November 11th, 2013 · 1 Comment
By Garland Pollard
Ball Mason jars are one of the great American brand names that define a particular category. It is so much so, that most could not even name any other brands that competed against it, though if you think hard, Libby and Kerr come to mind.
This year, the company celebrated the centennial of the Mason jar, and reintroduced the blue Ball Mason jar, pictured here. The Pinterest-friendly jars include the beautiful Ball script and a translucent blue that would make any canned vegetable even more beautiful than nature. Today, Ball jars are back in fashion for the umpteenth time, as the middle and upper middle classes explore new frontiers like permaculture. Frankly, you are not really a prepper or Amish if you use such good design sense in your home canning, you are just, well, cool.
Ball, the NYSE company, is no longer actually making the jars; the home canning business was spun off in the early 1990s and is now part of Jarden Home Brands, which owns that other canning brand, Kerr. While the brand and the parent company have both fared well since the split, it was not a good idea, as it is always dangerous to separate a company name from the product that gave it its name because at some point, the two companies can go in completely different directions and take the brand with it.
That being said, Ball is very much still in the canning business, a leader in selling beverage and food containers. And since the beginning of the space era, it has had a leadership role, perhaps best known as a builder of the Kepler Space Observatory and inner-workings of the Hubble Space Telescope. They also made the Quickbird satellite imaging system that takes photos of Earth from space.
The Ball jar is one of the better products used for recycling. It is a standard size, useful for not only canning but for drinks, pencil holders, coin jars and the like. Back in the 1970s, when the nostalgic “fern bar” came of age, restaurateurs often used the Mason jar as table glasses. Today, they are back to their original purpose, taking America’s great bounty and keeping it fresh, on the shelves, for a few seasons more.
By Garland Pollard
DETROIT – When General Motors was bailed out, the Pontiac brand died. General Motors customers, dealers and employees were stunned. The decision cost money, and Pontiac was well on its way to a revival. Sales just disappeared, and they were not replaced by other brands that were preserved, such as Buick. The reality was that ALL of GM was struggling and losing money, so Pontiac was the sacrificial animal.
This week, Robert Lutz, then a GM exec, confirmed as such:
“And, when the guy who is handing you the check for 53 billion dollars says I don’t want Pontiac, drop Pontiac or you don’t get the money, it doesn’t take you very long to make up your mind.
Of course, GM had made its stew back in 2000 when Oldsmobile was canned. It set a precedent, and killing off a brand seemed to be the step that made people think that big change was coming to General Motors. Of course, part of the reason GM was struggling was that when it went broke, it no longer had the car volume to justify its existence. Indeed its business model was all about having a bunch of different brands to sell to different segments. You took the same innards, dressed them up carefully, and sold them to different sorts. The problem with GM in its misery was that it had killed off its Olds and then replaced it with odd niche brands like Hummer, which was never really a car company, and Saab, which was a wonderful niche car but something so odd as have its brand appeal ruined by being part of the GM family.
And then with the regular GM brands, the problem was that the innards were bad, and the outer brand designs were ugly and lacked any sort of connection to the brand story. Ergo, Pontiac made odd junk cars like the Aztek, ostensibly appealing to a younger consumer, but ignoring the Wide-trak and racy heritage of Pontiac.
The good news is that there is no reason Pontiac can’t come back with some special edition cars sold at GMC dealers. There is still a great heritage there, and if Fiat can successfully re-enter the U.S. market, so can Pontiac.
If you watch the below interview, you can see his quotes, and see why there was impatience with the situation. At one point, Lutz talks about the spacing between door posts and pieces on the dash; GM left large cracks, a relic of the era when production was not so mechanized, and gaps were needed to keep the discrepancies from making the car not fit.
“it was just a whole bunch of stupid stuff like that.”
Below, the interview.
October 12th, 2013 · 1 Comment
By Garland Pollard
MONTVALE, N.J. – Eight O’ Clock, the nation’s greatest coffee brand, has modified its logo with a second redesign that appeared in coupon mailers this week. The design is an update of a failed 2010 design, an improvement but not that much. The packaging debuted in August. In a press release, the company said:
“We have been expertly crafting high-quality coffee for our consumers for more than 150 years,” said Alisa Jacoby, Director Marketing, Eight O’Clock Coffee. “The Eight O’Clock Coffee brand ‘redress’ is a celebration of our beginnings and a look into the future as we continue to stay relevant in the coffee aisle. All of these new brand choices – both inside and out of the bag – were inspired by our consumers who continue to be the most important influence behind our ever-evolving brand.”
The coffee dates from 1859, when the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was established. For over 100 years, it was only sold at A&P. But when that chain declined, the result of changing and diminishing their classic supermarket brand, the coffee survived. In 2006, it was purchased by the Tata empire of India, and one had hopes that it would continue the classic look. After all, Indian companies, with their British roots, traditionally have a good respect for legacy brands.
However in the fall of 2010, the Tata completely redesigned the packaging, replacing the red package with a smaller red area and pictures of beans. Our writer Dooney Tickner detailed the awful changes in a prescient Sept. 4, 2010 BrandlandUSA post. Wrote Tickner:
“Shame on whoever thinks so little of this classic brand to remake it as a lookalike to trendy private labels.”
The changes did not last, and the company had to redesign after only three years.
This 2013 version is an improvement on the 2010 version; it at least is red, and puts “THE ORIGINAL” on the front. But it is still a far cry from the classic, and the original was a classic. The original is pictured below, courtesy the Flickr collection of a person’s name I cannot pronouce. I defy any graphic designer to improve upon it.
By Garland Pollard
WAYNE, N.J. – GAF, once known as General Aniline and Film, is the nation’s leading name in roofing. It has roots as old as 1842, with the E. Anthony & Co. photography enterprise of Binghamton, N.Y. and General Aniline Works, a textile dye company.
GAF, now headquartered in Wayne, N.J., claims its founding as 1886, but it has a long history in film, a business that it exited in 1977. General Aniline and Film was associated with other film brands, including Anthony & Scovill, which later became Ansco. Later on GAF purchased Sawyer’s, which owned View-Master. At its height, it rivaled Kodak in the market for slide projection and movie cameras. As a child, yours truly had the ubiquitous GAF Pana-Vue, a hand held, battery operated slide viewer, a “purchase” likely gleaned from Green Stamps.
Through various mergers (including Agfa and the notorious I.G. Farben company) it merged into GAF, a conglomerate with interests including film, chemicals, broadcasting, paint and roofing. Because of the German ownership and war interests, from 1942 to 1965 it was run by government appointed directors. Interestingly, it spun a bit out of control when it turned into a classic 1970s conglomerate. The core of the company that survives today is the roofing company Ruberoid, maker of the first asphalt shingle, and another hit product, Tite-On Shingles. The broadcasting division owned WNCN, a New York City classical station. The station is now Q104.3, a classic rock station distinguished by its “babes” of the day in “thongs.” A pitiful aircheck of the switch from classical to alternative rock appears HERE.
This week, the brand got a big plug in Entertainment Weekly in a profile of actor/filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is holding a GAF Super 8 movie camera, undoubtedly just a prop from an antique store. Perhaps he makes the roofing brand a bit more hip, but it really does is point up some value in GAF as a video and electronics brand.
Through its partnership with Disney, GAF became the kid-friendly photography brand. Not only did GAF sell the stereoscope toy View-Master, it made official slide photos for just about every tourist attraction in the U.S. The company had numerous innovations in film, and at one time had many patents.
During its time as a conglomerate, GAF did not do the correct thing in dumping its older brands that included Ansco and Sawyers. Today, ANSCO the camera brand, registered June 25, 1940 by GAF of Binghamton, is now owned by W. Haking Enterprises Limited, 1401 Devon House, 979 Kings Road Quarry Bay Hong Kong.
The GAF brand, as far as I can determine, is not being used on electronic equipment. Perhaps GAF might want to look into re-entering the business, not as a maker of cameras, but as a licensor of the brand to other companies in personal electronics, photo archiving and the like.
September 18th, 2013 · No Comments
By Garland Pollard
The whole natural food movement has strong roots in religious circles, not only with Kosher food and Mennonite dairies, and natural foods and the Jesus movement of the 70s, but in a new generation of foods and consumer products made on Biblical principles and sold with a religious theme.
One of the more influential people in this trend is Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm in Virginia, which has spawned a whole generation of farmers who see environmental farming and Christian principles as one in the same thing. Salatin calls himself a “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic” but in truth he is one of a long line of men, over many millenia, who have worked the land using the Bible as their guidebook. [Read more →]
September 16th, 2013 · No Comments
By Garland Pollard
CINCINNATI – Two well known regional brands are re-finding their place in the pantheon of Ohio business history. Christian Moerlein Brewery and Rookwood Pottery are profiled in a recent issue of the Cincinnati Business Courier.
U.S. Bank’s Business Watch profiled the two companies in a TV report, seen above. They are seen in Cincinnati as evidence not only of the importance of history, but of the city’s repositioning as a headquarters for great American brand names.
The common denominator of the two businesses is that both are run by enthusiasts who first love their products, and then choose to make money off them.
Rookwood was revived by Dr. Art Townley, a collector who put together all of the assets including 3,000 master molds, glaze formulas, company notes, and perhaps most importantly, the Rokwood trademarks in 1982. The revival of Christian Moerlein is the same; the video above features an interview with Greg Hardman of Christian Moerlein, who asserts the importance of making the beer in Cincinnati to be a key part of the brand.
The print version in the Cincinnati Business Courier features quotes from BrandlandUSA’s Garland Pollard.
September 12th, 2013 · No Comments
By Julie Bauer
NEW YORK – While private equity continues its long-running obsession with the high-tech sector—pumping cash into start-ups with zero history and names like Jive, Aerohive and Hadoop—one category has been woefully neglected and fully ripe for profit making today: a low-tech sector with more familiar monikers like Hai Karate, Modess, Di-Gel, Datril, Tegrin, Hidden Magic, Aftate, Puss ’N Boots and Chipwich. These former household names have been abandoned by large firms and are currently available for acquisition. In other words, they are orphan brands looking to be resurrected that can offer nostalgia and customer loyalty as unique and reliable selling propositions.
But some private equity firms are adopting orphaned brands. For instance, Apollo Global Management and Metropolis & Co., recently purchased Hostess Brands for $410 million, and is re-launching Twinkies, Ho Hos and other snack cake products.
Most private equity groups adopt orphan brands for short-term gains; buying them in order to flip them quickly. But, there is tremendous upside in rebuilding and re-introducing brands for the long term.
For example, when P&G acquired Old Spice in 1990 from The Shulton Company, I was an executive at Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency of record. Old Spice had become, well, old. Its signature product was a pungent cologne packaged in a white bottle with clipper ship artwork, marketed by sailors whistling a familiar jingle. At the same time, AXE deodorant from Unilever was coming into the US market after having launched in France in 1983. In light of the impending competitor, the agency convinced P&G to skip a generation and target a new demographic with no preconceived notion of the brand: young men. P&G reformulated and repackaged the product, and we created a new story. Sailors were out. Getting the girl was in. The rest is history.
Today there are great opportunities for once popular brands, that for whatever reason were allowed to languish, to be brought back to life. On the other hand, brands that were popular and died, due to lack of quality, are harder to revive.
Take Sunny Delight. Originally marketed as an inexpensive way for kids to get their quota of vitamin C, it targeted families that couldn’t regularly afford orange juice. The brand made millions in sales in the US alone. But the press soon revealed that Sunny Delight was mostly water, corn syrup and only 5% juice. The negative publicity escalated even further when a girl in the UK allegedly turned orange from the beta-carotene coloring in the product. And so, P&G dumped the sinking brand in 2004. Soon after, it was scooped up by Boston-based private equity firm J.W. Childs, renamed SunnyD and positioned as the soda alternative with 40% less sugar. But it still struggles to recover.
Interested in adopting an orphan? Here are some key steps to success:
- Select a known brand. Brands that still have some equity and brand loyalty are promising. For example, the popular soft drink Orangina was orphaned in 2006 by parent company Cadbury, which had been focusing on other brands in its portfolio. The brand still had a sparkling reputation, which was recognized by The Blackstone Group and Lion Capital, who joined forces, stepped up spending and regained shelf space. The private equity owners sold the brand to Suntory three years later, realizing 30% annualized return on equity.
- Analyze. Ensure that the brand is still culturally relevant. Study the market and make sure it can support a newcomer. You don’t have to spend $200,000 on a market analysis. You can quickly find out if a product is damaged in consumers’ minds or which consumers the product will appeal to, for much less.
- Skip a generation. Jump to a generation that doesn’t know the brand. Treat it like a totally new product.
- Reformulate and repackage. Crystal Light originally was a powder drink sold in canisters for mixing in pitchers. When bottled water took over the market, Crystal Light adapted with convenient mix packets. They also reformulated the product with energy ingredients for fitness-minded women who needed to hydrate with more than just plain water, but didn’t want high-calorie sports drinks.
- Test Market. Test in a few highly isolated markets that have a high index of your target consumer before you launch a massive push. Don’t go into major markets. Find pockets in the cities, suburbs or rural areas that contain your core audience. If you do your homework you won’t have to spend millions.
- Advertise. Invest in creating a persuasive brand story incorporating nostalgia for consumers who were original fans of the brand. Find out why it became popular in the first place. Or find a fresh new narrative. Or combine the two.
- Find a Partner. Consider partnering with an advertising agency that will take a stake in the property rather than a fee. Agency compensation models continue to change and innovate as markets evolve. Influenced by the growth of technology startups, more and more marketing shops are reshaping themselves as idea incubators and accelerators. In other words, they are becoming more entrepreneurial, willing to shoulder the risk and share in the tremendous rewards of introducing something original, useful and exciting into the marketplace.
A parting word to the wise on adopting an orphan brand (borrowing a tagline from that once ubiquitous and now largely forgotten though still available men’s aftershave brand, Hai Karate): “Be careful how you use it!”
About the Author: Julie Bauer is a founding partner and CEO of Grok, an independent New York advertising agency that creates deep emotional connections with consumers, balancing ever-changing technology and unchanging humanity. She was a former Global Strategist for IBM at Ogilvy & Mather, and spent nine years with Saatchi & Saatchi, first as CEO of Saatchi / San Francisco and then relocating to London to run Saatchi’s P&G, Sony, Visa and T-Mobile businesses across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while also running Guinness in Asia and Africa.
September 7th, 2013 · 1 Comment
By Garland Pollard
LE SUEUR, Minnesota – There are few canned vegetable brands that command a premium, but Le Sueur “very young small sweet peas” are one of them.
Charging a premium for a straight basic commodity is a challenge. To make a premium brand out of a commodity, you need years of brand goodwill earned from a great product history, a tasty product, snazzy packaging, strong marketing and consistent distribution. At the same time, and over generations, you need corporate leadership that does not cut corners on the product. With a straight commodity, it is easy to cut corners; find a cheaper pea supplier, and no one will notice, that is, at first. Also over generations, you need corporate leadership that keeps the brand consistent, and does not muck with perfection.
When you have a brand that is perfection, what you want to do, as a company, is keep it the same and enjoy the process of producing the product. In the case of canned peas, each part of the production should be a pleasure, and should add value to the final product, with each group of employees enjoying the process.
- Growing good peas. There is reward in that.
- Carefully processing and running the canning operation to high standards. There is reward in that.
- Planning and supervising tasteful marketing that affirms the value of the product. There is a reward in that.
- Selling the product at a premium. There is reward in that.
- Eating them. The ultimate reward.
I was introduced to the excellence of Le Sueur back in the 1970s; my childhood friend in Virginia Beach, Russell, swore they were the best, and there was no other brand. They were always sold at a premium price; what set them apart was they were little, they tasted sweet and the can label was rich looking. There was nothing chewy about them; when you ate them, they had been cooked to a soft luster. As a family, we got them occasionally, as a special treat. They were good enough to be equal to dessert.
The brand was named for the Minnesota town of Le Sueur, which was named for the French explorer Pierre Charles Le Sueur. LeSueur is the original home of Green Giant, the vegetable company which is now part of General Mills. Today, there is apparently a small museum to this fact. The peas are no longer made in the town, sadly, but the Green Giant website does note the history and promote the soil that produces the vegetables, which are grown on the “richest soil” in the world in a valley “carved by glaciers.” How’s that for terroir! [Read more →]
By Garland Pollard
WEST CHICAGO – One of the easiest and cheapest ways to keep children happy in the summer is the frozen ice bar, and the two top brands are Fla-Vor-Ice and Otter Pops. The question is which is preferable, and why. Both brands are made by the Chicago company Jel-Sert, and each is virtually the same product. But because they have different names, and different marketing, they have different followings.
Otter Pops are the more campy of the two; they have actual characters based on the flavors, and date from 1970, according to Wikipedia. Fla-Vor-Ice dates from 1969. Other brands include Kool Pops and Pop Ice; what you call a frozen bit of flavored ice in a tube probably indicates which specific product you grew up with. Some folks I know do not use the brand name for them, and instead call them Cough-Sicles. This comes from the peculiar ability of them to make you cough when you eat them. Is it the artificial dye? The corn syrup? Psychology? [Read more →]
By Garland Pollard
When most of the major brands in an industry go to one owner, it should be of major worry to any industry. When brands are owned in the U.S., it is an oligarchy. When owned outside of the U.S., it becomes a cartel.
Part of the discussion of the legality of the purchase of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. is not only their grip on the pork market through technology and market strength and iffy practices in China, but their potential ownership of most major U.S. meat brands. Except for Oscar Meyer and Boar’s Head, it owns most of the national meat brands in the U.S., including Esskay, Armour, Valleydale and John Morell, among DOZENS of others.
The Wall Street Journal quoted CEO Larry Pope as saying to the Senate Agriculture Committee, “It will be the same old Smithfield, only better.”
As Americans, we cannot assume this and take his word on it; he has far too much to gain, and the rest of us to lose. Indeed to have the nation’s meat brands under the ownership of the Chinese government sets a dangerous precedent. This is not like Nestle owning Stouffer’s, or Unilever owning Suave shampoo. Food brand names take years to establish, and because so many of them are legacy brands, there is little competition. Foods are also mostly commodities, which means that there is not a great incentive to create new brands. Also, Smithfield has purchased so much of the industry that there is less room for startups. Most importantly, because Smithfield has been under U.S. ownership, the major decisions have been made here, in the U.S., by Americans who are subject to the social pressures, norms, ideals and law of the U.S.
Currently, Smithfield has a large number of brands of meats, not only ones that it advertises on its website, but ones that are run through their Delaware investment subsidiary, SF Investments. Consumers associate the Smithfield and Gwaltney brands with the pork giant, but there are many other brands that the company owns. The awful thing here is that the company owns so many national meat brands that if it were purchased by Chinese interests, the greatest intellectual property in American meat would be all be taken.
Smithfield lists these brands on its website, but there are others as well, many not as well known. Together, they point to a GIANT red flag if this company is allowed to be owned by what is, in reality, the Communist government of China. Another website has a list of subsidiary companies that are part of Smithfield. This is also a major concern, though a separate issue than the brands, which if allowed to proceed will permanently restrain others from the meat market.
In previous mergers, the Justice Department has forced other companies to divest brands before any merger is approved. This is such a situation; the company should be forced to split off some of these brands before a merger is even considered.
The mega-brands that the company owns include:
- John Morell
Other brands or character or word marks include, but are not limited to:
- Aberdeen Farms
- Maple River
- Virginia Plantation
- Marco Polo
- White Champion (a tallow brand)
- Springwater Farms
- Three Rivers
- Rocky Mountain Pride
- Oak Creek
- Queenella (an awful brand of chitlins)
- Cumberland Gap Provision
- Lean Generation
- Cider House
- Cook’s (from Con-Agra)
- Healthy Ones
- All Natural All Iowa
- Todd’s Old Virginia
- Competitor Cut
- Skakin Bacon
- Pure Farms
- Dixie Skillet
- Oven Perfect
- Summer Spiral
- Ember Farms Since 1909
- KC Wild Wings
- Classic Cure Ham
- Stadler’s Country Ham
- Casa Esteban
- Big 8′s
- Easy Karv
- Milano’s Italian Grill
- Since 1950 Lundy’s
- Master Carve
- Pit Ready
- Eat Like a King
- Since 1870 Great Dogs
Other regional brands:
- Jamestown Ham
- Pagan Ham
- The Peanut Shop (a Colonial Williamsburg retailer)
- Smithfield by Luter
Federal officials need to carefully review ALL of the issues with this sale, including intellectual property issues.