I have recently been sent a link to a blog post about 10 Old Brands That Managed to Stay Modern. Although it is a list of US brands, it got me thinking about companies and brands that last. The average lifespan of a company is surprisingly low at just 25 years for listed US companies.
In most cases the key to really long-term survival is being flexible and changing to match or even lead, public taste and new markets.
For instance while on my recent trip to Tanzania I noticed that although local people still buy bottles of Coca-Cola, many more are drinking Kilimanjaro brand water. On examining the bottle closely I was surprised to see it was produced by the very same Coca-Cola company. This is just one of the many hundreds of brands that they now own.
Another interesting discovery is the high proportion of long lasting companies that are Japanese or German. It may be something to do with how they get passed down through the family to the next generation. The oldest is the Keiunkan hotel, which has been going since 705.