Wall Street Journal online on April 18, 2012 discusses the idea of reviving dead brands and their usefulness for the small entrepreneur. See Old Brands Get a Second Shot. The November 2010 Smart Money features a story by Anne Kadet on orphan brands, and mentions BrandlandUSA. QSR, for quick service restaurants, used our advice on branding in the event of a bankruptcy in the October 2010 article Back from Bankruptcy.
Some of our posts appear on the site Seeking Alpha. Sacramento Bee mentioned us for our search for
Sea & Ski
Read our commentary in Richmond's Style Weekly on the future of (the late) Circuit City at
Advice for Circuit City. See a Toledo Blade Story on the future of a historic White Tower restaurant. Read Editor Garland Pollard's personal writing clips online at www.garlandpollard.com.
The social theorist and urban planner Andres Duany a few years ago gave a talk on “male” space in the American household. Male space has pretty much disappeared; the den, once male, became a family room, and then became housebroken. Homeowners associations will fine you for leaving the garage door open in some subdivisions. In many new build houses, garages are trimmed out with drywall, closing up the framing. This means that walls, which were once studded and could be easily turned into workshops, instead become sanitized.
Above is a Youtube of the talk; the beginning is slightly faded but the video quality gets better as it moves along.
Of course, since that talk, the so-called “man cave” has blossomed, but the man-cave is really about a male caricature, and is centered on consumption, namely beer and sports, rather than doing, building, repairing and yard work. A man cave is a far cry from dad’s workshop, where one might actually have the freedom to build something, get dirty and create.
During the talk, Duany remarked on the popularity of the Harley Davidson. Many Japanese brands, all packaged, come with all the parts, closed in. There is nothing to do with them. Contrast that with Harley. “There is a constant need to take it apart,” says Duany. “That’s where the magic of the Harley comes in.”
Some brands do specialize in add-on parts. The biggest brand of “parts” is perhaps Lego, which has a following among boys, more than girls. For girls, American Girl and Barbie are the biggest sellers of “parts” even though there is little that you do with them that is practical.
Of the adult brands, Apple is sort of all about “parts” as its products allow different add-ons and apps, which can change the nature of the product and make it fit the individuals needs. That’s ironic because there is very little you can do inside an Apple iPhone; it pretty much is what it is. Camera makers also encourage add-ons, with new lenses and the like as important part of the brand experience. Some furniture makers also encourage modularity; for instance Ethan Allen was known for selling furniture that you could add to as you went along.
What other brands could specialize in parts, pieces and add ons? Certainly, most car manufacturers cater to customizers, some like GM more than others, though Jeep is very high on the list. Tool brands are also purchased in pieces. And women’s craft brands, such as Dritz and Singer, capitalize on the fact that once you have started with a basic product, you might want to keep adding onto it. You can get a start with an inexpensive starter item, and keep adding as you become proficient in the skill.
One of the most notable modular products was the Sears Jon Boat, pictured at right in the 1986 Centennial catalog. In its smallest form, it could be purchased for $379. It was a classic entry level product that parents could afford for their boys, and it had practical uses for dads, as well as an all around knockaround boat.
In its basic form, it had oarlocks, so you didn’t even have to have an engine. If you purchased the boat, all of a sudden there were dozens of extras that had to be purchased, but happily, it could still be used on its own. The Jon boat also promoted the outdoors, and fit with the Boy Scouts supplier business that Sears was once famous for. Other lines like Sears Yachtsman, Gamefisher and Die Hard were promoted with the boat, the latter being an electric motor sold for $129.
Sometime after 1986, the Jon boat was discontinued; today a version of it is still made by Alumacraft, the ultra basic model 1036.
Today, Sears has VAST acres of empty space at their stores, particularly in the areas that were once reserved for tools and such. A few boats might jazz up the scene, and fit with their Lands End franchise. Or perhaps Sears might think of what other modular products might help them in their search to reinvent themselves?
RICHMOND – Many companies do not know what to do with old identities and iterations of their brand. Very often, they just ignore them, and move on, discarding that valuable history.
Educational institutions, too, have the issue of what to do with old versions of their brand.
The Collegiate School, a Richmond private day school, has done an innovative thing with a 1920s version of their old logo. They have brought it back and used it as the graphic identity for their Centennial Campaign.
The logo was used by the girls school when it was on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue back in the 1920s. The old logo, seen at right, has a Deco feel, and looks amazingly hip for something 100 years old. Today, it looks fresh and new. The logo uses the school’s green and gold colors, so it appears to fit with the current look quite well. Even better, it will probably sell well at the gift shop. [Read more →]
If you were at a kids pool in the 1960s (or my wife on Lyford Cay, Bahamas in about 1968, photo at right), you would likely see toddlers swimming about with little bubble floats on their backs. In some cases they were plain styrofoam, but in many cases they were more stylish and fabric covered and of a brand called Swim Bouy.
Swim Buoy, founded in 1955 by Jack L. Brasington, Sr., was not a maker of life preservers. Instead, they were to help a child float and learn to swim.
In the last few decades, other methods became popular, including the floation devices that you remove strips from the side gradually as the child learns to swim. There is also the gruesome “throw in the water” immersion method, which somehow seems about as charming as water childbirth.
But the best was the Swim Buoy bubble float. It was best because it made the child swim and move about to keep its head above water, in a sense training the child to swim without knowing it.
Today, the Swim Buoy is still made, and by a small company in Miami. On their website, they show archival photos of children with the Swim Buoy. It’s still a fashion statement, and comes in clever, snazzy patterns, so that parents can feel hip about it.
We found a 1955 advertisement for a Swim Buoy. The item then was described as a “kapok” Swim Buoy, kapok being the tropical cotton type fabric used in life preservers. Kapok, which is derived from the kapok or ceiba tree, is native to South America, and is a waterproof silky cotton substance that was often used for pillows and flotation before petrochemicals.
For most Americans, one of the first places they learned to read news was Weekly Reader.
Launched in the 1920′s, the Weekly Reader name is synonymous with America, education and a sort of wholesome, fair account of the day’s news. Weekly Reader fits a sort of Americana of nice, peaceful schools with desks lined up in rows and students discussing the news events of the day in an unbiased, thoughtful way.
Weekly Reader comes from an era when educators took students seriously; throught the 20th century there were very intelligent publications for children including National Geographic’s School Bulletin and Junior Scholastic, also published by Scholastic. But by the 1970s, things got jiggy, including Scholastic’s Dynamite, which really was mostly a slick promotion for ABC television shows like Welcome Back Kotter.
This heralded the current era, when Scholastic is now selling all sorts of Hollywood-branded gifts and books to kids, most of which have little educational value except that they get kids to sit down in read. I guess it could be worse. I believe a Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus book that came home one day from the Scholastic bookstore was a sort of low.
By middle school, educators began offering student subscriptions to national magazines like Newsweek, which had special teacher programs.
Looking back, Dynamite was great fun (my favorite, along with the intellectual Cricket), but it was not great educator. National Geographic dumbed down their approach in the 1970s, from the intelligent School Bulletin to World, which better reflected the times, but was a much lower appoach. World recently disappeared, as well, I believe replaced by the publication National Geographic Kids.[Read more →]
One of the best-known toothpaste brands of the 20th century is still around, sort of.
The toothpaste brand, which in Turkey is as well-known as Colgate or Crest, is a forgotten footnote, and has been on and off the market in the U.S. for decades. Today, it is still hard to find, though a version is still made in Canada. Currently, the brand is owned by the Canadian medical supply company Maxill, which purchased the brand from Chicago’s River West Brands in October, 2009.
Ipana dates from 1901, and was one of the first products of Bristol-Myers, along with the mineral laxative Sal-Hepetica.
Ipana was one of the early products sold on radio, where the Ipana Troubadors were a fixture on the NBC Red and Blue networks. The band was led by Lester Lanin’s brother , Sam. In the 1940s, it was a sponsor of the radio show Time to Smile, which helped to restart Eddie Cantor’s career after he denounced the anti-semitic Catholic priest Father Charles Coughlin. The group included Dave Grupp, who apparently played xylophones and trumpet, according to old Billboard magazines. Laura Lee’s book Name’s Familiar says the brand was a best-seller from 1936 to 1945.
Heavily advertised, baby boomers remember the brand’s television era and its Bucky the Beaver ads, which were apparently animated by Disney. The brand was advertised as being “ammoniated to reduce tooth decay” and containing chlorophyll. Bucky was chased around by DK-1, an evil decay germ. Both were very well done characters and quite entertaining.
In 1961, the brand, still owned by Bristol-Myers, introduced a version with “Hexa-Flouride” but pressure from Crest and Colgate helped to doom it. In 1968, Bristol-Myers stopped producing. However, in late 1969, two enterprising Minnesotans named Elliott Royce and John Howe picked up the abandoned trademark and started producing it again. But it went fallow yet again. In 2002, River West Brands of Chicago filed for the trademark; the USPTO has the revived brand’s first use in commerce in October of 2005. Even today, it is not on U.S. grocery shelves, though it is available on Amazon and at other specialty stores.
It’s actually pretty tasty; the current Canadian manufacturer Maxill sells to dentists mostly so the wintergreen taste very much makes you feel as if you have been to the dentist when you use it.
Graphic designer and artist Ben Luckinbill, son of Lucie Arnaz and actor Laurence Luckinbill, has posted a devastating critique of the current cultural obsession with brands, metrics, likes and conversion on his blog.
Simply titled “I Am Not a Brand,” the post, also in audio, appears on his blog Ben Luckinblog. It asks the question that doesn’t get asked very often, namely if we really need “any more crap.”
I wonder how many others feel that way?
“I’m not an event-driven out-of-box experience for the aspirational ages. I’m not a product to be placed, pushed, soft launched, hard launched, or focus-grouped after a power lunch. I’m more than the sum of my metrics, my likes, my rates of converting, bouncing, clicking-through, or my number of $%^&$ “followers”.
I’m not some multiple hyphenate jingoistic bit of chintz pushed by the Middle Man Class onto the perceived-to-be irrational great unwashed mass who don’t need any more crap in their tiny apartments; let alone another dollar they owe racking up 100% interest on a mountain of debt unlikely to be climbed or collected, only leveraged to buy food and pay the electric, and maybe buy a few Snuggies™ off the TV for when they shut off the heat.”
Notice it’s not a critique of things, just dumb things.
While I don’t hate capitalism or consumerism (they both just are facts of life, in my book), his critique about the way we are running our culture I think makes a point, and the bit about Snuggies and high-usury credit cards is quite devastating.
The subhead to the blog mentions “the fact that we live in the future and it’s insane.”
Way back in 1789, George Washington unknowingly set the ball rolling for the rise of the promotional industry in the United States. When he was elected the first President, his supporters distributed a series of commemorative buttons to celebrate his victory. Just like the promotional products that are so much in demand these days, these buttons were primarily used to spread awareness.
As the next century arrived, calendars and rulers were distributed to remind customers of business. The real push for the promotional industry, however, came in the late 19th century from printer owner Jasper Meek. He approached local store Cantwell Shoes with a terrific idea to boost awareness and sales for his brand. Meek suggested imprinting the message “Buy Cantwell Shoes” on school bags and distributing them among students. The idea was a big hit and several other American firms began to imprint their logo and message on items to highlight their brand. [Read more →]
The site received this comment on a story of the value of the Carroll Reed brand, and we saved it as it related to the state of retail in the U.S. Carroll Reed, now owned by TJ Maxx, was one of the great catalog and sportswear brands, and it is still missed by its consumers (see Christmas catalog pictured here). Below is the comment:
In 1985, when I took out my first (and only) credit card, – I spent the entire $1,000 limit on the same day, in a Carroll Reed store in northern New Hampshire. I had a new job and needed clothes, and what a beautiful, classic wardrobe I bought — two jackets (one tweed), three skirts, two slacks, two sweater vests, two sweaters, two blouses, in particular — beautiful shades of grey and muted light and darker seafoam and teal.
The words I would use to describe their merchandise are conservative, fine fabrics and tailoring, classic, beautiful. All qualities that have been intentionally thrown out in today’s utterly debauched America.
It illustrates a couple of points. First, that consumer credit isn’t bad, if you get something good. Secondly, it shows up the value of fine tailoring and classic looks. The question now is where are the brands and retailers that illustrate these old principles?
I wanted to ask the question afresh…I am not sure, and I am hoping some readers can help.
For brands in 2013, change it up, but don’t change it at all. Keep your brand the same, but switch it up a bit to keep it fresh.
That is easier said than done, as to one person, “change” is good and to another, you ruin the product by changing anything.
So many brands miss it here. The Miami Dolphins are considering changing their logo. Why oh why? Campbell’s changes its soup labels. Why oh why?
One way to think about this issue is to look at music. Above, and through the wonder of Facebook, I found a just posted blurry piano rendition of Andy Connell of Swing Out Sister playing “Auld Lang Syne.” Frankly, the song has become too much of a cliche; even thought its great, you sort of associate it with having to be near drunk people you don’t like. But the above version is pretty nifty, and that is to be expected from a musician like Connell. It’s actually got me liking the old song again. [Read more →]
Or so said the guy on the Chevy Malibu commercial, part of the long pop legacy of that quintessentially 1980s band Spandau Ballet. This month, the British band launched a “Fan Archive Appeal” to dig into attics and closets for historic audio and visual content related to it.
Writing on the Spandau website spandauballet.com, the band said it is “trawling our archives” for photos, interviews, video and audio, including radio interviews, video clips and other materials for the history of the group. It’s sort of an obvious move, but its surprising how few bands actually do it in such an open way.