No, Zippo is not a lost Marx brother. For most of the 20th century, the lighter brand was ubiquitous wherever smokers gathered. Now, however, with the decrease in and vilification of smoking, the business is trying to find new niches. Would you buy a Zippo purse, or jeans or perfume?
A move such as this can be deadly if there is a disconnect between a brand and the new products it introduces. Remember Smith and Wesson mountain bikes? Colgate Kitchen Entrees? Bic underwear? Harley Davidson perfume? Probably not, because they were massive failures.Zippo's challenge, then, is to introduce items that speak to its brand identification, whatever that is. Wind-resistant? Emphysemic? Pyromaniac?
Company president and CEO Gregory Booth told the AP that the company's image really stands, in part, for rugged and durable, and it seems that's the brand image that will be central to its product offerings.
The company's ambitious plans include indoor and outdoor clothing, backpacks, sunglasses, wallets, liquor flasks, playing cards and even a perfume dispensed from a lighter-like shell. It also recently launched a line of men's watches (and no, they do not include a built-in lighter).
The company is not brand-new to ancillary products, however. Its European branch, Zippo Fashion Italia, designs and distributes collections of leather handbags and accessories that apparently sell well.
The company's fortunes could also be advanced, no doubt, if it could sell more of it's most luxurious product, an 18k, solid gold lighter, ($10,894.63), in this era of gold fever.
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