Using History and Legacy in Advertising
Back in September 2015, respected car manufacturer Volkswagen became embroiled in a huge scandal, after it emerged that software had been installed into the diesel engines of their vehicles in order to change performance and, in turn, improve results.
To put it simply, VW were cheating and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had caught them out.
Many blog posts and column inches were then dedicated to theorising over what VW could, should or would do next, but one thing became very clear straight away – this mess required not just good PR and damage control, but also a strategic advertising plan to take the brand forward once the dust had settled.
Infamous ‘Ad Contrarian’ Bob Hoffman wrote on just this in his popular blog, going as he so often does against the grain of popular opinion and claiming that, rather than having wasted five decades of brilliant advertising, it was exactly that history that could save the company and its reputation.
Hoffman calls good advertising ‘business insurance’, claiming that now is the time for VW to cash in on the good will it has built up over fifty-plus years.
Whether that alone will work remains to be seen, and one suspects that VW will recover regardless, but it’s a very interesting point nonetheless.
In an even more recent example of a company using history to its advantage, albeit under wildly better circumstances and in a very different style, Stella Artois have just launched an advertising campaign that draws upon the stories of its own crucial historical figures, Sebastian and Isabella Artois.
Using TV, online and outdoor ads, parent company AB InBev has all of its bases covered, with a campaign that is both nostalgic and fun – playing very much in the style of early 20th century cinema.
This is a different deal to that of Volkswagen. Stella and AB InBev don’t find themselves disgraced by a well-documented controversy, and this campaign is using the actual history of the product rather than that of the advertising itself.
However, Hoffman’s point remains – using the successes and seeming reliability of the past can be a great weapon in advertising.
Perhaps the Stella Artois ad puts it best as it asks the question, “What do you want to be remembered for?”