3 min read

How to Write for Legacy Brands

How to Write for Legacy Brands



100 year old whiskey. The first airline ever built. A watch that never stops. Legacy brands are integral to the American economy, and these entities communicate a certain way. Upon reviewing the top brands in the world that meet specific criteria and share language, we created a persona for this brand called Theo.

Theo is utterly refined, exquisitely presented and appeals to a very specific type of audience. If you want to learn to write for legacy brands, you need to master Theo’s voice.

Some of the brands that should immediately come to mind when you start to learn Theo’s voice are authoritative, industry leaders and firmly established. They include Rolex, Goldman Sachs and IBM.



Even undisputed market leaders must maintain their throne, which means effective marketing and laser-focused targeting.

Best Words to Use for Legacy Brands

Knowing the lexicon of legacy brands is essential to getting the tone and voice right. These are not brands who are hungry to dominate, but which comfortably dominate in a way that may appear effortless. If you were having a meal with Theo, here is how his voice would sound:

  • Refined
  • Delightful
  • Professional
  • Wise

A key differentiator here from the brand voice and the people who most likely represent the brand is that second one: delightful. People at the top of this field are often anything but, because they’ve cracked a bunch of skulls to get where they are and are in a dog eat dog environment. However, as a brand, the warmth needs to be added back in. It’s important to strike this balance.

There is an ease that comes with unquestioned success that is a very important part of Theo’s voice.

The “Theo” Brand Voice in Literature

Circling back to that “effortless ease” and unchallenged authority, the literary character for Theo may be unexpected, and it’s Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Again, Theo is likable, which is a modern rendition of the most successful businessmen in the world. They have to be likable to survive a consumer-driven economy. And who’s more likable than Dumbledore? Also, seasoned and charming and invariably knowledgeable.

Here is his quote:

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

The “Theo” Brand Voice in Culture

As you survey the cultural landscape, there are plenty of good reference points for Theo. Here are some of them:

President Barack Obama

Tom Hanks

Morgan Freeman

Oprah Winfrey

What Does “Theo” Feel Like?

Everytime a brand presents itself in public, it should consider the impression it’s making. In other words: how does this messaging or moment make the consumer or audience feel? 


Theo feels like lunch with a trusted mentor.


Proximity to a paragon. Both the closeness and confidence are key.

Full List of “Theo” Brands

In our wide scale brand analysis, these are the brands that most closely match Theo’s voice (and helped shape it):

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • AT&T
  • IBM
  • Accenture
  • J.P. Morgan
  • Deloitte
  • Audi
  • Citi
  • Wells Fargo
  • Adobe
  • PwC
  • Lexus
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Rolex
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Harvard Business Review
  • American Express
  • United Healthcare
  • LG Group
  • HSBC
  • Anthem
  • ExxonMobile
  • Boeing
  • Warner Bros
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Universal
  • Morgan Stanley
  • NBC
  • HBS
  • S&P Global
  • Lexus
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Hilton
  • Aetna
  • Bridgestone
  • Land Rover
  • Credit Suisse
  • Delta
  • CBS
  • ABC
  • American Airlines
  • Discover
  • Prudential
  • United Airlines
  • McKesson
  • BDO Global
  • Blackrock
  • Pfizer

We always make the qualification in these lists that the brand voice research was not conducted with specific industries in mind, but you will always notice trends and themes, because brands in similar industries tend to communicate in similar ways.

Legacy Brand Writing Tips

Legacy brands don’t always appeal solely to high-powered or high net worth individuals. In fact, if you consider the airline industry for instance, they want to appeal to everybody. What they must do is inspire trust. This company is firmly established, has a high degree of authority, and is a leader. These are all important concepts. 

I do think anytime you either decide on this brand voice or get hired to write for this brand voice, you need audience segmentation analysis. It’s likely that there will be a variety of audiences to appeal to, and their pain points and value drivers will vary significantly. You can’t just use eloquent language, multisyllabic words and esoteric references and think you’ve mastered Theo. There is a great deal of nuance, and even some humor, that make this brand voice something to truly work for. It will take a lot of effort to make it sound effortless.

Brand Voice Training

When you write in Theo’s voice, you want to think about the C-suite, executive bench and board members. Embodying people in those roles will help you understand how brands like Theo want to come across in the marketplace, and what words or messages to use to strike the right tone.

Investigate more: