From Classic to Hip
How do you stay true to the brand DNA after 100 years of existence, what does it even mean?
I’ve always been fascinated by brands, how they speak to a global audience, how they evolve through time, how they deal with important crises and mutations, and how they thrive through centuries way past a human lifetime. To me, brands are a significant part of history and a unique window into pop-culture and social behaviors. Coming from France, I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by mythical, iconic brands. In this blog I’ve chosen three classic brands and examined how they have evolved from ‘old school’ to hip, audacious and edgy.
Before showing the evolution of those brands, I want to explain why this topic is closely connected to what we do at Noise 13. As brand strategists, we are advocates of creating an ownable brand voice that is reflected in every brand touch point, even the less obvious ones. We believe that nailing down this key piece of messaging lets our client’s brands thrive over time.
In these cases, messaging is one thing, but how do you stay true to the brand DNA after 100 years of existence? I find it captivating to see how brands are able to stay relevant to their time (and push ahead of trends) with bold creations or products, all the while respecting the original brand personality. It’s even more intriguing to see how some brands distance themselves from their original genes to the point where the brand is nearly unrecognizable, but when you look at all the assets as a whole the tribute to the brand becomes clear. It is an art.
This perilous exercise often happens through hiring new and prestigious creative directors, and giving them freedom to let the brand voice evolve even if that means creating some controversy. Controversy triggers conversation and is an interesting form of promotion as well. It also happens through strategic collaborations and crossovers. This is a fantastic way to mix brands’ audiences. People interested in fashion can also be fitness fans. A car aficionado can also be a mother, and so on. If played thoughtfully, those collaborations bring some fresh perspective, create bridges between target audiences and renew PR opportunities. But beyond just PR, there are some prodigious transplants between brands that lead to really delightful products and experiences for consumers who love both brands. Here are three brands which embody this theory particularly well.
Created in 1907 by Abel Rossignol, an expert of wood manufacture and an advanced skier, Rossignol became an iconic ski brand when athletes won many Olympic games using their products. In 1956, Laurent Boix-Vives bought the company, at the time it focused on skiing equipment and began to sell them global. Rossignol had a major success during the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, United States. Jean Vuarnet of France won the downhill on Allais 60s, the company’s first all-metal skis. Rossignol released the Strato, first fiberglass ski in 1964.
In the seventies, Rossignol created a distribution company in the United States and soon became the world’s largest ski manufacturer. At the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1988, Rossignol triumphed with six out of ten gold medals in alpine events.
For decades, Rossignol was leading the market with many achievements and brand evolutions. In 2008 Rossignol conducted a major brand refresh and went from snow sport specific brand, to a Mountain Lifestyle Brand. The gradual shift in positioning and branding as well as clothing style is fascinating. Rossignol is older than 100 years and the brand looks more accurate than ever.
With collaborations with iconic fashion designers such as Jean Charles de Castelbajac and new collections and imagery that could be described as audacious, Rossignol shows that they can lead the market by targeting a hip audience while keeping the legend impeccable.
(Rossignol is the French word for nightingale.)
The old days
All images courtesy of Rossignol.
Founded in 1946 by Pierre Balmain, the fashion house was a French icon after World War II with famous actresses such as Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot, the Nicaraguan first lady Hope Portocarrero, and Queen Sirikit of Thailand wearing the outfits.
Between 1993 and 2002, Oscar de la Renta became main designer and led the house. Oscar de la Renta brought a very specific style to the brand. Modern, yet true to the brand’s origins in glamour.
Christophe Decarnin joined the house in 2005. Decarnin wanted to bring the brand into the 21st century. His style was a big contrast with the timeless elegance of the brand, bringing bold and flashy pieces contrasted with the label’s reputation for its classic and luxurious designs. He was such a famous designer that, to some extent, his own personality shadowed the clothes. In April 2011 Balmain Olivier Rousteing was announced as new creative director. After attending a prestigious French fashion school and working under Roberto Cavalli. Rousteing wanted to focus on French couture while bringing some new cultural influences to the brand.
In 2015 H&M announced a collaboration with Balmain, making Balmain the 11th guest-designer collaboration. Other key collaborations were made with Beats by Dr Dre and Victoria Secret, bringing Balmain to a whole new (younger) audience.
The old days
Oscar de la Renta days
All images courtesy of Balmain – Beats – Vogue
A quintessential fashion brand of the sixties, Courrèges was founded in 1961 by André Courrèges and is famous for its futuristic dresses and mini skirts. With cosmic inspiration, Courrèges launched a collection called Moon Girl in 1964. The fashion brand was popular with European stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Twiggy. The brand was a massive success in the US where it has been copied and made André Courrèges furious. In 1972, Courrèges, a sport aficionado creates the Olympic game staff uniforms. In the eighties, the company was mainly sleepy except for a collaboration with famous french fashion designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac.
Recently, Courrèges was sold to Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, co-presidents of advertising agency Young & Rubicam. Admitting that they know nothing about fashion, they have succeeded in bringing the brand to the next level while respecting its codes. Some interesting collaborations are made, one with another iconic car brand, Citroën. This one is even more interesting as the two companies are legendary. Pairing them and revisiting them with a modern twist led to a really well rounded result.
Another ‘collab’ is with fashionable surf & snow brand Roxy with a surprising, audacious collection. Ambassadors such as surf world champion Stephanie Gilmore and snowboard champion Torah Bright embody the concept and bring fame. In this capsule collection with Roxy, the brand DNA is absolutely recognizable. The campaign’s tagline says everything: “When two iconic brands with the love of breaking the rules come together, magic happens”.
The old days
Collaboration with Roxy
Collaboration with Citroën
(A 61 cars limited edition with mythic French car company founded in 1919 & owned by PSA – Peugeot)
All images courtesy of Courrèges – Roxy – Citroën.
–Claire Saccoccini, Director of Business Development