Old brands never die; they just fade away ~ Brand Mix

Monday, May 19, 2008

Old brands never die; they just fade away

Rob Walker's article about brands and brand equity in The New York Times is well worth a read. It focuses on a company called River West brands that buys "dead" brands (brands that no longer have any products or services sold in the marketplace).

My Cliffs Notes (which, in a slightly related point, until this last second I always thought was Cliff Notes):

1) Brand equity doesn't die just because a brand's products are not around anymore. People still have perceptions about brands like PanAm, for example, years after they are off the market.
2) On the other hand, people do start to forget the specifics. For companies like River West this provides an opportunity to leverage the familiarity and positive associations with these brands while still being able to reinvent them to be relevant to consumer's current needs.
3) The trick is to keep just enough of the right cues that people remember but not be too tied to the past on the specifics. The most famous brand back from the dead is the VW Beetle. It succeeded in its second life because it was layered with "nostalgic reassurance" but had completely different (and better) product performance. It's why the Mustang worked but the Thunderbird did not.
4) Some brands have more potential for reincarnation than others. Eagle Snacks, for example, seems to be a great vehicle for a new range of innovative snacks that River West is launching. Whereas the company has had much more difficulty finding a role for Brim. Even though consumers recall this brand (92% awareness), it's still got to be a mainstream coffee brand and that's just not a market that's going anywhere at the moment. Awareness does not equal usefulness.

1) Can a Dead Brand Live Again? New York Times
2) How to Revive Outdated and Dying Brands: brandeo
2) "Old soldiers never die" proverb


anne said...

hey martin:
enjoyed your recap of “Can a Dead Brand Live Again?”. maybe its just the nostalgia talking, but there’s so much richness in these faded brands from the “Golden Age.” and, is it me or are jingles are lost art?

btw, Cliffs Notes vs. Cliff Notes ---who knew?
Thanks for the link.

Rick Liebling said...

For Rob Walker fans, Rob was kind enough to do a brief Q&A with me regarding his soon-to-be-published book, Buying In. Read my interview with Rob here:


Martin, hope you don't mind the self-promo. :)

Brad McCall said...

With your mention of Pan Am I'm reminded of the movie "Catch Me if You Can." I think historical-based movies or television have a vivid way of bringing old brands back to life and make people ask - "are they still around?"

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