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Help Us Escape These Sub-Optum S.S. Brands

March 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

As a social service agency or company or government mandated service, the only brand you need is really your business name, and a decent level of service. Of course  you need something written on letterhead, and an address, but your “brand” is really about how you deal with people. And so it is that in areas where we trust little, like “healthcare” or “wellness” or “public/private partnerships” the brand names keep changing, and they keep inventing new ones. You don’t even have to excel at it; no one expects that. Instead,  you just need to be nice and helpful.

Today, I saw a new crazy brand, the Optum brand of, get this, worker’s compensation pharma benefits. In a mailing of a worker’s comp pharmacy card, we saw, inserted in an envelope, that the materials were provided by Optum, which was the new name for Helios. I guess that’s good news! But even better news was that the retail pharmacy brand Tmsys had not changed! Thank goodness because I would have gone to my non-existent Yellow pages to look for a Tmesys pharmacy …..

Tmsys has not changed! What a happy thing to hear! But so so sad for poor Helios that its brand would be dumped in favor of Optum. It is hardly fair to Helios that they were dumped in favor of Optum!

Was Helios sounding too much like a solar energy company, or a sex-drenched Mediterranean beach resort? We’ll never know. Helios never saw it coming. [Read more →]

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Boise Paper Not Interesting Without the Cascade Tree

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Perhaps one of the better paper brands was Boise Cascade. It, according to the Boise website, became a craft paper brand in 1958 in Wallula, Washington.

Over the years, the brand grew, with plants across the country. It was tied together, with all sorts of other lumber businesses, into a great big Boise Cascade company that was all about forests, sustainability and wholesome paper. The company also went into the business of RVs, cruises and homebuilding.

But in 2008, they sold out to an investment firm, and today is just focused on “safe, sustainable manufacturing and meeting customer needs.” [Read more →]

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On the Shelves: Izod Leashes and Laura Ashley Dogpens. Really.

March 21st, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Our occasional ventures into oddlots, dollar stores and the like deliver quite special brand extensions and brand licensing. Our tops for today (and we admit we spotted this over Christmas at a Tuesday Morning) were an Izod branded leash and tennis ball set, and a Laura Ashley dog pen.

Sorry Alligator

Obviously, Izod was the sad sister of the “Izod Lacoste” shirt of the 1980s. At a certain point, everyone called Lacoste shirts Izods. And then the licensing agreement went bye bye and Izod had to live on its own without an alligator. Things went OK (well Kohl’s instead of Saks) until recently, when some licensing kidder thought it might “extend” the brand by getting some cash to add it to a dog fun set. Do people with dogs care about a fashion brand ball set? Does the name Izod mean enough to get you to buy the leash and ball set?

The reality? Most WASP preps who might have had an Izod shirt, and would have been predisposed to buy something Izod branded, would have found an old leash purchased at the Walmart, and used some dirty old slobber covered tennis balls leftover from the club.

 Repackaged Revlon

Dollar Tree has an amusing way to sell Revlon nail polish. You package up surplus Revlon nail polish and then put it inside a separate package that indicates that it is not actually a Revlon product, but it is a repackaged Revlon product.

The back has a clear indication that the Fort Lauderdale company that did the repackaging has nothing to do with Revlon. But it is legit Revlon for a buck.

The late Charles Revson would not be amused.

Lite Hat at Target

At Target, the less filling Lite beer seems to be a hip logo for caps. Finally, cheap lager is back again. The Target display, however, did not have any other logos with it; the meaning is perhaps lost if there is no irony. It was just there with other caps, pulling its own weight as a brand, not attracting too much attention. But perhaps it is better than Pabst, which is now slightly un-hip because it was too hip, and only hip if drunk un-ironically.

So is Lite hip, or not? Thank goodness they kept the Philip Morris era logo.


Laura Ashley Dog Playpen

Not sure how you go from Princess Di-era must have fashion and lifestyle brand to licensing your brand to Pet Playpens but we are sure it has nothing to do with a creative team that has sayso.

Laura Ashley truly was one of the great fashion brands; even today, it could do another Lilly Pulitzer, and pull itself out of oblivion by some smart repositioning of its old patterns and looks. It’s a brand that’s ripe for revival.

However, to do that you have to hire a women’s fashion designer with good taste, and a brand policeman that actually plays bad-cop to the money pinchers. Would anyone buy a playpen because its Laura Ashley? Would anyone in a Tuesday Morning value the historic Victorian values of Laura Ashley.

That’s enough nonsense for today.



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On the Shelves: From Ivory to Cigarette Machines to Krispy Kreme Candles

March 13th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

In the last few weeks I have been making some brand-related observations while out in the mad world of brands. Here are some of the good and bad, and in between. It’s a new feature here called On the Shelves, a sort of Hodgepodge Lodge of brand notes.

Quarters for Cigs. Lots of Quarters! Today, I saw a cigarette machine here in Florida. They are still around, but only in supervised bars. Last one I remember seeing was in the now bulldozed Monkey Room restaurant at the tennis resort The Colony. The machine’s a real throwback, though the constant consolidation in the tobacco industry has made for less and less options. Basically, these days it’s Winston, Newport, Camel, Marlboro and Parliament. Frankly, if we are still going to have cigarettes around, lets have a few interesting brands, eh? Benson & Hedges? Merit? Vantage? All my favorite brands from sneaking off and smoking during high school are gone. Ah, for a yellow pack of Merits!

Retro Games Section: Target now has a whole section of retro games, each done in a classic style with a traditional look. Payday, Chutes & Ladders, Clue and the like are all available in their original version. Interesting, this is a way to get margins back in games, as they are around $19 each, rather than the cheap $10 level that many games are now sold at.

Silly Doughnuts: We happened upon this vile Raspberry filled candle in the bargain basket at Dollar Tree, and immediately realized that it was in its right spot! One of those evidences of  brands gone wild, or brand licensing gone too crazy. Obviously, it did not work. Who can stop these brand licensing people? I think that it is nastier than the Newport cigarettes in the cigarette machine above, and probably a few more nasty chemicals than the cigarettes.









Lenten Filet-O-Fish: This time of year is Lent, which made us go out and see, after never having eaten one before, what the taste of a Filet-o-Fish is like. Actually, it was pretty good, though you may not want to eat it with the cheese. You really don’t need the cheese. The graphics on the package are pretty good, don’t you think? Problem is it takes like 10 minutes for them to make one, hardly fast food.









Field at Target! Sadly, for those folks who miss Marshall Field & Co., their corporate spin off, Target, is still selling Fieldcrest linens. Fieldcrest, was, of course, the original Marshall Field brand of towels and linens, but it grew so popular that it was sold to other department stores. It’s a bit like Craftsman and Eight o’Clock,which have outlasted their original stores, respectively Sears Roebuck and Co., and Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Here the price is almost $80, a premium linen.

Ivory Redux: A few months ago, we came across the original styled Ivory soap. We almost did not recognize it because of its antique nature, and non-relationship to the 1970s version of Ivory. The bar is also bigger. This is a good exercise for companies to do every once in a while as it helps to educate consumers. Still, there has been NO national advertising for Ivory in recent decades, and that’s a shame, cause its pure soap and it works well, without oil. I think it was at Dollar Tree, however, which is never a good sign for a national brand.









That’s all for now.

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Note To Brands: De-Politicize Your Approach

March 10th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Pictured here, the back cover of the Democratic National Convention, 1964 Coca-Cola ad.

I grew up Coca-Cola. My dorm master at Woodberry Forest School, Mr. Richard Glover, was Pepsi. He served Pepsi on Turner Hall, had Pepsi stock, and he loved Pepsi. In our many discussions of the relative merits of the brand that went on for seeming hours as I drank Pepsi in those glass bottles, he threw me the ultimate piece of information to win the argument with me. Pepsi is Republican and Coke, Democrat.

His understanding of the political leanings of the two companies was complex, as they involved many sorts of news items and leanings, none terribly overt. The reality is that over the years, Coke has seemingly been Democratic, and other times, as with Eisenhower, more Republican. Just depends on how you see it, and which stockholders are donating to which campaign. (A separate thought. At some point, I gave Mr. Glover an antique Pepsi bottle opener, in exchange for free shoe shines for the remainder of the year. It was the best deal ever, and I have always liked Pepsi in theory ever since, even while thinking it too sweet.) [Read more →]

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Forgotten, But Beloved Dead Snowmobile Brands

March 6th, 2017 · 1 Comment

By Mark Falso

Remember the great blizzards of 1966, 1993, and all those other Nor’easters? They made for the need for snowmobiles. Lots. But over the years, fuel prices, competition, and warm winters have put many snowmobile brands off the market.

Some brands, like Arctic Cat, returned. The Arctic Cat company was once popular, went bankrupt in 1980, and came back in 1982 to manufacture 1984 models and lived on. It has eight lives left. However, other brands have disappeared. Here are some of them:

Ariens – These were big orange snowmobiles made the by famous lawn and snow equipment company. It did not make the cut in 1973, dealing with a lawsuit and lack of snow.

John Deere –  Another lawn and snow equipment brand let loose; this Deere division sold to competitor Polaris Industries in 1982 with fans still waiting for 1985 John Deere Wildfire IFS snowmobiles. John Deere bodies were found on many Polaris models lasting into the mid-decade 2000s.

Rupp – This once popular brand quickly died out thanks to mismanagement and debt and lack of snow. The Chrysler division Dodge in a manner sort of revitalized Rupp product names, using names such as Nitro, Magnum, SS, etc.

Scorpion – One of first brands, and beloved by fans. Bought out by then Arctic Enterprises (the Arctic Cat Inc predecessor) but got Scorpion got stinged because of Arctic Enterprises’ bankruptcy and it ceased operations. Scorpion had a very brief comeback in 2000 and failed again, due to costs.

Raidar/Manta – Indy car style snowmobiles often made a come back in 1970s and 1980s but the company was sold and ceased for good.

Moto-Ski – A division of Bombardier Corporation, maker of Ski-doo (now BRP); the orange version of the Ski-doo brand. Ironically, Ski-doo now sports some orange hue! Shades of Moto-Ski?

Mercury Snowmobiles – A division of Mercury Marine; best in racing and popular in the 1970s.  Mercury is now frozen up and focused on marine products, instead.

Blaze – A customized snowmobile brand that pioneered forward platform and narrow snowmobiles since 1995; it has since closed up shop.

Massey Ferguson – Like Deere and Ariens, the farm equipment company once made snowmobiles, as well.

Sears Snowmobiles – The iconic retailer experimented in selling motorized recreational products in stores and catalogs. As competition increased, and other factors interfered, Sears decided to downsize.

JCPenney Snowmobiles – Another national retailer, like Sears, sold its own brand of private label snowmobile.

Chaparral Snowmobiles – A beautiful brand that flew away and decided to stick with marine products.

Kawasaki Snowmobiles – This Japanese brand also once made snowmobiles, but miscommunication with top brass cut the products without a word.

Sno-Jet – These were beautiful blue sleds, but they jetted when Kawasaki bought out a good brand.

Fox-Trac – This brand was so popular that even Elvis Presley owned one until his death.  It is now a snowmobile supplier, making shocks and parts.

There were so many brands but not popular. Some lasted just about one week! Many other brands were Boa-Ski, Auto-Ski, Norway, Sno-Prince, Evinrude Snowmobiles, division of OMC, Johnson Snowmobiles, division of OMC, Ski-Daddle, Harley-Davidson, AMF, Skiroule, Wheel-Horse, Agro, Alouette, Sno-Pony, Bolens, Viking, and many more.

About the Author: Mark Falso is expert in several fields including snowmobiles, diners-drive-ins-fast food restaurants, shopping malls, and Recreational Vehicles.  Mark first rode on snowmobiles in 1969.   He is also a Freelance Designer, Artist, and CAD Drafter who was responsible for a snowmobile design in 1990s and a recreational vehicle project with a major RV company.  Mark resides in Syracuse, New York.

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Jeep Wagoneer Will Come Back, Finally

March 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Perhaps finally, during this Trump administration, the penultimate Reagan-era vehicle, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, will return.

The idea has been under discussion for some time. In the FCA 360 blog, the company said that Fiat Chrysler will invest roughly $1 billion investment to retool and modernize the south plant of the Toledo Assembly Complex (Ohio) to revive the Jeep pickup and the Warren, Michigan Truck Assembly Plant to produce the all-new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

These two factory projects are supposed to add more than 2,000 jobs and be complete by 2020. This move will also bring Ram (i.e. Dodge) truck production back from Mexico. Apparently, it is a trim level launch, meaning that it will appear as an upscale version of the popular Cherokee.

This is good news, though we are thoroughly surprised it has taken this long. and are concerned that the wood grain siding (i.e. stickers) will not be an option.

Several factors make the Wagoneer a standout for a revival. Indeed, the Wagoneer is a perfect case study to understand whether or not a brand has a good chance in a revival.

Several features that make the cars a natural for revival:

  • They were memorable, and defined and created a category of consumer product.
  • There is still consumer interest in the category of product.
  • The revived product, if recreated, would be able to not only compete with current products in that category, but excel because of its historic position in the market.
  • The revived product would be able to be both current, and yet keep the characteristics of the old product.
  • The company that is reviving the product has a good enough understanding of the old product that they can evoke what it was, or copy it precisely if that is what the product needs.
  • The product does not have to be remembered by all the market, nor even a large percentage of the market. The key factor is whether the product is remembered by an enthusiastic part of the market that understands its key features.

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Car for the Common Man: Plymouth at The Greenbrier

March 1st, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS – Ran across this ad in an old Life magazine, and it made me immediately think of how much the auto market today might never understand the motorcar brand Plymouth. Pictured here, a drawing of a Plymouth in front of The Greenbrier, the West Virginia resort.

Plymouth, a Chrysler brand from 1928 to 2001, was at some times as large a brand as Ford and Chevrolet, as it was the low-priced brand of Chrysler.

Of course, the reason I know so much about Plymouth cars, and am so obsessed, and like to write about them, is that my parents and grandparents drove them, and I was surrounded by them, and they were practical. The engine also made a sort of Torque-Flite sound, a whir whiz sound as distinct as the ignition sound on a Honda, which seems to have disappeared in some models. I wish someone reading would post a word description of the sound, to confirm that I am not imagining things.

We mostly bought Plymouths from Self Motor, in Farnham, Virginia on the Northern Neck. My neighbor growing up in Virginia Beach was Buddy Gifford, owner of Green Gifford in Norfolk, Virginia, and my cousin was married to the nice folks at Wynne-Wright Chrysler Plymouth in downtown Norfolk. So we all loved the Plymouth, in its various forms, and only once had a Dodge. The Dodge was forgettable, as it was white, with red interior. Yeck. [Read more →]

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Conserving the Regional Brands of New England

February 28th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Connecticut Presbyterian minister, writer and investor C.R. Wiley is a thought leader in the area of old style rural conservatism. While reading his other great stuff on the website The Imaginative Conservative, I saw a great piece of his about his favorite New England brands.

A recommendation for a brand is even better when it comes from the local Presbyterian parson. I appreciated it because you very rarely see brands defined by state. Yet location is an important part of brand identity. Wiley writes:

Vermont is my favorite state. If you are a Wal-Mart conservative, you would hate it. (Wal-Mart and other big-box stores are largely illegal up there.) But if you are a family farm conservative, or a high quality craftsmanship conservative—it is paradise. Like Texas it was briefly an independent republic; and like Texas it has an active secessionist movement. [Read more →]

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Vanquish, Almost Forgotten Pain Reliever, Not Vanquished

February 25th, 2017 · No Comments

By Garland Pollard

Occasionally it is fun to look at a disappeared brand that was prominent on shelves. Such was the pain pill Vanquish. It is still made by Bayer, and competes with Excedrin, Anacin and Goody’s as an aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine constructed pain reliever. It’s quite a competitive and genericized category though; like soft drink companies, pharmaceutical makers like to have a product in each category, even if they aren’t a market leader.

Above, a 1965 ad from The Internet Archive. It is interesting that it is marketed to women, even though today, the category has a more work-oriented appeal. But perhaps in the mid 60s, being home with laundry was true headache zone.

Vanquish was trademarked in April 1963, under the “alalgesic and antipyretic” category of trademarks. The first maker was Sterling Drug, and currently the trademark owner is Bayer Healthcare LLC. Sterling, of course, is the company that was granted the right to sell Bayer Aspirin in the U.S. through most of the 20th century, and kept that right until repurchased by Bayer.

It is interesting that because the name is a real word, there are fewer possibilities for brand extensions, as dozens of other companies use the name in other categories that even include smoking devices and cigars. Even a fat reduction technique for physicians.

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