Hidden Gems!


I was just reading the above titled article in the Economist dated April 12, 2014. The article argues that reviving old brands sometimes makes more sense than creating new ones.

I have fond memories of brands like J. B. Mangaram (biscuits), Binaca (toothpaste), Moti (soap – ‘the best soap in India’, my dad told me when I was a kid), Sunlight (soap), Appela (the apple drink from Cadbury’s and launched in 1982 with a sexy Rediffusion campaign) and many, many more. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these brands can be revived; however, the Economist article gives some great examples of brands that have been revived successfully:

  • Brim coffee was a popular coffee brand; a series of mergers and acquisitions saw the brand landing up in the same stable as Maxwell House. Obviously, the latter won and Brim had to bite the dust. Brim had been built over 35 years on the back of millions of dollars of advertising and an unforgettable phrase – “Fill it to the rim – with Brim.” So Max Thomann of River West Brands acquired the brand from Kraft and relaunched it – successfully.
  • Procter & Gamble abandoned the White Cloud brand of toilet paper to focus on its Charmin brand. The brand was revived by Walmart and has become a success once again. According to Time magazine, consumers at Consumer Reports named White Cloud as the top toilet paper in the US. ‘Not only did White Cloud’s 3-Ply Ultra Soft and Thick toilet paper get the highest overall ratings of 25 different products, it’s also won as CR‘s Best Buy, costing 25¢ per 100 sheets. By comparison, the No. 2-rated toilet paper, Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, costs 38¢ per 100 sheets, and Charmin Ultra Soft and Ultra Strong (ranking #6 and #18, respectively) each go for 41¢ per 100 sheets. Another roll of White Cloud, Soft and Thick, came in fourth in the ratings and costs just 19¢ per 100 sheets.’
  • Of course, the most well-known revival of a brand was the Volkswagen Beetle. An extremely popular brand in the 1960s (backed by some of the most amazing ad campaigns by Doyle Dane and Bernbach), the Beetle lost favour, was withdrawn and relaunched in its new avatar in the 1990s. BMW acquired Mini when it bought Rover in 1994, retooled it to German standards and relaunched it. The re-launched Mini was hugely successful.

Some of the ‘dead’ brands have been relaunched by established companies. However, there are companies that are on the lookout for undervalued gems to re-market. The Himmel Group, based in the US, buys old health and beauty brands and relaunches them. Some of the brands that the group has relaunched with success include Ovaltine (now that’s a familiar name to us Indians!), Topol toothpaste and Lavoris mouthwash. The Blackstone Group and Lion Capital purchased the rights outside the US for Orangina, a soft drink brand that Cadbury’s had given up on. Three years later, they sold the brand to Suntory of Japan at a very good profit. A great example of a brand revival is of the shoe-polish brand Shinola. Tom Kartsotis, the entrepreneur who bought the brand, re-launched it as a luxury watch brand! Now that’s something!

I wish we Indians would revive some brands that were a part of our lives some years ago. I know Reckitt’s tried to re-launch Binaca in the early-1990s (after acquiring the brand from Ciba Geigy) but failed. However, I think the re-launch failed because Reckitt’s could not get the product right.

Reviving old brands does offer some advantages – firstly, some of the discarded brands could still have some equity; secondly, the brand and the logo are already available, are familiar to a set of consumers and, obviously, would have seen some success in their heydays; thirdly, old brands have that ‘authencity’ that new brands may take a long time to establish; and, lastly, done smartly, the revival is likely to be much less expensive than launching a totally new brand.

I think marketers should scan their trademark list for revival; they may just find some hidden gems.
Visual courtesy : https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimberlyeternal/

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This article was written by andy

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