Brands That Look Back

When a brand hits on a big idea it can be propelled into the mainstream. But what happens when a brand becomes known for that one big idea and can’t shake it off? Over time, campaigns that were once successful and iconic can begin to drag a brand down, get in the way of its long-term development, and make it much harder for new and innovative ideas to resonate.

Brands have been looking back to the past a lot recently. Here’s some reasons why:

Nostalgic Value

A brand might have been particularly successful when it was represented by a particular mascot or during a particular time period. Vintage products and a longing for the past have been big selling points in recent years, so harking back to a brand’s roots can help to generate positive sentiment.

The Tried and Tested Methods

A new idea might be poorly received by the market or signal a mis-step for the brand. In these cases, brands often find a way of reverting back to tried and tested methods to get things back on track.

Quick Wins

Sometimes a brand needs to gain traction in the market quickly and doesn’t have time to establish new campaigns or mascots. This is especially the case in social media, where an iconic image from the past gives an instantly recognisable piece of content for an audience to latch on to and interact with.

Here are some examples of brands that have recently looked back:

Go Compare

Go Compare Banner

Go Compare spent the best part of the last decade with a Welsh opera singer called Gio as its mascot. Audiences found him annoying and Go Compare decided to latch on to this idea, running campaigns that included adverts in which celebrities tried to kill Gio and get him off of screens for good.

Roll forward to 2014 and Go Compare decided to refresh its brand and launched a completely new campaign in which Gio was nowhere to be seen. The campaign was well received but it wasn’t allowing Go Compare to claw back market share from market leader Compare the Market in the ultra-competitive price comparison website sector.

Now, in 2015, Go Compare has launched a brand new campaign which re-introduces Gio in what is likely to be an admission that 2014’s brand refresh wasn’t as successful as it hoped it to be. It looks like it won’t be able to shake the mascot easily as it has now become completely synonymous with the brand.


KFC Banner

Colonel Sanders has been absent from KFC’s ad campaigns for some time now. He’s always seen smiling in the logo, but rarely seen in human form since the real Colonel’s death in the 1980s. This year KFC decided to revive the character with a lookalike, only to then change the actor that played the Colonel and replace him with somebody else.

Who knows where this campaign is heading, but it’s somewhat strange and unnerving to see a real life Colonel Sanders again after his death and many years’ of absence from our screens. It has clearly been commissioned for its nostalgic value, but is it a direction that the brand needs to go in?

Sony PlayStation

PlayStation Banner

This example doesn’t show a brand reaching back to a mascot from a past, but instead chooses to show the history of a product. The original PlayStation was an iconic machine not only in its revolutionary technology but also its design. This sleek and clever advert from 2014 shows how the PlayStation has evolved through the years alongside “players” that have also grown up with it.

It serves as a reminder to both old and new players of the PlayStation’s roots and how it has continued to build on its past successes over the years. Looking back in this sense helps to signal to the market the trajectory of where the brand wants to be heading.

McDonald’s Hamburglar

Hamburglar Banner

This strange example shows how looking back to the past for a quick win doesn’t always generate positive results. Earlier this year McDonald’s decided to revive its Hamburglar character in human form (as a reminder, here’s what he used to look like) for a social media campaign.

The result was a confusing and low-budget affair that caused a lot of buzz online but ultimately proved to be a wasted opportunity. Harking back to a past successes won’t bring immediate wins unless a brand really tries to make the most of its assets and uses them in a creative way.


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