Firstly, to create trust. The older the brand, the more assured a customer is of the expertise built into a product. Brooks know that their 146-year history is one of the key selling points for their high-end bicycle saddles (which we love), and make that story central to their homepage. Anyone who has visited Paris will know how powerfully art, literature and film can evoke ideas of social class, wealth, and even nationality in a brand or phenomenon. Vilebrequin’s swimshorts are soaked in the glitz of 1970s St Tropez for this reason. The power of nostalgia is strong enough to bring the Wispa bar back from the dead: appealing to the reality of the past has as much value for the brand manager or advertiser as creating images of an imagined future for their customers.
That doesn’t mean that the past can’t be found in the imagination. Cartier spent four years and $5.2 million producing the fantastical Odyssée de Cartier. Film serves as an immersive means of telling the story and drawing attention to ‘about us’ content on a branded website. Brand background can be presented in a more lo-fi way using timelines, although the clarity that is the advantage of this approach can be lost when designers attempt to pare down their infographics too far, as Volkswagen have done:
The timeline doesn’t have to be linear. San Pellegrino’s ‘Explore the Bottle’ integrates their brand story within their distinctive product design:
While Lacoste combine film and timeline material to richly ‘tell their story’:
So, should your brand be looking to its past? Young firms Google, Facebook and Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae sauce make space to recount their history on their websites – you don’t have to be old to have a story that sells. Keep things clear, visual and interesting, and see what a difference heritage branding can make for your product.