Few companies have a more storied past than Hershey (NYSE:HSY). From modest beginnings in 1894, the firm has weathered two world wars and a global depression to become a chocolate-making giant. But that history has a downside: Hershey has been around for so long that consumers may take it for granted. This puts the chocolate company in a dangerous spot, since buyers without a strong association to the Hershey brand are less likely to stay loyal.

To confront this problem head-on, Hershey aims to raise its public profile with a new venue profiled in the Chicago Tribune. Hershey's Chocolate World recently opened in the heart of Chicago's shopping mecca, the Magnificent Mile, where it's expected to draw 2 million to 3 million visitors annually. Chocolate World sells plenty of well-known and unique Hershey products, but it's more than just a store. It reinforces customers' association with the Hershey brand through song-and-dance numbers and an attraction that allows visitors to experience life as a Hershey factory worker, among other things.

Chicago's Chocolate World, which joins an existing location near New York's Times Square, is not Hershey's first effort to refresh its brand. Earlier this year, the firm decided to shorten its name to reflect its focus on the chocolate business. In addition, the company's initiative to fund education in West Africa, though certainly aimed at maintaining a consistent cocoa supply, also lets Hershey present a socially responsible image to U.S. consumers.

Though the secret of effective branding is hard to grasp, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) prove that vibrant brands can yield huge profits. That makes Hershey's efforts to strengthen its image well worth watching.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.