AND THE REST IS HISTORY: THE ECONOMICS OF A BRAND BACKSTORY

When it comes to brands, history is a valuable asset. A brand’s heritage or backstory is a signal of four things: content, clarity, consistency, and credibility. Some brands have been around for centuries while some brands are relatively new. Regardless of the age of your brand, recent research (Pecot, Merchant, Valette-Florence, De Barnier, 2018) reinforcing a brand’s heritage is of economic value. Whether you call this provenance, heritage, or history, a brand’s backstory signals quality, and can help a brand command a price premium.  A clear, compelling, and consistent backstory helps overcome unfamiliarity. A backstory provides information for fuller, richer brand understanding.

A brand backstory is a formidable source of knowledge about a brand’s identity. A brand’s backstory generates confidence. The brand’s backstory engages customers with rich, authoritative information. The brand’s backstory, which provides customer perceived legitimacy, authority, expertise, authenticity, trust, responsibility, quality, and value.

For those people who are not familiar with the brand or are uncertain about the brand, a compelling backstory can increase confidence in the brand. Small or new brands, or brands with limited resources can use a backstory to “increase consumers’ perceptions of credibility and quality, as well as to possibly set a higher price.”

Levi’s® uses its heritage in a variety of ways. The website describes its 1853 beginnings. The brand transitions its heritage as an “invention for the American worker” becoming a “uniform of (American) progress” to the “purest wearable form of authentic self-expression”. Along with its new, fashion-forward designs, Levi’s® offers clothing designated “vintage” – “… sourced from our own archives and inspired by the pioneering West Coast wave riders of the 1940s”.

Chili’s is not as old as Levi’s® but it uses its backstory to shape the brand experience. Chili’s reminds us that in started in 1975 as a “funky” place for “… people who craved connection with family and friends, we were the only ones to offer a genuine Southwest spirit filled with positive energy.”

A backstory does not have to be steeped in decades of history. An interesting narrative of how the brand came to be is just as informative when communicated clearly, consistently, and credibly. Chobani is a relatively new brand, but its story is engaging. Founded in 2005, Hamdi Ulukaya purchased a factory that Kraft was closing.  His first hires were Kraft employees. By 2007, the brand was selling its American-made strained yogurt.

A brand backstory reinforces the permission to believe through content, clarity, consistency, and credibility. In the brand decision-making process, customers ask themselves, “Why should I believe you will deliver to me your promised experience?” The brand’s backstory can help answer this question by offering a fuller understanding of the brand.

In a highly competitive, disruptive, changing environment, an intriguing, informative backstory is comforting, and reduces perceived risk. Research supports the idea that customers are willing to pay a premium for brands communicating a meaningful backstory or heritage. A credible backstory builds brand trust. As trust increases, price sensitivity decreases.