Legacy versus New

The word “new” is a magic word. Ad maven David Ogilvy maintained that it was one of the two most effective words to use in ad headlines. (The other is “free.”) We read, watch and listen to the “news” each day to find out what is “new.”

On the other hand, many of us admire and respect the old: those organizations and individuals that have been around for a significant period of time. We figure that if they’ve survived for x number of years, they must have some special qualities that have kept them going.

But can you have it both ways? A few years ago, a St. Louis radio station identified itself as “the legendary KSD” and “the all-new 93.7, the Bull” in the same break. So what is it—legendary or all-new? I think you can have it both ways. Yes, those are legendary call letters in a city that values things that have been around a while. And, yes, for those who listened to other music genres on 93.7 in previous decades, the station was certainly “all-new.”

Living on legacy can resonate with certain parts of your target market while touting your newness can have meaning to other segments. We feel comfortable patronizing brand names that are familiar, but we sometimes want a product or service that’s new or different. When your older product or service never changes, it can be hard to sell it based purely on its legacy. Even a legacy product like Heinz ketchup keeps things fresh by frequently updating its labels and packaging.

Recent Budweiser TV spots have told the story of Bud’s being delivered when Prohibition ended. But will that really make a beer drinker born in 1987 want to buy Budweiser? Some of the Prohibition spots transition into a street party with a hip-hop deejay, implying that Bud is still hip and cool. Budweiser has had difficulty maintaining market share for decades as it strives to maintain its older base while growing partisans among younger beer drinkers. Spinoff brands (Bud Light, Bud Select, etc.) have taken some of that share.

Legacy versus new is a dilemma for many, even churches. The older crowd (which, incidentally, has more money) wants traditional services. The younger crowd (who may be spending their money on kids, cars and furniture) wants contemporary, casual dress services. This has caused serious problems for many churches.

Striking the balance that allows your business (or your client’s business) to trade on its legacy while updating products, services and messaging can be accomplished. But it requires a delicate touch and constant monitoring of feedback from customers and prospects. Good luck!

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