Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Brand Old Party

Tout le monde (as Tom Wolfe would say) has begun to fret about the fate of the Republican brand.

And yet I--and I alone--offer any useful, market-based advice:

Rob Walker, advertising buff at the NYTimes Magazine, tells the story of River West, a Chicago company that purchases "dead brands" like Brim, Underalls, or Nuprin--brands that linger on as intellectual property and as unclaimed baggage in consumers' psyches, but for which there has been no manufacturing, no retailing, and no product in years. River West's theory--and business gamble--is that such "dead brands" represent equity that can be repurposed with new products building on the consumer recognition of the extinct product.

“In most cases we’re dealing with a brand that only exists as intellectual property,” says Paul Earle, River West’s founder. “There’s no retail presence, no product, no distribution, no trucks, no plants. Nothing. All that exists is memory. We’re taking consumers’ memories and starting entire businesses.”

The other interesting thing is that when Earle talks about consumer memory, he is factoring in something curious: the faultiness of consumer memory. There is opportunity, he says, not just in what we remember but also in what we misremember.

Perhaps this will become an empty brand that someone might attempt to revive someday. It's been familiar to voters for well over a century and, although sales are in the toilet now, for almost 30 years it flew off the store shelves.

Who knows? It might be worth a buck or two down the line--especially if the buyer waits long enough that people no longer accurately remember the original product's features.

(Image via the Humphrey Institute blog.)

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