Yesterday's New York Times Magazine gave some hope for those of us who have been pining for some product to come back -- like Hydrox cookies, Grape Nehi and other items in the Top 25 Things We Wish Would Make a Comeback. Rob Walker's story Can a Dead Brand Live Again? profiled a Chicago company, River West Brands, that revives what it calls ghost brands. Like Brim coffee. Or Underalls.
The company recognizes that it's a lot cheaper to revive a brand that so many people already recognize -- thanks often to jingles from their childhoods -- than spend the millions it takes to create a new one from scratch. Unfortunately for fans of dead brands, they don't just look for products that still have cult followings because they were awesome. In fact, having a bunch of people who are fanatical about a product can actually be a turn-off.
"A tiny number of hard-core loyalists not only doesn't mean a whole lot when reviving a brand, it might be a problem because those people do remember," Walker writes. He cites VW Beetle purists who didn't like new bug.
The revival artists may start with the original formula, but they are strongly tempted to "update" it with something -- maybe just packaging that makes it seem fresh.
For fans of Hydrox, I'd think there would be some hope. The firm specialized in brands that had been pushed out in corporate mergers, where a giant company couldn't be bothered maintaining the boutique competition to its own behemoth brand.
It's an interesting thing about brand loyalty. From a distance it looks like us consumers are just remaining faithful to some long-gone advertising campaign. But we remain convinced that it proves we are resistant to any old marketing ploy, like the ads of the big company to push its dominant product.
Is there hope for brands we'd like to see come back?