Heritage: factual or fictitious, do customers care?


Here at Whippet we love getting our teeth stuck into a great branding project. One of the first things we always do is delve into the history of the brand to see where it’s come from, where it first started out and what nuggets of gold we can uncover to inform the new proposition. The dream is to find a wealth of heritage or an amazing brand story that we can bring to life. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn’t. But the idea of heritage for brands is an interesting one. How important is it to customers? Do they know if the shop where they buy their bananas or brogues from started trading in the 1800s? Do they even care?

More and more brands are embracing the notion of heritage and the more successful ones make themselves as relevant today as they did when they first opened their doors. However, that doesn’t always mean the brands are necessarily old in years. Shinola, an American watchmaker is a great example of an artificial heritage brand. The name was bought from a vintage American shoe-polish company to give authenticity and a vintage feel. The brand was then tactically located in Detroit to play off the rich manufacturing history the area is known for. Clever, when the products were all to be made in Detroit by local workers and craftsmanship was key to the brand’s proposition. The outcome? A hugely successful, authentically American brand that most people would believe to be as rich in heritage as say, a brand like Jack Daniels. 


On the other hand, you have brands with an authentically true heritage. Some of these brands leverage this to their advantage, so it becomes a key part part of their brand appeal. John Lewis is a good example of this. They take every opportunity to tell their story – consistently, over time, in every channel, resulting in a loyalty that gets passed down through generations. And when they turned 150 in 2014, they brought their rich history to life through a series of immersive experiences and pop-ups, making themselves relevant enough to engage a whole new generation of younger shoppers.

But other brands are failing to tap into their rich heritage… and appear to be suffering. Take House of Fraser. The third largest group of traditional department stores in the UK – and on the brink of launching a CVA – it was, like John Lewis, established as a draper’s shop in 1849. 1849! It has a heritage of almost 170 years behind it. But who knows? Its focus has been on creating a ‘house of brands’, rather than a ‘house with heritage’. Its ailing status can’t solely be attributed to this fact of course, but you can’t help wondering had it told its heritage tale more strongly throughout the years, hung its hat on its history, whether it would have secured a more loyal customer.


If done well, the outcome of a brand’s heritage is a sense of trust and assurance, a feeling for the customer of reliability, of quality, expertise and service. All things that any brand strives for. Sometimes, as Shinola shows, customers will buy into that heritage regardless of the brand’s actual birth date. And sometimes, it pays to be true. But one thing’s for sure, in a digital age where we’re all glued to our phones, the appeal of something real and tangible with a great story behind it is becoming even more huge.



Sean Dwyer

Selfridges corners it with
Rolling Stones shop


Selfridges has long been an iconic trailblazer of the British high street stocking the best in food, fashion and homewares. It’s a powerful, aspirational brand not only surviving but flourishing in what is a difficult climate. A mainstream TV drama series, a consistent identity and an engaging brand personality all help to paint a positive picture, but possibly one of the most powerful is the store itself.

Walking through each floor of their flagship London store it’s apparent what sets it apart – the idea of shopping is seen not just as a transactional process but a rich, uplifting experience. And its newest addition to The Corner Shop is no exception.

The Corner Shop is a concept space within Selfridges where collaborators and affinity brands are invited to set out their stall. It’s an immersive space where shoppers can not only buy, but fully engage with the guest brand or products in a way that seems unique to Selfridges. The outcome is mutually beneficial: Selfridges get to exhibit some of the more experimental, unusual brands or products around, while the brands or products get to sit proudly under the Selfridges banner.


Selfridges’ latest exhibitor comes in the form of another equally iconic British brand: The Rolling Stones. This brand tie-up is striking, clever and a perfect match – both brands exude heritage, exclusivity and style. Timed to run alongside the latest run of Stones gigs across the UK and Ireland, the shop could be seen simply (or cynically) as a high-end merch stall to shift t-shirts and logo-emblazoned hats. On the contrary. It’s been curated in such a way that you feel like you’re visiting an exhibition, where guest brands like Commes des Garçons and Schott have created unique pieces for the event. There are screens looping the Stones’ latest gig in Cuba and headphones to fully immerse yourself, a gigantic sculpture of the iconic lips subverted with a Selfridges yellow tongue, and glass cabinets showing off Jagger’s stage outfits from the seventies to today.


In a world where retailers are having to work harder and harder to engage and retain customers, the tie-up of these two brands and the rich content in this pop-up is definitely a fresh addition to the retail landscape. ‘Retailtainment’. The Stones and Selfridges have both played such a key role in shaping culture, it’s hard to think of two brands who could pull off such a pairing with just this much aplomb.



Sean Dwyer

We help M&S raise the steaks in beef traceability


M&S has long been known for the quality of their food, but the incredible lengths they go to to source the absolute best is a story unlike any other.

They’re the only national retailer that can, in fact, trace all their beef not just to the farm, but to the very animal it came from. And this provenance claim is something they can apply to every single product that contains beef, from stock to lasagne to steaks.


We worked with M&S to tell this compelling story of reassurance, quality and trust with a bold in-store campaign: ’We trace it so you can trust it’. With the beautifully shot premium photography M&S is known for, and compelling and direct copy, the campaign cuts straight to the quick to communicate this powerful and unique message.

Touchpoints include windows, freestanding display units, shelf edge barkers and wobblers. The campaign runs nationwide in every store throughout summer 2018 and is accompanied by radio, press and TV.



Sean Dwyer

< PreviousNext >