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When History Met Future

May 27, 2021, was one of the most anticipated days of the year. The long-awaited, overdue reunion of everyone's favorite friends was set to debut, bringing six beloved characters back to life. And boy, did it garner the love and attention we all knew it would. The reunion was said to have drawn in over 5 million viewers alone on UK's Sky One when it aired. From celebrity appearances to table reads of our favorite episodes, this was the one to watch!

The 1994 sitcom made its way to Netflix in 2015, introducing itself to a new generation, cultivating a new fanbase. As a result, Friends' culture was reborn with renewed energy and flare. The show's brand found life again and woke up its original followers, giving them permission to relive the experience by inserting themselves on a seat next to their six besties at Central Perk.

Building up to this legendary reunion and throughout the episode itself, we heard the word nostalgia roll off every tongue. Reflecting on a past that brought overflowing joy and painted memories of laughter settled well with us all. But why? Did anyone stop to ask or even think to themselves, "What about this show, these characters, and the storylines make me feel so at home?"

For the Friends' groupies, the answer may not matter all that much, but for the brand, it's everything. One note brands should take away from the Friends' hype is that history does not equal timelessness. Knowing this simple fact aids organizations in nurturing their brand legacy, helping them transform into a legacy brand.

When we talk about legacy brands, we aren't speaking about the duration of the brand. Legacy runs deeper than time. An organization that has been standing for 100 years is not legendary. It's just old. It is indeed impressive that an association or corporation has enough strength to hang out for so long. Truly, it does deserve a round of applause; however, no one is handing out legendary awards for age. It is less to do with time and more to do with what the brand has done in its time.

Legacy brands like Lego, Nike, and Disney have mastered nostalgia for its benefits versus letting it sit. They have taken historical sentiment and infused it into their brands as fuel that never quits. For example, the Friends reunion took us back in time while bringing us up to speed with the actors that gave us Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, and Monica. They allowed us to imagine where their characters would be today amidst remembering where we last saw them.

That is the magnificence behind legacy brands. They never leave history on the cutting room floor. Instead, they find a sweet blend of bringing the past into the future. These brands take the sentiment they want to be known for and modernize it consistently for a changing and budding audience. Disney's magic is its legacy. Who doesn't dream of a world where fairytales do come true? When will that tale get old?

Disney takes its magic, leaves an imprint, and produces heart-filled memories, but it doesn't stay there. The brand understands how to make its magic relevant and meaningful to its audience today. It will always wow us with its bippity boppity boo as Disney has mastered how to serve up that same feeling brand, smacking new.

The moral of the story is this. Just don't deliver the good ole days and think it is enough to sustain the brand. There is something about what your brand offers and brings to the world that has kept it alive and well. Reunions are always welcomed, yes! However, it is our job to provide our fans with a reason to reunite. Build on the nostalgia, rather than rely on it.


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