Heritage Brands Must Become Digital or Risk Extinctionby@zakoganian

Heritage Brands Must Become Digital or Risk Extinction

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In 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide bought goods and services online, up from 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016. Digital will enable new products and services, created and launched in completely new, previously unimaginable segments. Digital allows for new operational models that will help widen distribution channels, especially for high-end brands, allowing them to tap into untouched segments of the market relatively quickly. Digital is not an option, it is the new infrastructure and it is happening fast and furiously, whether brand owners like it.

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For heritage brands undergoing a transformation for the next generation, the key to realising a new future will be found in leveraging technologies much beyond mere “digital fronts.”

Brand building is no longer an art form predominantly dependent on big budgets and easily acquired off-the-shelf solutions. By this point in time, all high-end historic brands must awake to the fact that their heritage, which has been built and so carefully nurtured over generations, can fail in the next decade. In the best-case scenario, such brands will stop evolving. In the worst case, they are risking permanent damage.

Why Must Brands Go Digital?

Most industries are now going digital at the speed of light. Statistically, more than 70% of companies claim to have a digital transformation strategy; the rest say that they are working on one.

However, when you look deeper, most occupy themselves with putting on “digital fronts”, rather than creating or implementing existing technology to prepare brands for the next generations. Brand owners need to understand the real importance of going digital. Digital is not an option, it is the new infrastructure and it is happening fast and furiously, whether brand owners like it or not. Digital will enable new products and services, created and launched in completely new, previously unimaginable segments. It will open gates to new opportunities to create deeply personalised offers, bespoke on-demand services to many more customers than ever before.

Digital allows for new operational models that will help widen distribution channels, especially for high-end brands, allowing them to tap into the untouched segments of the market relatively quickly.

Indeed, in 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide bought goods and services online, up from 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016.

Source: Statista

Source: Statista


But it is not just about online buying, in fact, it is no longer about it at all.

Most importantly, around 80 percent of high-end brands sales today are “digitally influenced”, meaning that, consumer attention moves completely towards digital touchpoints, in their shopping journeys.

And this is before the new “Metaverse” paradigm has been unrolled by many platforms, with virtual reality being a whole new inevitable, inescapable business shift.

For an industry as culturally rich and diverse as Food & Bev, making sure that our valuable cultural brands, with authenticity, craftsmanship, and philosophy, continue to remain valuable for future generations must be a significant goal. And, as is the case with almost all aspects of modern life, leading technologies offer most of the solutions to power the preservation efforts through the 21st century.

The Role of Technology in Preserving Heritage Brands

The initial possibilities opened up by the ever-rising advances in technologies are already impressive. From 3D to AR, AI, VR, and NFTs, all these technologies are being used to improve our heritage brands' efficiency, sustainability, and longevity.

These tech solutions also appeal to the imagination and admiration of younger, digital consumers who are starting to learn and understand the value behind the industry’s limited number of authentic historic brands. Concepts such as the Metaverse are being eagerly accepted and fuelled by the necessity — where one cannot physically experience and interact with the brand, the alternative reality is a desirable option.

Embracing all these technologies and harnessing their power, groups like LVMH are right to begin investing in the digital domain. Mobile technologies are equally important since the vast majority of customer-centric companies focus on mobile CX and most businesses accept that innovative technologies play a crucial role in reaching their digital transformation goals.

Nonetheless, one of the key problems posed to the brand owners is their lack of deep understanding of new technologies and thereby heavy reliance on 3rd party agencies which are equally inexperienced in the new wave of offline to online integration. Especially so, as it comes to authentic products with long-established values, such transformation is no walk in the park.

The key takeaway for brand owners at this point, should be that going digital is no longer about taking e-commerce, or online advertising and sales, more seriously. Since the most recent socio-cultural shifts, the world is way beyond that point today. Hence, consulting agencies lining up with good intent to help sign their tech counterparts to create “digital fronts” for our brands might be missing the key point.

Endnote

All brands (irrespective of their size) must begin investing and building their own tech teams and where possible own technologies, including hard tech systems such as The Internet of Things (IoT). Going much beyond “off-the-shelf” third-party solutions is the key. The world is progressively moving experiences, communications, and sales towards the direct “brand to customer” model.

Heritage and luxury brands that refuse to develop and implement their technological solutions to build and strengthen their direct customer communication and activation will risk being forever enslaved to tech businesses that might go as far as to turn generations of craft and heritage development into a mere source of product supply. The choice is yours!


About the author

Zak Oganian is a FoodBev industry entrepreneur, with over 12 years of extensive experience in brand ownership and international development. He is a director at Kinahan’s Whiskey Co. (one of the world’s oldest and most innovative whiskey brands he helped rebuild) and the CEO of Geneva-based G7G group, focusing on transforming the world’s heritage brands with leading technologies, ready for next generations of consumers.

Lead Image Source: Daniel Arsham Studio. Eroding and Reforming Bust of Rome (One Year)

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