Whether it’s willingly paying triple for the comforting stare of the Starbucks siren, or driving out of your way for those glorious golden arches. Just how do our most iconic brands stay relevant?

Audiences today demand more relevance, diversity and awareness. For iconic brands with an historic legacy, the struggle to reconcile long-standing tradition with a more engaged – and activist-led – audience, is very real.

It all starts, of course, with setting the right tone.

Some of the biggest brands on the planet have successfully pivoted. Managing to hit that sweet spot between legacy and new-age relevance.  Let’s take a look at how some original icons are managing to appease Generation WOKE – and still hold on to that all-important nostalgia.


It all began way back in 1886 when those saucy red devils, Coca-Cola Corporation burst onto the scene. They quickly became the talk of the town, which had absolutely nothing at all to do with the drink’s original key ingredient. Like at all.

So, by the time the roaring twenties hit, Coca-Cola had firmly captured the hearts of American audiences. Leading the way in creating iconic advertising and racking up a whole host of celeb endorsements.

But then, uh-oh, disaster struck, and the Great Depression hit. As a result, brands everywhere fell hard. All but our trusty red label. Somehow, Coca-Cola managed to thrive despite the gloom.

So, what was their secret? Well, as much as I’d like to pin it all on that scandalous ingredient, it was in fact because they knew how to change with the times.

Without losing sight of who they were – a traditional, affordable family brand – in 1931, Coca-Cola introduced its partnership with none other than Santa Claus himself. A sponsor that is unlikely, if ever, to go out of fashion. And one that has endured for the brand for decades since.

After years of honing its tagline, Coca-Cola’s sales pitch offer became “one of life’s affordable luxuries.” Which is a fine lesson in how to stay relevant. Because if there’s one thing we can all rely on, it’s that economic crises a ten a penny these days. Proving that Coca-Cola’s enduring strategy of telling people they deserve a little something special, even when times are tough, positions them as the go-to treat for those looking for a quick, affordable fix.

Coca-Cola teaches us the importance of tailoring your marketing messages to address the pain points your audience is facing – and one that will always resonate with the human experience. Coca-Cola will likely always be an instantly recognisable institution, and you’d be hard pushed to find a boomer, gen x-er, millennial or gen z-er who doesn’t have faith that the brand won’t deliver, exactly when they need it to. 

Is it Barbie’s world now?

The name on everybody’s lips this summer is the plastic-fantastic bombshell that is Barbie. Turning 64 years old this year, it’s fair to say that old Barbs has been around the block a few times. Yet here she is, in 2023, having a blockbuster made in her name and Ryan Gosling on her arm to boot. What a hustling lil bish hey.

So, what sets Barbie apart and keeps her popularity soaring? It’s all thanks to Mattel’s ability to listen to feedback and adapt. They’ve transformed Barbie into a global, inclusive, and modern-day icon that resonates with diverse audiences.

Barbie isn’t just a doll; she’s a well-managed brand.

Over the years Mattel has faced controversies regarding Barbie’s body image and lack of diversity, but they’ve managed to address these concerns head-on. Expanding the Barbie range to offer various ethnicities, body shapes, and skin tones that have been welcomed with open arms by families across the globe. Plus, the Barbie legacy is also synonymous with the LGBTQ+ community, bringing in a huge, loyal and engaged audience who can take pride in seeing themselves represented in such a prestigious and iconic heritage.  In essence, Barbie has managed to evolve from a symbol of materialism to somewhat of a role model. With over 130 careers, including astronaut, teacher, surgeon, and president, Barbie’s done more to encourage girls to think about their future aspirations than perhaps say, some leading western Governments have.

The Rise, Fall and Revival of Polaroid

Fun fact about Polaroid, the brand actually started by creating polarized sunglasses (way back in 1937) before gaining fame for their iconic instant cameras in the 1970s.

The idea for instant cameras came from Edwin H. Land’s desire to see photos immediately, leading to the invention of self-developing film in 1947. Icon status secured right? Then came the popularisation of the camera thanks to Andy Warhol et al, promoting regular families to follow suit. By the 80s however, Polaroid faced heavy competition from Kodak and the brand unceremoniously began to die. With customers opting for slicker, more compact solutions.

Fast forward to the digital era and it’s difficult to see how Polaroid could ever regain its iconic status again.

And this is where our old friend nostalgia steps in. Polaroid, above all else, is cool. And it represents something that can’t quite be posted on an Instagram post, true candidness. So, with a change of ownership and direction in 2008, Polaroid has managed to bounce back by bringing the traditional analogue experience to the digital world. By collaborating with high-end fashion houses and launching an immersive social media campaign, Polaroid is right back in the mix and in high demand. Proving that if your product is strong enough then there’s always a way to re-enter the conversation and flip the narrative.

Plus, Polaroid also shows us how a brand might be down but with the right pivot, it’s rarely out.

How can we help?

The moral of the tale is, a rebrand doesn’t need to erase your history. Rather, the need to stay relevant should be seen as an opportunity to elevate and re-align that history with an evolving audience.

At Pistachio, we know a thing or two about how to create an engaging and inclusive environment for your customer, while also safeguarding the legacy of your business.

To find out more about how we can help, get in touch here.