Taking a Financial Brand from Legendary to Contemporary

How an illustrious history became the foundation for a modern brand strategy
guggenheim hanging billboard

Can a legendary brand be a bad thing? That was the question facing Guggenheim Partners when it set out to evaluate its long-standing brand.

A global investment and advisory firm with more than $305 billion in assets under management, Guggenheim had grown rapidly in recent years, but its legacy dates back more than a century, when the Guggenheim family established its fortune in the mining industry. Today, the name is closely associated with philanthropy, including Guggenheim museums in New York City and Bilbao, Spain.

But the firm struggled to identify the relevance of the Guggenheim name to today’s investors. How does association with a 150-year-old family, no matter how illustrious, benefit a 21st century investment manager?

Research among the firm’s clients and prospects revealed a dichotomy. Investors admired Guggenheim for its innovative approach to investing, particularly in the fixed income arena. But they also took comfort from the firm’s legacy, which they felt harkened back to a time when Wall Street was dominated by partnerships, not global behemoths, and deals were made on a handshake.

How to reconcile these two seemingly conflicting responses? Could innovation and tradition live together harmoniously? Or would one need to take a back seat…or be eliminated altogether?

The answer lay in finding how each of the two could support the other. Investors sought asset managers with the ability to spot opportunities others might overlook – but after the economic collapse of 2008, they wanted guardrails around their investments.

A deeper look at the Guggenheim legacy revealed that family members were in fact trailblazers on a number of fronts, from their earliest successes in mining to their approach to philanthropy. In short, innovation was part of the Guggenheim story. At the same time, the family was renowned for their high standards of ethical business practice. Viewed in this light, the Guggenheim legacy reflects exactly what investors are looking for: creativity coupled with strong values.

diagram showing differentiationThis legacy is reflected in the new Guggenheim brand idea: “Innovative Perspectives. Enduring Values.” Essentially, the storied Guggenheim legacy was used as a foundation to build a modern, future-focused brand. This was accomplished not by turning away from the legacy but by embracing those elements of it that could support something new and exciting.

Even the firm’s new visual identity reflects the interplay of these ideas: black-and-white photography, shot by a well-known photographer, convey a culture committed to transparency and collaboration. Dramatic, full-color photographs of the industries in which Guggenheim invests suggest an opportunistic sense of ingenuity and future-focused optimism.

As Guggenheim illustrates, brand equity is accrued over time, often over decades. Companies must think long and hard – and conduct in-depth research and analysis – before jettisoning a legacy brand. Guggenheim worries that it may have outgrown its brand, but in fact many aspects of the brand were still relevant. The key was understanding what to amplify, what to downplay, and what to add to make the brand reflect what the firm had become…and where it wants to go.

See the new brand here.

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