Retro Branding in Atlanta: Out with the New and In with the Old

With new products and services being launched every day, consumers are suffering from ‘brand fatigue’ and marketers are increasingly challenged to capture and keep their customers’ brand loyalty. Despite claims that millennials are especially fickle, marketing research consistently shows that consumers across all age groups are loyal to brands they perceive as ‘authentic’—in other words, brands with which they have built relationships and trust over a period of years. Classic brands (translation: been around a long time!) seek ways to remain relevant—to remind us that they’re still around and still fresh.

Some of Atlanta’s most established and beloved brands are responding with a marketing practice called “Retro Branding,” also known as vintage branding. The long way to define this practice is “the revival or re-launch of a product or brand from a prior historical period, which is usually but not always updated to contemporary standards of performance, functioning or taste.”1 Stated more simply, it means “brand new, old-fashioned offerings.” It seems counterintuitive but no matter what demographic you belong to, everything about this appeals to us as human beings. The concept of “vintage” instills a sense of nostalgic well-being.

Let’s take Atlanta’s most famous brand: Coca-Cola. The historic Atlanta brand, Coca-Cola, has begun embracing the practice of retro branding. In 2010, the 100+ year-old company launched a ‘new’ can design for their famous citrus soda, Mello Yello, using aspects of Mello Yellow’s original 1970s can design. The result was a toned down look and feel that brought familiarity back to consumers. Coca-Cola even added the tag-line “the-original smooth” to remind customers that Mello Yello was and still is their favorite citrus soft drink.

Another notable Atlanta brand that has shown great success with retro branding is the Atlanta Hawks. During the Hawk’s 2014 logo rebranding, the team brought back its original, iconic “reverse Pac-Man” logo that it had used from 1972-1995, calling it an “evolved interpretation.”2

When a brand feels credible and familiar, we’re more likely to stay loyal to them. Perhaps we recognize some part of past selves reflected in our favorite brands. In this time of digital everything, retro branding is an opportunity for companies to use their history to differentiate themselves from competitors and start-ups that don’t have decades of experience perfecting their product or service. Design guru Bruce Duckworth, who worked with Coca-Cola on its retro branding, says that “when a brand’s original story has been forgotten or overlooked, it’s best to return to its unwavering roots…brands are always looking for ways to stand apart and become relevant to consumers. If their history and experience add to their story and their authenticity it’s worth reminding consumers of it.”

What are you doing to keep your brand top of mind with your customers?


(1) “Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and the Revival of Brand Meaning.” Journal of Marketing 67 (July): 19–33.