When approaching heritage storytelling, marketers tend to focus on the heritage part, directing their attention to mining the past of their brand/company in search for content. As the term storytelling points out, however, this is a communicative act. We need to consider the communication context, the channels we share our stories through, and the audience we are engaging with.
What about talking past online? What is the right language, the timing, and the type of content that activate digital audiences?
I researched the case of Fortnum & Mason, a heavyweight among heritage brands (313 years and counting!). I worked with Dr. Andrea Tanner, head archivist of the company, and her marketing department. We conducted a digital fieldwork on the company’s e-platforms and social media, and analyzed the narratives and the semantics of the content shared between the brand and the users. We devised a timescape analytical model to map all the different facets of heritage the company is implementing in its heritage communication.
There is much to learn from Fortnum & Mason.
First, an effective heritage storytelling stems from a strategic use of the past, whereby marketers identify those elements of the past with potential for future relevance, and present them in a format that is appealing to current audiences.
Second, an effective heritage storytelling is also rich, i.e. it leverages multiple facets of the past for different purposes: remind audiences of the brand’s pedigree and authenticity, celebrate traditions, generate nostalgia, build a sense of belonging, connect with and activate the users’ personal memories.
I am delighted to see the findings of this fascinating study published as a chapter (“New Old Stories: The Temporal Landscape in Fortnum & Mason’s Digital Heritage Storytelling”) in the latest Routledge volume “Storytelling in Luxury Fashion: Brands, Visual Cultures, and Technologies”[here]. Edited by Dr. Amanda Sikarskie, the book features compelling cases of digital storytelling implementations by Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermès, Louboutin and others.