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

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 straightforward 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.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website BrandlandUSA.com has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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