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Why the Mini brand made for maximum impact
Question: What does the Mini motor car have in common with the Silver Cross pushchair? Or the Polaroid camera with retailer Woolworths?
Answer: They are all brands that disappeared from the scene only to be successfully revived in a different format.
Production of the original Mini - based on the space-saving transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive design of Sir Alec Issigonis - continued uninterrupted from 1959. to 2000. One of the most successful cars ever built, it was an icon of Britain in the 'Swinging Sixties'.
BMW, the new owner of the brand, launched the so-called New Mini in 2001. It capitalizes on the perceived strengths of the original Mini - as a zippy, easily manoeuvrable town car - but is bigger and more powerful. In Marketing Week's August 12 Issue, Cooper reports that the New Mini taps into the nostalgia for its predecessor and applies them in a modern context.
Silver Cross had been manufacturing up-market prams for more than a century before it collapsed in 2002. The British royal family and Grace Kelly had been among its prestigious clients. Bought by entrepreneur Alan Halsall for only £500,000, the company has been relaunched. Its 'Heritage' range of classic coach-prams now accounts for only 5% of sales. The rest is made up of a wide variety of less expensive products, from car seats to buggies. The company is expanding geographically, too - into countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and China.
Polaroid stopped manufacturing instant cameras in 2007 and ceased to produce instant film the following year. Both were perceived to be victims of the advent of digital photography. But Cooper describes how three Polaroid enthusiasts saved the last production plant for Integral Instant film, then reinvented and reproduced a new instant film for traditional Polaroid cameras. The new team is counting on the fact that there are estimated to be around 1 billion working Polaroid cameras in the world.
When Woolworths went into administration in 2008, it was forced to close its 807 high-street stores. Months later, Shop Direct Home Shopping bought the much-loved brand for between £5 million and £10 million. Within hours of the announcement that the brand was to return online, some 20,000 customers had registered their interest.
Cooper points out that, with as many as 95% of the new brands introduced each year failing to make an impact, saving a much-loved brand can be cheaper and more successful than launching a new one. But businesses still face hard choices in deciding which ones to keep. The Nova magazine, Nestlé Texan bar and Biba fashion store are high-profile examples of brands that failed to make it the second time around.
One important argument in favour of keeping old brands is that older customers tend to prefer them. In Volume 75, Issue 5 of the Journal of Marketing, published in September 2010, Lambert-Pandraud and Laurent report, for example, that some brand leaders in the French perfume market are decades old, while hundreds of new products are launched in the sector each year.
Younger customers tend to be much less loyal to old brands and more prepared to try something new. But as demographics change and the proportion of older consumers in the marketplace increases, holding on to an older brand can make sound commercial sense.
Schwartz reports a further interesting response to the ageing of the population in developed, western economies, in the August 2010 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Dov Charney, chief executive of US clothing manufacturer American Apparel, is moving his company's range of clothing away from the young end of the market and towards an older, more sophisticated clientele.
Trilby hats in place of T-shirts? Lounge coats rather than leggings? Are we set for a retailing revolution? It seems highly unlikely - but just in case, remember that you heard it here first!