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Brand Roots

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Brand Roots

What are Brand Roots?

We always include Brand Roots as part of our brand positioning work in our advisory practice. Brand roots are a critical component that can drag you sailing toward your target or facilitate a smooth ride.

Brands are the byproduct of our actions, execution, and vision. And what consumers think of a brand today is a derivative of all the good and bad work until now. The brand roots are a polarizing element of our work on the brand, which can be either positive or negative but influences consumers’ and customers’ perceptions of the brand. In other words, the brand roots are an existing element that brand strategy cannot ignore.

Apple will always be the company Steve Jobs founded. Amazon was – first and foremost – the largest bookstore on earth for quite some time. On the other end, denominations of origin always play a role for brands in a specific category: Scotch Whisky, Tequila, Champagne and Prosecco Bubbles, Cognac, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, San Daniele Ham, Iberico Ham, Manchego cheese all have strict geographical stories, and precise production processes which belong to the product, but impact the brand’s domain too, by defining the roots.

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Why are they important?

Have you ever heard of Mozart Balls?

According to Wikipedia:

A Mozartkugel (English: Mozart ball) is a small, round sugar confection made of pistachio, marzipan, and nougat that is covered with dark chocolate. It was originally known as Mozart-Bonbon, created in 1890 by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst (1856–1941) and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Marketers are aware of Mozart Balls, especially of the number of trademark lawsuits these chocolates have been at the center of in the past half-century. Based on the tradition of these chocolates, a distillery launched the Mozart Chocolate Liqueur, a line of liqueurs based on the tradition of the Mozart Balls. What could be the roots of such a brand?

Simply:

  • Mozart, an Austrian globally known composer of the Classical period
  • Mozart Balls, famous chocolate balls from Salzburg, the native city of Mozart
  • Austria

Why is this example relevant? Because with such a name and roots, Mozart Chocolate Liqueur is unlikely to become a summery brand with a tropical image and a modern flair of molecular mixology. Improbable, not impossible. This example showcases the critical reason why Brand Roots is so essential. They define a brand’s present and impact its future.

Likewise, roots can successfully empower a positioning. The Venetian’s origins did wonders for Aperol’s international development. The Made In Italy seal of approval supports the development of Italian exports in heavy machinery, design, fashion, and food and beverages.

The bottom line is that brand roots are an essential part of positioning work: at minimum, they are a starting point. At best, they shape the future direction.

Brand Roots Archetypes

There are many different examples of roots archetypes, but the most likely to influence a brand are four:

  1. Country of Origin – we already mentioned the examples of food and beverages, where the notion of denomination of origin plays a substantial role in the products and influences and shapes the brand domain. But the idea of country of origin goes well beyond that. Made in Italy is a clear example, where the whole export system relies on this shared idea of quality, creativity, and innovativeness mixed with tradition. Silicon Valley is also a peculiar case: it is the quintessential country of origin for high-tech and technology companies.
  2. Founders – Steve Jobs, Miuccia Prada, Bill Gates, and Giorgio Armani created companies that proliferated internationally. And they left their imprint, whether they were related to the company. Likewise, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, and Coco Chanel have left a mark on the brands that carry their respective names decades after passing. No brand strategist could think of repositioning Chanel without knowing who Coco was.
  3. Family – these brands are more peculiar than the founder’s brands. First of all, when still run by the family, they still hold their values tight. Then, because the sense of heritage belonging to the family runs deep. Brands like Swarowski, Taittinger Champagne, and Amarelli have centuries of family history behind them, which shape their future and present. And it is hard to imagine those brands without a clear understanding of their family business.
  4. Origin Story – The anecdote or how a brand got its superpowers are solid roots for a brand. How did the Jaegermeister brand become a myth in the US? (Jaegerbombs docet). An interesting anecdote is that Ferruccio Lamborghini, a successful tractors manufacturer, was unhappy with the clutch of his Ferraris and decided to confront Enzo Ferrari himself. The latter dismissed Lamborghini, who founded the sports car company out of spite. That rebellious soul still lives in the brand 60 years later. In spirits, entrepreneur and inventor Maurice Kanbar created Skyy Vodka because he wanted a hang-over-free martini experience. The brand became very popular, and eventually, Kanbar sold it to Gruppo Campari, but that anecdote and the San Francisco roots live on.

Of course, in some instances, multiple archetypes combine and survive simultaneously: Apple is one of the symbols of Silicon Valley, but its roots are undeniably linked to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Super-premium chocolate brand Marcolini builds on his Belgian heritage and the namesake Pierre, an award-winning chef patissier obsessed with chocolate. Maison Versace scaled up under the leadership of Gianni, who tragically died at age 51, when his sister Donatella and his brother Santo took control of creative direction and business operations, respectively.

In conclusion

Brand roots are essential to the positioning, and brand strategists can never dismiss them. They are either a hurdle or an opportunity for future brand growth!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can a company rediscover or redefine its brand roots if it has strayed from its original values or identity?

To rediscover or redefine its brand roots, a company should start by thoroughly analyzing its history and identifying the core values, mission, and vision that initially defined it. Engaging with long-standing employees, reviewing historical marketing materials, and soliciting feedback from loyal customers can provide insights into the brand’s original essence. Once the roots are identified, the company can assess which aspects remain relevant and should be revitalized. Redefining the brand roots may involve updating the company’s mission and values to reflect its evolution while maintaining a connection to the foundational elements that made it unique. This process should culminate in a straightforward, cohesive brand story communicating the redefined roots to internal stakeholders and the external market.

Are there specific strategies or methodologies for integrating brand roots into modern marketing campaigns without appearing outdated or out of touch?

There are strategies for effectively integrating brand roots into modern marketing campaigns. One approach is to highlight the timeless aspects of the brand’s heritage that resonate with contemporary values, such as sustainability, craftsmanship, or innovation. Telling the brand’s story through digital storytelling techniques, using social media, video content, and interactive platforms can modernize the brand’s narrative. Employing nostalgia marketing selectively can also appeal to long-time and new customers by connecting past achievements with future aspirations. Blending traditional values with modern design and communication trends is essential, ensuring the brand remains relevant to today’s audience while honoring its origins.

How do companies balance the need to innovate and stay relevant with the desire to remain true to their brand roots, especially in rapidly changing industries?

Balancing innovation with staying true to brand roots requires a strategic approach that respects the brand’s history while embracing change. Companies can achieve this by identifying the core principles or values that define their brand roots and ensuring these remain at the heart of all business decisions. Innovation can then be pursued in areas that align with these values, allowing the brand to evolve in an authentic and consistent way. For example, a brand rooted in craftsmanship might adopt new technologies to enhance product quality or customer experience. Regularly revisiting and possibly updating the brand’s mission and vision can help maintain alignment between brand roots and current market demands. Open communication about how innovations reflect the brand’s core values can also help customers understand and appreciate the brand’s journey.

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