Branding Flips: The Role of History in Corporate Brand Strategy

I’m sure that we’re all familiar with the ideas and associations that come along with the corporate world and its marketing tactics or strategies. Maybe you’d use the words fast paced and evolving, or perhaps reinventing and expanding. Whatever words you choose to use in describing the corporate realm and corporate branding, it’s no secret that brands consistently aim to use current, popular topics to aid them in their marketing and brand strategy. We’ve seen it happen on social media through brand’s meme usage, celebrity endorsements and even through brand embodiment of social inclusivity movements. In looking at our positions in the field of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) and the work that we have completed, we’ve come to understand why relevancy is vital to corporate branding strategy, as well as the overlooking of past brand identities and flops in marketing tactics. However, what if delving back into corporate brand history, failures and all, could actually aide and become beneficial to the brand as a whole? Well, this is exactly what brand researchers have implied recently 

In a 2019 article published in Business Horizons magazine, Iglesias et al. states, “Managers are constantly looking to the future, identifying the emerging needs of consumers, anticipating the actions of their competitors, and innovating new products and services. However, because of this focus on the future, managers can forget or even reject a brand’s history.” According to the article, large corporate brands such as Adidas, Burberry and Apple have all gone through branding periods in which they overlooked their brand’s rich history and past branding in efforts of being more relevant and futuristic. Subsequently, because of these history-rejectionperiods, brands saw a huge loss of strategic focus, the pursuit of brand extensions, unstructured innovations and diminished employee engagement – all because of the desire to keep pushing their company forward and leave the past behind. However, after suffering these losses, the article notes that these corporate brands decided to utilize their unique and rich history in order to refocus and re-strategize their companies and brands (Iglesias et al., 2019). So, a brand’s history can improve their future? Exactly! 

Looking at past case studies and arguments regarding history in brand strategy, the researchers have provided us with several points in regard to why history is an integral part to brand strategy.  

  1. History enriches the understanding of organizations as located in time; 
  1. History inspires future strategy and corporate brand identity by drawing on those historical elements and resources; and 
  1. History can make the case for change, motivate people to overcome challenges and help them enact strategies (Iglesias et al., 2019).  

Let’s think about this for a second. Can you think of any corporations (besides the aforementioned examples) that use their histories to brand themselves and benefit their marketing strategies? How about banks and insurance companies? Wells Fargo uses a tagline stating, “A proud history, a strong future together,” Allstate Life Insurance Company is famous for saying “You’re in good hands, and Nationwide says, “We’ve been helping people protect what’s important for more than 90 years.” Banks and insurance companies are prime examples of how brand history aids in current and future marketing strategies. Afterall, we trust these “history-embracing” companies with the most critical things in our lives. In the article, Iglesias et al. contends big corporations like these demonstrate “how history can be a valuable resource in defining and implementing a corporate brand strategy.” 

Based on the research results, the authors propose a systematic model that can “enable the progressive institutionalization of history in corporate brand strategy making”. The model consists of four stages tailored towards brand managers: 

  1. Managers should uncover history and bring it from latency to focus;  
  1. Managers should promote those organizational structures and processes that help history to be remembered;  
  1. Managers should promote the curation of history in order to make it relevant for the current context; and  
  1. Managers should embed history to support the future strategy (Iglesias et al., 2019). 

Overall, the Iglesias et al. model of history corporate brand strategy lays out a clear and direct path for corporations and their managerial teams to build their branding on, ensuring that the foundations of a brand and its peoples are included in marketing communication. Even more so, with working in IMC, the model provides us with a systematic base for future brand strategy needs and revisioning processes that may be needed as time and trends progress forward. While people say the phrase “history repeats itself” in oftentimes negative connotations, we can turn the phrase into an IMC brand strategy slogan that will benefit companies for years to come! 

Keeley Brown is a junior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, majoring in Communication Studies with a concentration in Integrated Marketing Communication. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, NC and plans to return home after graduating in 2021. Currently, she is interested in finding a job in advertising post-graduation. 

When she isn’t in school, you can find Keeley with a large cup of coffee in hand, strolling around local shops, or working on freelance design projects.  


Iglesias, O., Ind, N., & Schultz, M. (2019). History matters: The role of history in corporate brand strategy. Business Horizons, 63(1), 51–60. doi: 10.1016/j.bushor.2019.09.005