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When innovation met renovation: back to the future of branding

Stephen Brown (University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Northern Ireland)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 3 August 2015




Retro-marketing is rampant. Throwback branding is burgeoning. Newstalgia is the next big thing. Yet marketing thinking is dominated by the forward-facing discourse of innovation. The purpose of this paper is to challenge innovation’s rhetorical hegemony by making an exemplar-based case for renovation.


If hindsight is the new foresight, then historical analyses can help us peer through a glass darkly into the future. This paper turns back time to the RMS Titanic, once regarded as the epitome of innovation, and offers a qualitative, narratological, culturally informed reading of a much-renovated brand.


In narrative terms, Titanic is a house of many mansions. Cultural research reveals that renovation and innovation, far from being antithetical, are bound together in a deathless embrace, like steamship and iceberg. It shows that, although the luxury liner sank more than a century ago, Titanic is a billion-dollar brand and a testament to renovation’s place in marketing’s pantheon. It contends that the unfathomable mysteries of the Titanic provide an apt metaphor for back-to-the-future brand management. It is a ship-shape simile heading straight for the iceberg called innovation. Survival is unlikely but the collision is striking.


This paper makes no claims to originality. On the contrary, it argues that originality is overrated. Renovation, rather, rules the waves. It is a time to renovate our thinking about innovation. The value of this paper inheres in that observation.



Brown, S. (2015), "When innovation met renovation: back to the future of branding", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 634-655.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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