You may not readily admit to it, but we all are suckers for nostalgia. Perhaps, we differ in our degree of jonesing for objects of yesteryears that evoke personal memories but one look around is enough to realize how much effort and money is being poured into peddling nostalgia. Take, for instance, the launch campaign for the American Express spinoff, Ameriprise Financial, employing unmistakable psychedelic imagery reminescent of the high '60s and 70's . While one may question the judgment behind such drug inspired visuals, there is absolutely no mistaking Ameriprise's intention of courting leading-edge baby boomers, fast approaching their retirement age. Thankfully, Ameriprise softened their approach in subsequent campaigns featuring Dennis Hopper. The underlying theme in these campaigns, however, continue Ameriprise's strategy of employing nostalgia to better peddle their investment services. Care is obviously needed to handle the double-edged sword of nostalgia: for it can evoke strong positive as well as negative responses.
My plan for this post was not to analyze Ameriprise's strategy but rather to look at missed opportunities elsewhere in the world in hopes of gaining new insights. In India, two personal care brands reigned supreme in the '70s - Binaca and Forhan's. Coveted as they were, these brands have a long and sordid history of changing several hands over the past four decades. Binanca, once owned by the multinational giant Reckitt Benckiser via its acquisition from Ciba-Geigy, was eventually sold to an Indian CPG company, Dabur, which apparently gave up looking for the right buyer after years of search. Dabur is still selling toothbrushes under the brand.
Forhan's, orginally developed in New York, gained fame during the Great Depression and eventually found its way into Wyeth's portfolio when it acquired Geoffrey Manners. Wyeth later sold Forhan's to John Oak Remedies who passed it on to the Anchor Group, which was itself acquired by the Japanese conglomerate, Matsushita.
Clearly, some still continue to believe in Binanca and Forhan's. Out of sheer nostalgia, perhaps? Sadly, all of this talk about Binaca and Forhan's makes me feel very old, indeed. A negative response, eh? I just need to go out and buy something cool to feel young again. :-)
The story of Binanca and Forhan's is the story of many brands that were once deeply personal (can't get anymore personal than a toothpaste, can you?) and full of vitality end up losing their immense power over just a generation. The owners of Binanca and Forhan's failed to revitalize or relaunch these brands for the new generation while newer, more energetic brands grabbed their market share away. The brand owners simply waited, too long; their only willing segment is on to denture cleaners now. What would you have done to revive such brands?
I look at what Proctor & Gamble has done with Old Spice, a brand it acquired from Shulton, as a great example of how to execute a brand revitalization program. The Old Spice brand, launched in the '30s, is still very strong because P&G made it relevant for the new generation without relying on the nostalgic factor alone. P&G not only revived the brand against a strong ""who wants to use their grandfather's cologne?" sentiment but managed to add several more successful extensions to it. P&G bravely turned that sentiment around to come up with their slogan "If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.”? So, the next time you peddle nostalgia, just be careful out there. Peace out, man!