Iva Liu
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Showcasing Heritage through Branding

Asia is a melting pot of culture, abundant with history from different nationalities and diverse ethnicities. Brands that have the option to address heritage themes, and embed them into their core proposition, may find they resonate with their stakeholders more effectively.

The heritage story of a brand is anchored in its history and culture. This serves as a source of meaning and an identification aid for stakeholders, who seek brands that correspond to their personal values and align with their personalities. Brands that match stakeholders’ own heritage are viewed as credible, authentic, and trustworthy.

Brand heritage is built up over time and key elements of it should be preserved and celebrated as part of the brand experience that makes it unique. When well-curated, the brand becomes difficult or impossible to replicate by competition.

Exploring and reaffirming brand heritage strategically presents an opportunity to revitalise one’s own brand, reconnect emotionally with communities, and reinvigorate an organisation’s culture. Strategies designed to elevate brand heritage can also raise the brand’s employer value proposition, attract the right talent, and give back to society.

Beyond provenance

Looking at the Singapore place brand, an independent and sovereign nation with a relatively short 57-year-old history, heritage can still be found in abundance.

Heritage experiences are powerful, evoking emotion and connections with a place that last a lifetime—whether they are flavours of a traditional dish, timeless service standards that made a hotel stay nostalgic, or rituals observed and respected that created a lasting impression.

BRC Asia, headquartered in Singapore, is a prime example of how societal impacts can be successfully woven into a brand story. First incorporated in 1938, their brand heritage lay in a legacy of creating landmark 20st-Century infrastructure in key cities. With a legacy of building solutions and technologies, they have contributed to the sustainable development of recent iconic landmarks such as the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. We crafted a bold brand personality that embraced their heritage. The result was an identity that enhanced investor perceptions, strengthened their shared value proposition, and united internal stakeholders through a shared culture.

Culminated from history and culture

The connection between history and culture is significant. It exists in the smallest practices and rituals, in and within neighbourhoods and townships that are naturally built over time, shaping a sense of identity through collective behaviour. These become the fabric of identity that contributes to heritage. Attaching memories of a place and preservation of architecture leads to the development of heritage, which can be applied to a place brand.

One such example of how brand heritage could be leveraged is our work for The Mariners in Hong Kong. The club was founded in 1863 to provide a “home away from home” for local seafarers and their families. Established for over 150 years, they provide welfare services, pastoral and spiritual support, and authentic Hong Kong experiences for those in the seafarer community. With a purposeful mission to protect and support seafarers, the new brand reflects their rich history and commitment to creating shared value for the wider community. Inspired by their purpose and heritage, they celebrated the seafaring community’s role in building Hong Kong, embracing distinctive maritime semaphore signalling into the brand designs and communications.

Meaningful differentiation

The strategic importance of heritage in branding should not be overlooked. Brand heritage brings the history of the business to the present story and current brand iteration. Embracing that history can enhance your brand positioning and increase relevance throughout the value chain. Looking across Asia’s rich cultural tapestry, we see many businesses that have yet to tap into their heritage in a way that would reinvigorate their brands, unleashing powerful positive emotions that can come with this exercise.

The past and the future can co-exist artfully in a carefully considered and designed brand, drawing on past heritage as a source of strength, to propel them and their business forward.

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