Safeguarding trademarks poses real challenges as the virtual world collides with the real one, but opportunities abound for those who are quick to adapt
When people say “Old is gold”, it is not without reason. Today, where heritage is not merely an outdated identity, it rather triggers nostalgia, and emotionally appeals to the psyche of people, with a visit down memory lane bringing a yearning to associate with it, at least from a branding perspective. Past is certain, and perhaps this makes it attractive in the unpredictable present and tomorrow.
BRANDS ARE ALIVE
Top that with the life cycle of brands that may easily be equated to that of humans. Just as we grow old, brands do, too. Some survive longer than others, while some become immortal and some are never found again. While there are others that had long disappeared and made a comeback from the past, there are few such brands because of the challenges that rebranding and relaunching they are likely to face, as well as dealing with the reason for vanishing.
But imagine a world that exists apart from the real world, one that carries the potential of continuing legacies of the past by allowing people to convert their brands to virtual assets and tune in whenever they like. The digital boon is currently engaging this world, that is, the metaverse, and that space promises brand survival and revival.
WHY BRING THEM BACK?
Dormant brands may be a promising proposition for revival subject to the identification of lacunae that led to acquittal from the market in the first place, and a foolproof attempt to keep pace with the market trends and association with consumers. Branding is no more limited to catering for the “requirements” of a consumer, but goes beyond to create that requirement.
Typically, brands that are considered for relaunch either come back with the same goods or services as were originally offered, although with improved quality, or the brand launches with diversification to newer segments. Either way, the offered products or services carry the established goodwill and reputation from the old days, a pivotal requirement for the success of a brand.
Re-visioned products base their importance on the changing expectations and needs of the present modern day. A heritage brand, as much as it carries the past, is also required at the same time to keep pace with the present in terms of offering products or services fit for use in modern ways. For example, if old products or services are not appealing to Gen-Z, an assessment and alteration would be required to recreate a brand persona that resonates with young potential consumers promising the brand to be evocative of new-age ideas.
An old brand inherently carries cumulated recognition and equity from past times, making the task of earning credibility easier. Thus, carrying the potential of the better of both worlds, heritage brands may be the next in branding strategy today.
Apart from the legacy, bringing back an old brand in the real world may be a comparatively economic friendly activity, especially in light of the deep-pocket investments the launch of a new brand entails. While launching the range of new products or services may require advocacy of it containing new-age ideas and requirements, the intrinsic brand value continues from the past experience of having accumulated a reputation and a sense of time lost without the brand.
For instance, the HMT wristwatch at one time was a prized possession by millions of Indians. Although several brands have introduced varied segments of smartwatches, one better than the other, HMT remains a sweet memory for many who may make a ready market, in case it were to come back with updated new tech products.
Of course, apart from the economic factor, the emotional aspect of bringing back heritage brands is nostalgia marketing of brands, one which is very well received in today’s times. For instance, the comeback of the iconic Moto Razr, with imbibed new-age technology, had many awaiting its launch merely on the basis of nostalgia for the brand like no another product.
The collaboration of Mahindra, which brought back the Jawa bikes to India and also to its original homeland, the Czech Republic, after years of absence is another example to corroborate the welcoming revival of heritage brands. From what was a hit in the 1970s to the 1980s and glorified in Indian cinema, it went amiss for many years only to be brought back stronger with the rebranding line, “Life comes full circle for Jawa”.
OPPORTUNITIES IN VIRTUAL SPACE
Apart from the real world we are currently living in, a parallel virtual world is being crowded with several brands and consumers joining the bandwagon to mark a presence in the metaverse. There is a lot of activity in this space, which is also commercially leveraging. Some brands have collaborated with others to monetise their IP, while others have launched virtual stores selling virtual goods.
Celebrities are also using this space for commercial advantages or gains, and trading in non-fungible tokens (NTFs) has been peaking interest from the public as well. For instance, several artworks have been sold as NFTs for thousands of dollars.
NFTs are digital assets representing real items such as art, poems, music, compilations, pictures, lyrics, videos and the like. These are bought and sold online, usually using cryptocurrencies, and are generally encoded with similar software as that used by the cryptocurrencies. Plenty has been discussed about what NFTs are, and the metaverse, and while these seem to be hot topics at the moment, their full potential is yet to be realised to understand the extent of opportunities one can expect in the virtual world. Yet, if one were to extend the principles of branding and functioning to augmented virtual reality, there is much a brand can achieve – even those that may no longer be in existence in the real world anymore.
REVIVAL IN META WORLD
With the activities going on in the virtual space, it is interesting to note that while the real world is moving forward, the virtual world where there are NFTs is making it possible to mint money from past preserves by embracing old ways. For instance, the Hindustan Times that was founded in 1924 and carries in its records golden moments of India’s history is entering the virtual space.
The Times is offering NFTs of its original historic stories and images, allowing consumers to enjoy the pride of buying and keeping records of these historic moments. Several other brands have dipped their toes in the metaverse, too, with an aim to monetise different things which, as we discussed, include old preserves, art, pre-existing records and so on.
FROM OLDEN TO GOLDEN
Few of the factors that are relevant to the phasing out of a brand generally include competition and its inability to keep pace with technological advancements. While this may be so in the real world, virtual reality may be a platform for potential consumers to rekindle their interest in outdated brands on the basis of nostalgia. One of the major expenses of business houses is the cost of real estate.
The bonus of conducting business in the metaverse with NFTs is the economic advantage of not spending on fancy and elaborate office space. Not only that, the costs saved on actual inventory production are also of significance apart from products on shelves not having a demand. Coupled with the fact that what you sell in the metaverse need not be new, a brand can review its kitty of past accomplishments to continue the generation of revenue from the products that may not even be in existence in the real world, but a mere memory.
While there is no specific legislation that could cover the sale of NFTs, the applicability of existing business laws is debated with smart contracts as the meta-guiding base. As “programmes stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met”, smart contracts eliminate the intermediaries’ involvement, leading to automatic execution of agreements.
However, since NFTs are usually brought through cryptocurrencies, the subject of which is still speculative in India, the future of NFTs to date seems to depend on the many legislative proposals in the pipeline surrounding digital developments. That said, from a holistic view, it appears that the meta world bubble is here to last, and while it does brands have an opportunity to revive themselves in the virtual space without the requirement of much investment.