Designer, Jörn Beyer aka Jørn, based in Düsseldorf, Germany has revamped the packaging of major spirit brands, to see if people’s product decisions would be affected by replacing their signature glass bottles with Tetra Paks. The resulting series called ‘Ecohols’ displays the labels of Jack Daniels, Absolut Vodka and Jägermeister on ordinary beverage cartons. What remains of the brand, is it just about the name, its contents, or the total package?
Brands have a life like people. Alexander, Cleopatra, and Caesar are figures as familiar today as they were in antiquity. Long after death their life is continually re-celebrated, as evidenced by cross-generational cultural artifacts ranging from motion pictures to Halloween costumes.
There are some company trademarks that, despite the underlying business being defunct or subsumed, still have a ghostly hold on our hypermodern, brand-soaked world. The brand value is still there, resonating in the minds of consumers.
Here are a few that could reemerge in the market and reengage today’s consumers:
Pan American World Airways, or Pan Am, was formed in 1927. It was know for its “flying boats” dubbed Clippers and highly professional flight crews. Pan Am made flying sexy and glamourous. By the 1970s Pan Am was one of the largest airlines, serving 160 countries.
It was an iconic airline brand ensconced in the public mind with the unmissable Pan Am building in midtown Manhattan, images of The Beatles coming to New York in 1964 on a Pan Am Clipper, and in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ferrying passengers to orbit in a fictional Pan Am “Space Clipper.”
The glamour of air travel has faded, seeming more like a schlep on the bus than a luxury-ladened voyage. A new niche luxury airline could reincarnate the illustrious Pan Am brand. Or one of the private space companies could kick-start their passenger-to-orbit business with a venerable name. There’s nearly a century of history to draw from for a brand that hasn’t had a plane in the sky for twenty years, yet still has a lofty perception in people’s minds.
The lesson here is that you don’t mess with cherished brands. Marshall Field & Company opened in Chicago in 1852, and since then they’ve had many corporate owners. Since the Great Depression Marshall Field’s has been a publicly traded company as well as part of British-American Tobacco, Target Corporation, May Co, and eventually Federated Department Stores, Inc. But, throughout all that backend corporate jockeying, the people of Chicago just thought of it as Marshall Field’s.
It was in 2006 that Federated decided to end the 154 year-old Marshall Field’s brand, turning all of the company’s stores into Macy’s. Not only that, Federated also renamed the Marshall Field and Company Building. This building at State and Washington in Chicago was an official Chicago Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Can you guess the reaction?
Protests, boycotts, angry Chicagoans storming the annual shareholder meeting. Sales dropped in stores that a year earlier were packed. Average citizens, who still are mad the iconic Sears Tower was renamed to the Willis Tower, refuse to acknowledge the new name of the Marshall Field’s Building.
Federated, was it worth it? No. Let Chicagoans have what they want. Does it fit into a massive corporate plan? Maybe not, but now you have hostile natives, insurgents against your corporate dominance. Apologize, go to a Cubs game, and then spin this defeat into a “New Coke” victory by resurrecting the Marshall Filed’s brand. You’ll get +10 Hero Points and stop the constant bad karma for your Second City stores.
AT&T announced it will buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG in a $39 billion cash-and-stock deal that would make it the largest cellphone company in the U.S.
There are already outcries against the deal over concerns of an AT&T/Verizon duopoly and how that negatively affects consumer choice in the wireless marketplace. Twitter is atwitter with mocking comments such as @MattBinder‘s “Nothing says ‘we love our customers’ like airing commercials about how AT&T blows & then selling the company to them.”
Speaking of commercials, the biggest loss will be the end of Carly Foulkes as the T-mobile girl. Carly Foulkes, a Ralph Lauren model, stepped in to the role once held by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Of course having a beautiful model as a spokesperson is rarely a bad thing. But she’s also beautifully branded in T-Mobile magenta dresses—providing instant brand recognition.
As pointed out by @MattBinder and others, the T-Mobile ads consistently make fun of AT&T for it’s widely panned quality, dropped calls, and lack of 4G service. The commercials are witty, and effectively convey the message that T-Mobile has superior service at lower prices.
Without T-Mobile in the wireless ad rotation, we’re left with largely weak and bland ads from AT&T, Verizion, and Sprint. It might be a while until we must say that final goodbye to Carly Foulkes, the beautifully branded T-Mobile girl, but I’m already in mourning—and I’m considering wearing a PMS 214 dress to the funeral.
Branding is not a modern invention. Its origins can be traced back 40 centuries to the Harappa civilization in the Indus river valley in modern Pakistan and Northeast India. The Harappans were great traders who branded their high quality products with ‘Indus seals’—small square tags made of terra-cotta, brass or copper that signified the product came from the Indus valley.
The reason back then was same as it today: to differentiate commodities with added value external to the features of the product. Perhaps goods from the Indus river valley had a money back guarantee that made buying them a safer bet for the consumer. Whatever it was, it was the beginning of something big in human history.
The modern marketing definition of ‘branding’ can be traced to early American distillers, who burned their marks on the barrels they shipped. By the 19th century, American consumers who had previously purchased goods like sugar, soap, rice, and molasses from large bulk containers had been introduced to branded packaging.
Before this, consumers just bought what the shopkeeper had in stock. But once the branding genie had been let out, consumer demands wouldn’t allow it back in the bottle.
Soapmakers were early advertisers of packaged and branded products. Brands such as Ivory, Pears and Colgate date from around 1880. Just after the turn of the century, Americans began to be aware of brands such as Bon Ami, Wrigley, and Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola can thank the Harappans for inventing brand identity, but modern corporations have taken the concept to an incredible new level. When a Harappan ship pulled into a foreign port, their branded pottery, jewelry and agricultural products were perceived as high quality. But nobody assigned a value to the seal itself. That too has changed.
In the modern economy, more than a trillion dollars in corporate wealth is allocated to swooshes, globes, golden arches, mouse ears and hundreds of other brands.
In 2001, Coca-Cola’s market capitalization was about $110 billion with 61% of that value coming from its number one ranked brand. Xerox’s brand accounted for an astonishing 93% of the company’s value. 82% of Kodak and 76% of Polo Ralph Lauren’s corporate value was derived from the strength of brand identity.
Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, suggests “the astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multinational corporations can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid-1980’s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, not products.”
Brands have a powerful impact on our world. They affect individuals in a profound and often emotional way. They help channel the flow of trillions of dollars. They are a huge component in the success of massive multinational corporations. And entire industries have blossomed to help inject these brands into our collective thoughts.
This map shows the results of more than 120,000 people surveyed about the word they use to describe a Coke…or soda, or pop. We all know that in the South, a Coke is a Coke—as well as a Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. But in New York it’s soda and in Wisconsin it’s pop.
Click to get a larger view…
Some really interesting things stand out when looking at the data displayed geographically. For one, the greater St. Louis area stands out as an island of “soda” drinkers sandwiched between the North/South divide between “Coke” and “pop.” This is probably due to the city’s history as the gateway to the West and its commercial and transportation links to the Northeast.
Something I wished I’d looked at before the election is what citizens of Virginia and North Carolina call their fizzy fountain drinks. No longer a “Solid South” of Coke drinkers, the survey shows that Virginia and North Carolina are a bricolage that represents a demographic shift that has been taking place for years.
Not just Northern Virginia, but the whole state, is more and more integrated with the Northeast Corridor. And in North Carolina, the changing economy influenced by the tech sector and a shift from rural to urban living has decreased the percentage of “Coke” drinkers to less than half.
So, if we use our empty Coke bottle as a lens through which to see the changing demographics of America, it is much easier to understand how Virginia and North Carolina went for Obama. They aren’t the same states they were twenty years ago.