“If it’s living, it’s dying.”
That is a hackneyed reference to businesses, which was an injunction not to stand still. However, it is interesting to note that brands can often be more durable than businesses, and some are incredibly long-lived.
The oldest brand name is often attributed to Lowenbrau which dates back to the 1300s. So far as an actual brand is concerned, the Guinness book of records gives that attribute to Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup. The syrup was a by-product of sugar refining and despite changing tastes and negative dietary associations with sugar, the brand is as strong as ever.
Branded businesses change and adapt to the times. Products ranges and service mixes change, yet still the same brands survive embodying sets of core values that transcend the commercial output. For example, Yamaha began life as manufacturer of pianos and reed organs. Today, though the company is the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments, but to the public in general, the brand is probably better known for its motorcycles, automotive and marine products.
Incidentally, the company symbol as used in the motorcycle badge, still embodies crossed tuning forks.
An interesting case of a brand with a life of its own was the Rolls Razor company. The Rolls Razor dates back to the 1920s and was a curious and patented hybrid, like a section of cutthroat razor about 50mm wide, with a handle like a standard safety razor and hinged guard. By the 1950s, however, shaving technology had gone beyond the quirky razor and business was a shadow of its former self. The brand had absolutely nothing to do with Rolls Royce, but sharp entrepreneur, John Bloom, recognised the value of the ‘Rolls’ name and bought the shell company in 1958 to use for a washing machine venture. The values hinted at were never manifest and in the mid 60s the company crashed in a whirl of publicity and the brand name disappeared with it. With better stewardship it might still be with us today.
More recently we have seen the case of the Woolworth brand being purchased even after the physical retail network had failed. Again, the brand has the potential to outlive the business.