations finesse highlighting their heritage, while others struggle

Does this sound like your organization? Your company has a trophy case or a wall of patents in a lobby or some obscure hallway that’s rarely traversed. Nobody ever stops by to read them. Do people even know the names and faces attached to those artifacts?

Heritage is often expressed by awards. Consider how you might connect that moment to today.

We see “recognition graveyards” in all kinds of companies. Surprisingly, a company’s history can be tricky to highlight in a way that matters to leaders, employees, their customers, and other stakeholders. It’s important to celebrate milestones like big strategic moves, anniversaries, major customer wins, or patents. But showcasing them alone may not turn the heads of new customers, new employees, or others that are important to influence. Those moments and awards matter. But it’s all about context to your current stakeholders and how it’s done.

Finding the right approach to display your story

There’s no silver bullet answer. Rather, begin by thinking broadly about key people, moments, their impact, and the essence of your organization to discover answers. Here’s a list of questions to help uncover your heritage opportunity.

  1. Beyond your logo, what’s a symbol for a company?
  2. How does your history connect to the community?
  3. What symbols of the past are still meaningful to the newcomers in your organization?
  4. Is there a thing, story, or person that connects to your strategy and ambitions?
  5. What do you currently do or talk about from your past that gets people excited today? Why do you think that is?
Getting at the essence of your history to connect it with today’s culture

Once you’ve developed your list of ideas, the next step is to remind yourself of the impact of those things on your company, the community, and the future. Consider how those moments, things, or people influenced the organization’s culture. This is the essence tie-in of your brand – when your story not only tells people what happened in the past, but how it continues to shape your future.

Finally, imagine communicating those stories through art, experience, and information to help others know and understand you more completely. There are many ways and places to do this, too, such as: in your lobby, on your website, through the company overview materials, and new employee onboarding, to name a few. The interaction and storytelling help people reconnect with the organization’s history and reimagine its connection to the current culture. Consider how you might make your history interactive or create an opportunity for others to retell your story and add on to it.

Here are some heritage branding examples we have seen.

  • An homage to a key product, like a car in front of an auto factory
  • An art installation of either photography of your past and present employees creating, serving, etc. or of your products transformed over time
  • A community giveback to the people who made your business what it is, such as a museum, park, or trail space
  • A virtual endeavor such as a scholarship program for youth related to your company’s expertise or offering customers an app that helps them in a unique way
Your heritage is being built every day through your actions

Nobody builds a trophy case wanting people to walk by, not look, or never talk about it. Instead, plan to tell your story in a way that ensures the history of your organization communicates a feeling that is alive and well through action. And connect the past to your future by continually revisiting the essence of what made your company who it is and recognizing it in the present. Afterall, creating distinction in the marketplace is key to helping you stand out from your competition. And what better way to demonstrate distinction than through your past, which is always uniquely you.

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