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.
Wrap yourself in the brands that comfort…
New from NYTO Studios is the Comfort Quilt.
“With today’s increasingly fractured social fabric,” explains the NYTO website, “it is now brands that give us a feeling of collective identity, heritage, and continuity, gradually taking over the role that family and cultural heritage once held.
“Our identities are no longer defined by our ancestors and our traditions so much as by multinational corporations who shape our personas through advertising and product placement. The traditional American quilt serves as a living family document, surrounding us both physically and emotionally with the events and the people who came before us. This quilt forces us to question the cultural legacy we are passing along to the next generation.”