What brings intangible value back to a retired brand name?  Is it about the consumer - or is it about the producer?


Henry Ford famously said that his customers could have a car painted any color "so long as it's black."  An option was taken off the consumer shelf - yet later found its way back, in turquoise, tail-finned glory!


How many instances are there of unfilled consumer wants - that remain unfilled because current production and marketing methods can't fill those wants profitably?  Or, even more, as profitably as other opportunities.


The story below recalls ten brands that went off the market.  It also tells the story of a recent auction of some 150 "classic American brands"  - consumer labels that no longer appear on shelves.  Buyers were found for about 50 of the brand names.




Why are there buyers for these defunct brand names?  The story suggests that there is a growing market for nostalgia - for products that "trigger happy memories."


Maybe it's something more vital and current.  Maybe the taste for these products never went away.  Maybe it's the producers that went away.


A thought:  as production and marketing methods evolved, more profitable opportunities arose.  (Every movie - and every drug! - could only aspire to be a blockbuster).  Capital followed, and the producers of these "classic American" brands lost their means of production.  That magic marketing moment, where the needs of consumers match the capabilities of producers, evaporated for these brands.


Maybe continued progress in production and marketing technology has again allowed these latent tastes to be satisfied profitably.   (see Chris Anderson's The Long Tail).


Consumer nostalgia or producer progress?  What do you think?

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Fun question! In the 1990's Packard Bell (the personal computer company) was my lending client. They had bought their brand from the defunct radio company. The name recognition helped them create a new consumer brand very quickly. Of course the brand wasn't enough to ensure their longevity in the market...


I do think that brands retain value for a long time and that, appropriately used, they can provide a boost to a new venture. But there has to be some kind of link between the old and new use of the brand. (For Packard Bell, it was technology). I don't see it as nostalgia, more of a spark of familiarity that gives you a small advantage. 


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