Brands That Are Beloved By All Generations Do This
Updated: Jan 15
Branding is an aspect of business that often goes unnoticed by just about everyone…except for those whose responsibility it is to actually build a brand. But if you are one of the few fortunate enough to take on the task of building a brand—you know just how difficult of a feat it is to build a brand that is beloved by one generation.
So, try to imagine how precise the process must be in order to build a brand that’s beloved by all generations.
For example, most people probably haven’t given much thought to the fact that a brand like Harley-Davidson has appealed to teenagers—as well as their grandparents for well over a century now.
But ask any founder, marketing professional, or C-suite executive just how arduous of a task that it is to build a brand that is simply adored by one target age group—let alone, one that’s beloved by multiple generations at the same time. It’s about as rare as seeing a Saola (an Asian Unicorn) in the wild.
After studying the few brands that are beloved by multiple age groups—I’ve discovered that they all do the following extremely well.
Have a distinctive ideology
One of my favorite things about branding is the fact that it’s almost like creating a robot. A person, or a group of people—conceive an idea of exactly what it is that they want their brand to represent in the minds of their audience. Then, they set about implementing their ideation by taking concerted actions and then one day—like the novel Frankenstein—the robot that you created becomes bigger than you.
The best brands create a robot so huge—it occupies a significant amount of space in the memory banks of its audience.
For example, whenever you hear the word Disney, pleasant memories of innocence, happy times, and fun characters probably fondly enter your mind—which is exactly what Walt Disney intended when he created his brand’s cartoon characters as well as the concepts for his Disney amusement parks.
Brands that are beloved by all generations like Disney—tap into their distinctive ideology—not their products. And those that embrace that ideology are likely to become customers and go on to fall in love with the brand. As for those that don’t agree with the ideology—the brand simply isn’t for them.
“Brands don’t need to please everyone—they need to be true to their values and their core audience.” Says author and co-founder of the advertising agency Questus, Jeff Rosenblum, in his book Exponential.
Brands that are beloved by all generations understand that by having a distinctive ideology and a core set of values that remain consistent—a brand can connect with its audience on an emotional level. And the people that believe in those values are likely to always adore the brand—regardless of their age.
Listen to culture
Have you ever wondered just how some brands have always been relevant in culture for as long as you’ve been alive? If you’re reading this—brands like Lacoste, Levi Strauss & Co., Carhartt, and Converse have existed well before you did. And yet, they’re all still culturally relevant today.
That’s because those brands understand the importance of listening to culture and adapting their messaging and imagery according to the times.
Make no mistake—a brand adapting its messaging and imagery isn’t incongruent with having consistent core values and a distinctive ideology. It simply means that the brand listens to its audience and ensures that it stays up-to-date by adjusting its marketing to coincide with culture.
Think about it this way, if Coca-Cola created ads today with women wearing dresses from the late 1800’s while using the same vernacular that people used back when the brand was founded—do you think the brand would still be culturally relevant today? Of course not!
Another brand that’s absolutely beloved by people of all age groups is Polo Ralph Lauren. That’s because when it comes to marketing—the brand does an excellent job at balancing its classic-upscale style—which appeals to its older consumers—with contemporary messaging and imagery to keep younger consumers interested in the brand.
“We've marketed those in a very bespoke, very direct way to newer audiences. We can market on one hand to someone who's been into the brand for 20, 30 years, who wore Polo Sport back in the 90s, but we can also market that product mix and that story to a younger kid who's looking for Supreme.” Said the brand’s CMO Jonathan Bottomley, in an interview with The Drum.
Think about this, the Polo Ralph Lauren brand is so appealing—that these days, the brand's apparel is proudly worn by grade school kids, their parents, and even their grandparents! In the fashion industry—that's quite an accomplishment for a brand.
By staying true to your brand’s core beliefs—while also listening to contemporary culture and understanding what it wants from your brand and where it’s going—your brand could be one of those unicorns beloved both by kids—as well as their grandparents—like Polo Ralph Lauren is.
Be charismatic, be compelling
If you were ever a fan of professional wrestling as a child (or as an adult)—think back to who were some of your favorite wrestlers of all-time. If you’re anything like me—those wrestlers consisted of guys with outgoing personalities like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels.
That’s because all of those wrestlers had charismatic personalities that made them stand out from the others and compelled an audience to pay attention to them. Brands that have multi-generational appeal also have personalities that help them stand out from others in their industry.
“You can tell which brands are charismatic, because they’re a constant topic in the cultural conversation.” Says author Marty Neumeier, in his book, The Brand Gap. “Brands such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Nike, IBM, Virgin, IKEA, BMW, and Disney have become modern icons because they stand for what people want—i.e., joy, intelligence, strength, success, comfort, style, motherly love, and imagination.”
A brand doesn’t have to be as brash as the wrestlers named above in order to be beloved by multiple generations at the same time. But what a brand does have to do is be the sole representative of an emotion that resonates with a particular group of people yearning for that feeling.
Take the narrow road to prosperity
One of the biggest mistakes made in business is when a brand tries to appeal to everyone—which pretty much ensures that it will never be beloved by anyone.
Far too often, founders and brand marketers try to tweak their brand to become all-encompassing—in an effort to generate more revenue. Which is a major branding mistake! Brands that are beloved by all generations avoid that error by understanding that the road to riches is on the narrow path—not the broad one.
“Customers want brands that are narrow in scope and are distinguishable by a single word, the shorter—the better.” State authors and marketing professionals Al and Laura Ries, in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws Of Branding.
By having fewer features—a brand could actually resonate more with consumers than a brand that has a wide array of them.
For example, a pizza place that only sold one unique style of pizza—would have a much greater chance at creating a following of committed customers that have an affinity for the brand than a pizza place that sold every style of pizza—along with sandwiches and ice cream.
That’s because in the minds of consumers—less is more when it comes to brand elasticity. In other words, the fewer features that a brand has to offer—the more likely it is that consumers will believe that the brand is the best at what it does—if it claims to be.
Imagine how much stronger a brand like Burger King would be if the fast food chain only sold hamburgers. From a psychological perspective—more people would actually view the brand as being the king of fast food hamburger restaurants.
Brands that are beloved by all age groups understand that it's better to be respected as king—by only aiming to appease those in their kingdom—than it is to be like the court jester—trying to appease everyone.
Brands that are beloved by all generations are sort of like people that are beloved by others of all ages. They’re so alluring because they do their own thing, and if you have an appreciation for that thing—they'll invite you to take a journey with them—without conforming just to fit in—because they understand that it’ll have the opposite effect.
—Nike doesn’t try to appeal to those that are okay with mediocrity and quitting.
—Harley-Davidson doesn’t try to attract customers that are appalled by rebels.
If you want to build a brand that’s beloved by all generations—start by adopting a distinctive ideology. Then, articulate that ideology through story to those that could identify with it.
Lastly, be patient, consistent, and understand that while generations change every 20-30 years—ideologies last forever. And so could your brand—if it is beloved by enough people.