Why build a connection with consumers when you can buy one, ready made and only a tad out-of-date? Lucky Whip anyone?
John Cuticelli, a Chicago entrepreneur, got himself the rights to 145 defunct brands including Meister Brau, Hot Pants, Handi Wrap, Financial Corporation of America, Pom Poms and one with a place in my heart, Short & Sassy (Dorothy Hamill was my first crush).
Cuticelli sold-off his rights to high bidders at an auction earlier this month. So how much is an old brand worth? I’d say it depends on who remembers it and how fondly. There are reasons why these brands aren’t on the shelf anymore. Economic and Darwinian. If they were all that great, wouldn’t they still be around like Heinz, Campbell, Ivory or Levi Strauss?
Mr. Cuticelli says relaunching a beloved old brand will give a new product “instant authenticity.” That may work in some cases. Shearson, for example, which sold for the highest bid. Shearson is an investment bank brand that was not soiled by Wall Street’s implosion of the global economy because the name hasn’t been used for a decade or two (American Express merged Shearson with Lehman Brothers to create its own branded brokerage. When AmEx spun it off they used only the Lehman name.)
But more than history and more than image, a brand is an experience. How customers interact with it every day is what counts. So anyone interested in resuscitating a brand had better have a great product and great service behind it, or it’s going back in the dustbin.