Business planning

The warm glow of nostalgia or the cold shoulder of a zombie brand?

By Taskmaster
Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Itaskmasterf you’re starting up or launching a new product, there’s a certain appeal in bringing back an old brand from the past.


First, your customers get the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with nostalgia for a simpler, gentler time that might not have actually, really been quite like you remember it. Back before smartphones, social media and all the other new fandangled contraptions that now clutter your pockets, house and bag.


Back in the good ‘ole days, before people realised that available on-demand really meant no break from being available when demanded by customers, salespeople and staff.


Back when there was this thing called ‘privacy’, complete with the freedom to not automatically need to tweet every action and thought with the rest of the known universe.


The sun also shone brighter and the grass was greener back then, some folks say.


Why build a new brand from scratch for your new soap when the trademark for Lime Fresh, with its pre-existing nostalgic glow, can be picked up fairly cheaply?



Instead of fishing for a new brand concept, why not bring Wobbie’s World, Goggomobils, Barnacle Bill’s or Ampol back?



It’s a strategy that has paid handsome dividends for Volkswagen since it brought back its venerable Beetle brand for a limited nostalgia run in 1997, with the beloved auto brand remaining in production until 2013.


Since then, the return of a nostalgic brand has become a fairly common business trend. Hot off the heels of Coca-Cola’s resurrection of Mello Yello, the US-based 24-hour diner chain Denny’s is reportedly having another crack at the Australian market. While the franchise was active in Australia through the 1980s, it withdrew from the market with many of its stores rebadged as The Keg steakhouses. That said, mostly through US film and television, the brand retains a strong level of awareness in Australia.


However, there is a flipside to this trend: What if you are bringing back a brand that has been tried before in the market, only to be found wanting?


It’s telling that on the same day Denny’s announces it’s returning to our humble shores, Atari announces it’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. At this point, despite the best efforts of owners including Nolan Bushnell, Warner Communications, Jack Tramiel, Hasbro, and now Infogrammes, the brand has failed once again.


Sometimes, like Atari, what you end up with is a zombie brand that fails to recapture the golden glow of its arcade heyday.


The moral of the story, if you’re considering reviving a brand, is simple: Do your homework.


Read your history books. Track down some old news articles on the company. Find out why the brand failed in the first place. If you can, track down its former staff and employees for the inside story.


A little research can go a long way in making sure you bring back a feel-good nostalgic business opportunity, rather than a capital-crunching zombie brand.


Get it done – today!

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