AMC Pacer returns!

O.K., so the headline is a bit misleading.

But it’s true, sort of. On a recent trip to a Sarasota, Florida Wal-Mart, BrandlandUSA discovered AMC Pacers and AMC Gremlins hiding behind the pet-and-pool aisle.

Of course, these Gremlins and Pacers were toys, but they did bring back memories of the late 1970s. And the packaging reminded us of another thing; that these model cars are a product licensed by Daimler Chrysler. That means that in theory, Chrysler is still making money off of AMC and its goofy models.

That’s pretty good for a car that’s on the 50 worst cars ever list. But its also on another list, the 100 Coolest Pop Culture Vehicles. That site said it perfectly: I miss the cool cars of AMC. There was a wonderful ugliness about them that is still charming to this day.”

That a car company has licensed a dead brand (here of car make and model) for a toy is not news. Car companies have been doing this for years. But other companies who cast off dead brands willy nilly can take a lesson from car makers. Car makers have excellent intellectual property departments, and makes and models from the past are still trademarked, marketed and licensed.

The Pacer is a lesson to all the other companies that own distinctive products with unique trade dress. Even if the product has failed, find a way to keep the brand, parent company and trade dress trademarked and alive. Ancillary uses like licensing are excellent ways to do this. They keep the names and trademarks in front of the public. And sometimes, the public decides that it wants something back. Maybe not in the case of the Pacer, but even in that case, there is bankable goodwill.

If you change a brand name or discontinue a product, what you shouldn’t do is shut down the brand completely, and hope for the best. Even if its the American Motors Company and Pacer, though we wonder why Chrysler isn’t doing more to extract value from the Plymouth brand.

Companies need an active plan to protect their brand assets. To protect a trademark and logo, the only true legal protection is use, even if it is on a toy sold in a back area of Wal-Mart.

Take a look at Jackie Headapohl’s post on the Chrysler LLC blog. She’s got a link to her YouTube presentation on brand extensions of Jeep.

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