Famous Last Words: Trashing a Brand
In 2004, Peggy and I moved to a row house built in 1817, eight blocks from Independence Hall on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
We were (and are) charmed by Philadelphia and our new neighborhood. It's a small town smack in the middle of the fifth largest city in America. The houses are little gems and, in no time, we knew all our neighbors. Peggy's 250-year-old church is around the corner, the gourmet deli was a block-and-a-half away and Tancredo's family pharmacy was two blocks east on Headhouse Square, where George and Martha Washington and Dolly Madison shopped for food.
The Tancredo family was wonderful—knowledgeable, helpful and very caring. For example, if a person's prescription was soon to run out, the pharmacy would call to alert the customer and make sure everything was alright. Not a recorded call, mind you; it was Mr. Tancredo himself on the phone.
The giant Eckerd drug chain put Tancredo's out of business and we were propelled into the 21st century. Reluctantly, we transferred our business to Eckerd and everything became automated and brightly lit, with cold and impersonal robo-calls.
A couple of years ago, Rite Aid bought Eckerd. So we are now Rite Aid customers. When I go down to this Rite Aid for prescriptions, I often pick up other items—toothpaste, headache pills, batteries, Benadryl for the dog, etc.
One day last November, I spied tins of Danish butter cookies on a shelf near the door and grabbed one. I like having these around to keep in the freezer and bring out if we're serving tea or want something sweet with dessert. It was a typical tin—deep rich royal blue, with a photograph of a Danish castle on the front and elegant embossing of the five different cookies.
When I got home, I turned the tin over to see where in Denmark they were made and found that they came from China.
OK, the tin did not say "Danish" or "Dansk," but everything else looked authentically Danish. I felt Rite Aid and the Chinese had deliberately tricked me. I felt ripped off.
Don't Pass on Authenticity
I was born in 1935 and well remember the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. After the War, when the Japanese economy was non-existent, a story went around (probably apocryphal) that many factories in Japan had moved to a town called Usa, so their imitative junk tchotchkes could be labeled "Made in USA" and sold over here.
That's how I felt after discovering this authentic-looking tin of Danish butter cookies came from China.
If the greedy management of Rite Aid would happily trick me into buying counterfeit Danish butter cookies from China, how do I know that Peggy's and my prescriptions—for which we pay Rite Aid several thousand dollars a year—are not counterfeits from some Asian sweatshop and covered with mouse droppings?
The takeaway here: Before you casually expand your product line, it is imperative to think through the possible collateral damage.
In my mind, Rite Aid has trashed its own brand.
How we miss Tancredo's!
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the email newsletter, Denny Hatch's Business Common Sense. Visit him at www.businesscommonsense.com or www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org