I was in San Francisco last week meeting with California Casualty, a dynamic insurance company coming up on its 100th anniversary and considering hiring us to produce their company history book.
I spent some time in Haight-Ashbury, a district known for being at the centre of the hippie movement in the 1960s. If you’re looking hard for it, the neighbourhood still has a subversive undertone but it’s buried fairly deep underneath an awkward collision of tacky tourist traps and mainstream brands like Ben & Jerry’s.
The same can be true of a company’s brand. We work regularly with companies that are approaching 100 years old, and even older, and I have had several candid conversations wtih CEOs who believe they are still perceived the way they were 25 or 50 years ago.
Heritage and tradition are extremely valuable assets, and they can translate to fierce customer loyalty, but only if the company is still true to its roots. The challenge for all of these leaders of venerable organizations is how to take advantage of modern efficiencies while preserving the merit of the past.
A client asked me recently: should a company stay true to its roots…or evolve? It’s a question that is being answered every day by employees and customers – all he has to do is ask: Who are we now?