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J. Crew Problem: Snuffleupagus Pants & Emperor’s Ugly Clothes

April 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

NEW YORK – One of the great books read to me by my grandmother, a Sophie Newcomb educated potter by the name of Margaret Clarkson Pollard, were Hans Christian Anderson’s tales. Perhaps the most memorable was “The Emperor’s New Clothes” about an emperor, crooked weavers, and child who dared to be honest. A line that hits me afresh today:

“The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

What made it a great tale? First, the story was a safe time when you could discuss the idea of nudity with adults, and get a chuckle out of it. Secondly, streaking was a big fad in the ’70s, and the fable sort of turned that idea upside down. Indeed streaking was about causing a scene and endless laughter with nudity; could we ever imagine a society that was so brainwashed it would not notice an emperor in skivvies? Thirdly, the fable established a sort of subversive element to the establishment; I wonder today if the fable is read to North Korean children? Fourth, it showed that modesty was a virtue. Lastly, the whole moral idea of the fable was that children needed to express their most basic truths, openly, and would be rewarded and be  considered smart and adult if they did this. Plus, it was a good business tale. [Read more →]

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Brand Survivors: Esso, Premium and Red Cross Toothache

April 20th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

It is always heartening when an old brand survives generations, world wars and multiple depressions and recessions. So it is that we noticed three brands that (sort of) live on, in various states of existence.

Esso: The Esso brand is still viable around the world, and just because Raymond Loewy did the Exxon logo for the United States, the great name associated with John D. Rockefeller lives on across the world. What some, however, forget is that ExxonMobil does a masterful job of keeping both the Esso and the Exxon brands alive. In the United States, diesel fuel is often sold as Esso Diesel. For companies that have merged a number of brands into one uber company (and that seems to be in every industry these days) keeping and old corporate or product brand alive is fairly simple. You continue to use the brand name on a sub-product. So, for instance, Esso appears across the world and in Canada, but in the states it shows up as a single product.

Nabisco Premium Crackers: A saltine is one of the great taste sensations that has little taste; the lightly crusted crackers achieve a charm unexpected when you dust them with salt. Nabisco Premium is the most venerable of the saltine brands, over Keebler’s Zesta and other store brands. Sadly, there seems to be less and less salt in a Premium, and that’s not good because salt (and of course light if we are reading our Gospel of Matthew) is what makes it zing. Let us remember the words of our savior, and apply them (carefully) to a favorite snack: [Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: Health and Beauty

Barclays Misses Their Own Brand with ‘Luxury Card’

April 18th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

It is among the more misguided efforts at branding I have ever seen. Barclays, the great banking brand from 1690, is trying to sell a ‘luxury’ product without its own name on it. It is the Luxury Card; all references to Barclays are completely hidden, in an effort to go after rich urban hipsters. There is Black Card, Gold Card and Platinum Card.

A Reddit post explained the stupidity of the effort quite clearly, and better than I could.

“So far, it seems like they gave a shot at trying to do something nice, but the whole thing feels…a bit silly, and gaudy in all honesty. Maybe even a bit fake. I’m not sure who the actual target demographic is, but it seems like the type of thing that would fit in well with the fake showy types that like to hang out in Miami. I can’t currently see it being worth it’s $995 annual fee — the second highest one in the US to my knowledge (after the Amex Cent), especially when there are better options like the Chase Ritz-Carlton, the City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite, and in terms of reward earning potential, as far as I can tell, the CSP (and certainly the Ink cards) seem better in practice.” [Read more →]

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Renovation for Your Brand Might Include Refit and Repair

April 12th, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

Perhaps it is not such an issue now, but back in the fall of 2010 Hatteras Yachts was advertising the “Hatteras Refit Center” in marine magazines. The idea was that you could take your Hatteras back to the yard to be rebuilt.

This sort of approach is one way to build brand equity, though the company has ceased advertising the idea, and as the economy has improved, emphasizing this sort of thing would not be the ideal for the brand, which was once part of the giant AMF sporting goods company.

Nevertheless, boat companies are an excellent place for this sort of brand-building activity, which emphasizes the long term quality of the brand along with connecting you to the core strengths of the brand.

How companies deal with repairs, parts and the like says much about a brand. Any luxury Swiss watch brand knows its different products; someone who has a Patek Philippe watch can have the watch refurbished. In jewelry, this is an issue too; jeweler brands like Tiffany and Seamen Schepps are known to repair their old historic jewelry. It keeps a conversation going with customers, and fights the idea that goods are merely planned to be obsolescent.

When business slows down and your luxury product and brand is moving slowly, consider offering reconditioning services from the factory. It’s not an issue now, but will certainly be one in the future.

While times are good, ensure that your parts and repair inventory is strong, and  your repair personnel trained and thoughtful. It will pay off in current sales, as new customers like to know that a brand will stand behind their product. It also helps preserve the resale value of a brand, and anything that can ensure a high resale value is sure to increase the brand value. Think Toyota, Honda and John Deere.

Jewelers, clothiers, car companies and the like all can play the refit game.

→ 1 CommentTags: Sports

Eerily Prescient United Ad from 1989 That Gives Recovery Route Map

April 11th, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

There is not a lot more that can be said about the dismal failure of United Airlines that has not been said, except that it proves the necessity of empowering your staff to serve customers, and not suffer rules over common sense. The company’s management is clueless, and it is evidence of how Aeroflot-like American transport companies have become.

Ironically, United ran an ad back in 1989 that explained how a company could grovel and make amends after it had suffered a major mistake. It’s a lesson in humility and seriousness, and the spirit that is in the ad is the contrite spirit of a company that was broken, and needs to go back to its customers and make amends. The ad is the answer to their problems, in a 60 second message.

In the ad, United Airlines is the solution to the problem, in that the unnamed company in the ad needs to visit its customers. Extrapolate that situation today; United has to go back to all of its customers, and make an new compact with them. The compact? We will be be nice, and not enforce rules with gestapo tactics.

Below, the ad “Face to Face” with the immortal advertising words, “Well folks, somethings got to change! That’s why were going to set out for a face to face chat with every customer we have.” [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Airlines

What To Do Before You Discontinue a Brand

April 11th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Many companies, large and small, are faced with the idea that a brand name might die off, might have died off or be struggling. Macy’s killed off great brands like Marshall Field’s, Burdine’s, A&S, May Company, Foley’s and the like. They lost massive market share, and did not have to. Their company has tanked, and the ill will they created in city after city has caused them misery. Thankfully, many who created the situation are gone.

Eventually, entrepreneur Ellia Kassoff of the California Company Strategic Marks, filed for the trademarks, and actually won a lawsuit against Macy’s in February of last year, as he kept rights to brands that included May Co., Robinson’s, Bullock’s and I. Magnin. In addition, he won the rights to former Boston department store Jordan Marsh, East Coast brand Bamberger’s and Houston department store Foley’s. Macy’s won other brands back, but so far has done little to take advantage of their equity, a year later. Pitiful.

Going Forward

What do you do when you have an extra brand. You know that the brand still has value. But how? Does it have value as a store brand? As a licensed brand? As a Christmas novelty brand? How can it still hold its value, when its stores are all Macy’s? Do you write the value of the brand down and move on?

The key is to understand first what was, and then see if there are DIFFERENT avenues to preserve the brand equity.

Before you consign your brand to the dustbin of brand history, look at these simple steps that might allow you to not only extract value out of your brand, but to give your company a competitive advantage.

  1. Do some research. Find out all the history of the brand, how it was founded, how it changed, what things remain that are worth saving. That doesn’t mean just researching clippings. It means talking to retired staffers, who know why things worked, and why things didn’t. Find out all you can; the reason why the brand is failing might be totally obvious. For instance, before Woolworth was killed off, did the F.W. Woolworth lunch counters have a future as a spin off or as a licensed brand? This process is not about finding out just about what went wrong, but what works. Get in touch with your local historical society. They know more than you think.
  2. Post your assets and intellectual property. Look up all media and advertising relating to the brand. Are there places where the brand has appeared in the media, in movies, in commercials, or in company photographs? Make sure ALL of that content goes into the web universe, with links to your current company site, and the URL. This will at least make sure the whole brand story is told.
  3. Give it away. If the brand is inexpensive, why not give a few versions away? Or at least make some T-shirts out of the best version of the logo, and give them out to staff, vendors and distributors of the brand. Giving always works, and a T-shirt is one of the best forms of advertising. You might even be able to sell a few.
  4. Look for fans. Are there people on eBay who buy versions of your product? Are there fan clubs, collectors, hipsters and oldsters who like the brand and have stuck by it? For instance, General Motors could keep its Olds brand alive by owning the fan clubs, parts stores and other pieces of the company that still have value. This may not be much money, but it can preserve the rights to the trademark.
  5. End all advertising. For the moment. Sometimes, the whole infrastructure of advertising and marketing is expensive and time consuming, and if a brand is failing, it isn’t working. So stop, to start over. Remember, there are many products that are not advertised in traditional media. Old brands like Tab diet cola have niche markets, and are not advertised as much as they were. When you figure out what went wrong and where you want to go, you can go back to a new campaign. For brands that are already dead, don’t assume you need to do much of advertising. If the equity is there, you won’t need as much as a new brand. The key is to actually begin producing the product again in small batches.
  6. Don’t redo the logo. The obvious temptation for an old, failing brand is to change the logo and do something fresh. Now, there is nothing wrong with that per se. But you don’t want to do it out of fear. You’ll want to redo a logo based on the facts. Before you switch a logo, you need to find out why the CURRENT state of the product is not working. A new logo won’t fix an ailing brand. In the case of a brand that is already COMPLETELY dead, look at all the different versions of the logo to see which is best.
  7. Fix legal ends. First rule of trademarks is use it or lose it! Make sure all the legal stuff is nailed down, so you can, in good faith, hold onto your rights to the brand. Do you own the URL? Are all patents in place? Are all issues of trade dress, sub-brands and trademarks sorted out? Is the trademark owned by a fully owned but independent licensing LLC so it can be valued as a line item on your main company balance sheet? Can you preserve the integrity of the brand name by using your old brand as a subsidiary corporation that could be sold, or spun off?
  8. Consider licensing and internal store brands. Consider contacting a brand licensing firm. These companies (and we can recommend a few) can see if there are other opportunities for your brand name outside of your company. This sort of thing is not just for Disney merchandise. It might mean that there is a brand extension on a related product. Perhaps your local restaurant is closing, but you have some good recipes and a dressing that you can license to a local grocer? Think about ways the brand can be relevant, even if it changes.
  9. Sell commemorative and specialty products. Many brands only appear intermittently. For instance, many consumer products companies come out with specialty Christmas products. This even works for retailing. So if your coffee brand isn’t selling much, but sells a few at Christmas, why not issue a special commemorative version? Candy and food manufacturers are good at this.
  10. Pray. We are totally serious about this one. Whatever your religious affilation, very often pride, greed and all those other sins get in the way of a good decision. Perhaps you’ve made some mistakes with the brand. It first might seem easier to kill it off, as those embarrasing screw ups can be blamed on “customers” and “changing times.” Brutal honesty will get you in the right place so that you can figure out the truth of what went wrong. Come clean, and you can correct it.

About to kill off a brand? Don’t. Instead, E-mail us now.

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Colgate Boosts Classics, Keeps Mennen Brand

April 8th, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Garland Pollard

NEW YORK – Colgate Palmolive is taking a smart path with some of its older brands, namely Speed Stick and Irish Spring. In recent weeks the company has updated advertising for the products, and included them in coupon supplements mailed with the Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Colgate can ill afford for these gems of brands to decline; in every category major brands are fighting competition, yet in health and beauty consumer products, branding is one area where products can be differentiated, and not duplicated. For instance, Amazon can sell its own diapers and batteries, and we will change brands on price. But a product with a smell and a history is VERY difficult to steal market share away from if the product is consistent and thoughtfully distributed. Thus, American men are well used to the smell of Speed Stick and Irish Spring, and if they like it, they will “stick”  with it, whether purchased at grocery, Amazon, CVS or Walmart.

Speed Stick is one of the best brands of mens deodorant; it has a legacy from Colgate’s purchase of Mennen, the 19th century men’s products company. Colgate still quite wisely uses the Mennen name, as it still carries brand equity, particularly in the Northeast. Many millions still know the “by Mennen” advertising notes, almost as familiar as the three-note NBC chimes. Hundreds of thousands know the Mennen Arena in Morristown, N.J. Mennen, as far as I can see, only appears on Speed Stick and Skin Bracer Products, though it may be on other brands that I do not know. The current Speed Stick packaging has “by Mennen” at the bottom of the package in tiny type.

Future Plans for Mennen

What is the future of Mennen? Colgate would do well to look at the older products that were associated with Mennen. Certainly the revival of Gold Bond powder could be a lesson, as Mennen was well known for its men’s powder. Other specialty products might be useful, for instance shaving cream and face lotions might go after the millennial and younger crowd. Targeting free giveaways to the growing network of traditional barber shops might be an excellent combination for the brand.

Unfortunately, Colgate  has not done well by Cashmere Bouquet. It is odd that a brand like Cashmere Bouquet, which was the Burt’s Bees of its time, is so maligned and ignored, and if it is found, it is sold as a discount brand. Colgate would do well to look at brands like Keihl’s and Burt’s Bees, and devise a way to reinvigorate Cashmere Bouquet along those lines. Emphasize the 1872, look at the original formula for the brand, research original packaging, and take the product back to its essence.


 

→ 1 CommentTags: Health and Beauty

Finding Noxzema Shave Cream, Changed But Still Good

April 8th, 2017 · 2 Comments

By Garland Pollard

BALTIMORE – There were no big parades in Baltimore in 2014, when Unilever’s brand Noxzema celebrated its centennial. It was hardly noticed there, though there were ads for Noxzema cream in magazines and supplements across the nation.

Three  years later, the brand is still around, and the spin-off shave cream is still selling at many grocery stores and drugstores, though the presence of the shave brand is much smaller and there is no advertising to speak of. The main Noxzema brand went from Procter & Gamble to Alberto Culver to now Unilever. Sadly, there is no use for the shave cream at the main Noxzema website; when you put the term “shave” into the search, nothing comes up.

That is a missed opportunity.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Noxzema shave was considered a premium brand, so much so that a college friend at William and Mary thought me a bit posh for using it. It was made famous by the nordic model Gunilla Knutson, in that “take it all off” ad that was a sensation across the U.S. By the late 1980s, there were multiple versions including a blue colored medicated  version and a green version that contains aloe. Currently, the white can is the hardest to find. [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: Health and Beauty

On the Shelves: Duncan Hines, Harvester Hats and Good News No Longer

April 5th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Ever since Pinnacle Brands purchased Duncan Hines, they have shown that a tired old brand that seems to be tired can quite easily be revived if you pay attention to it. This week, Walmart has been displaying new products from the Duncan Hines brand, including a small “Perfect Size” cake and a Perfect Size for 1 cake in a cup. Both are excellent ideas for odd-sized families, including single parent households, retired folk and fussy kids.

Duncan Hines was first a gourmet, and later his brand of cakes became a bestseller for Proctor & Gamble. However, P&G got out of most of the foods business (they once owned Sunny Delight, Pringles and Folgers), and Duncan Hines went to Pinnacle Foods, which has done interesting things with many vintage brands including Vlasic, Log Cabin and Birds Eye. They have become the General Foods of our time, and are doing a great job.

Rural American Delights

If some think that the U.S. is over branded, and way too slick, please consider the case of Alabama King Brand Fine Ground Enriched White Stone Ground Corn Meal. What a thrill to encounter this brand, with its simple straight forward packaging and low-key appeal. It would be retro hip except there is absolutely nothing hip about it. Except that it is hip without trying to be hip. The old Spy magazine of the 1980s talked about consumer items that were “Unwittingly Hip” and perhaps Alabama King could be considered as such except there is nothing hip about corn meal in a white bag.

Meanwhile, on another shelf, we see the full viability of the International Harvester brand in this Case IH Agriculture cap. First, we would much rather see Case as a brand and IH as a brand, rather than together. But it still is good to have both of them around. Sadly, when International Harvester went bankrupt, the pieces sort of frittered away, with Cub Cadet spinning off, the noble International Harvester Scout dying, Navistar trucks being created and farm equipment continuing on.

International Harvester and Cyrus McCormick were the pioneers of mechanized farms; we are glad to see the initials still around on a cap at Walmart. Dang I should have bought it while it was in front of me.

Not Good News

There is something odd about Gillette. For the last 15 years, it coasted on the goodwill created by the original early 1980s Sensor razor and the stylish “Best a Man Can Get” campaign, sung by the world’s best-ever jinglemaster Jake Holmes, that came out in the late 1980s. The company learned a trick back then; that it could spend lots on a new version of a razor, and sell it to men at a very high price. The problem was that there was only so sharp you can make a blade, and only so many ways you can drag a blade across a face. Plus, once you get more than two blades the shaver gets so fat its hard to use. And you have to start jacking up prices to crazy levels to pay for it all.

Most recently, they have taken to switching their brands around. For instance, since the early 1980s the Good News razors, pictured above, were the blue disposables. The are actually a good product. But now, they have been renamed Sensor 2, which were the razors sold with two blades and a disposable head. Very confusing. Please stop.

This morning, the Wall Street Journal announced that they would have to cut their razor prices by 20 percent. People are not fooled by the five blade misery and rolling balls of these odd contraptions that they would have us buy to do something like shave. Gillette: Please simplify this mess, or Bic and Dollar Shave will win.

Meanwhile, we came across this Laura Ashley Lint Removal Sheet. We are not sure why this product was created in the first place, or why the people of Laura Ashley would license their name for such a thing. What a waste of a good brand. The only good thing you can say about it is they are actually using the brand on products, which does have some value in keeping the brand alive as a placeholder.

That’s all for now. Meanwhile, have a nice view of the first Best a Man Can Get. Ahh the 1980s.

→ No CommentsTags: Advertising

Not Bright: Met Life Dumps Legacy for Recycled Cable Identity

April 4th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

NEW YORK – Part of the whole point of branding is to teach that as a company, you want to get to the eternal, the brand that never changes, the brand that customers trust and suppliers fight to sell to, the brand you never need to advertise because it is so well-known and trusted that it sells itself.

One of those brands is Metropolitan Life. Through its history, Metropolitan Life has been a beacon of stability in millions of families’ lives, what advertising called a “Light that Never Fails.”

So it was with great surprise that I picked up The Wall Street Journal and saw that Metropolitan Life would, well, no longer be Metropolitan Life. It would instead spin off its life insurance, its reason for being, into a new company named after my local cable company, which was called Brighthouse, and now is called something else that I cannot remember.

This is sad, as Metropolitan Life was once one of the great things of capitalist America.

The American Skyscraper, Cultural Histories by Roberta Moudry tells a bit about the self view of Metropolitan Life through much of the 20th century as it relates to the famous 1909 Metropolitan Life building. Met Life, as it has come to be abbreviated, was all about providing security in families lives. Granted, this idea was a sort of marketing construct, but it was a good marketing construct, a construct that was implemented and followed through on by hundreds of thousands of agents and clerks. [Read more →]

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