Do customers really care how long you’ve been in business?

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded  |

Here’s an interesting question: Do consumers really care about how old your company is or if it’s your 50th anniversary? Many businesses, especially small business, tend to lead with this fact when pitching to prospects or communicating to new customers proudly saying, “We’ve been around for X number of years.” The accepted notion is that longevity matters when customers buy brands. I disagree. Yes, there are exceptions, but overall, customers don’t really take how long you’ve been in business as a sign of a great brand. Here are a few common “myths” about emphasizing the age of your business:

• It communicates trust – Many believe, both large and small companies, that a business who has been around for a long time is more trust-worthy. This is not necessarily true. Yes, some industries such as banking, longevity means something, but for the most part, just because you’ve been in business 20, 50, or even 100 years, doesn’t really mean much when it comes to trusting a brand. It’s not what you did 50 years ago, it’s what you do now and will do in the future. Apple started April 1, 1976 (incorporated January 3, 1977). Rarely do you ever hear from them in their marketing or brand communication that “we are over 35 years old”. What makes you love them is what they stand for now and how they keep innovating and bringing you cool gadgets and reinventing how you view technology. On the other side, Facebook is only 7 years old, but you never hear people saying they don’t want to be on their site because they are so new. The number of years doesn’t mean you are more or less trustworthy. It’s your actions that count, not your age.

• It communicates tradition – Some believe that the older the company, the deeper the “tradition of excellence”. It may be true in a narrow way, but that can be just as deceiving. At first glance, customers may be impressed that you have been doing your thing for over 30 years, but once you get into the heart of their needs, you may have the wrong type of experience they are looking for. This shows how skin-deep the number of years truly is. A great brand continually seeks out to reinvent itself and progress as their customers change, while still remaining true to the core essence of your brand position. It is often the companies who look at a staid industry and say, why do we have to do things the way it has been done the past 50 years? Why not do it differently? This is what customers really want, true innovation and to be surprised. They will take innovation over tradition most of the time.

• It communicates stability – The recent events from 2008 to present definitely teaches a first-hand lesson that just because you’ve been in business for over decades doesn’t mean your business is stable. Lehman Brothers – 158 years old, gone. BlockBusters – 26 years old, gone. GMC – 101 years old, needed bail out to avoid being gone. Stability has nothing to do with age, it has everything to do with how strong and meaningful your brand is to today’s world. As long as you stay relevant, you stay stable. Companies such as Apple, Nike, and P&G have been able to keep their brands relevant to their customers.

Saying you’ve been around a while is a plus. I agree. I often use that myself. The point is, it’s not a lead key message. It’s a sidebar note. You’re key messages should be all about what’s in it for your customer. How old you are or that it’s your 40th anniversary is all about you and is more for your employees and shareholders. So, go ahead and celebrate and be proud, but don’t think your customers care about it as much as you do.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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