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I'll Take Seconds

Consumers' good memories have them clamoring for the brands they used to love.

Slither into some Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, open a Fresca and whip up a batch of Shrinky Dinks; it's time to talk brand revival. Bygone brands, with their built-in goodwill and former ubiquity, may serve you well.

Tom Bendheim, 39, saw brand-resurrection potential in a once-popular beer, Rheingold. Founded in 1883, Rheingold Brewing Co. had 35 percent of the New York market by 1940; John Wayne, Bob Hope and Paul Newman all served as spokesmen. Bendheim researched the beer's history and struck a deal with Stroh to "buy" the Rheingold brand by paying Stroh royalties should the revitalization be a success. The royalty deal works well for both parties--Bendheim didn't have to pay out of pocket for the rights, and Stroh would have lost nothing if the relaunch tanked. With 2003 projected sales of $1.4 million and $45 million by 2007, Rheingold CEO Bendheim believes today's consumers want "a brand they can trust. If the brand has an authentic and classic heritage, they're more likely to embrace it."

In researching brands to reinvigorate, understand their viability in today's buying climate. Lewis Carbone of Experience Engineering Inc., a management consulting company based in Minneapolis, advises seeking brands that still have an "emotional residue" and "positive emotional affinity" with consumers. In other words, you gotta ensure there's still a whole lotta love out there for the product.

With $35 million in sales for 2003, there's evidently a lot of tenderness left for the 1980s Care Bears toy phenomenon. In 1999, Jay Foreman, 40, president of Play Along, bought the Care Bear rights from American Greetings for just under $1 million. Foreman, whose design and manufacturing company is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was negotiating for the Strawberry Shortcake brand when Care Bears became available. "I remembered how crazy kids were about Care Bears back in the '80s," he says.

Seeking potential brands to revive? Ray George, director of Prophet, a New York City consulting firm, advises entrepreneurs to keep on top of media stories about companies discontinuing brands. A proactive way to hunt, offers George, is to "look back 10 or 20 years and ask 'What were the top brands I no longer see?'" Brands that faded gradually--as opposed to fads--may be more valuable.

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This article was originally published in the February 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: I'll Take Seconds.

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