Trashing a Brand?Smart or Dumb?
Many Chicagoans protested and won a few concessions. Although the change to Macy's becomes official this September, according to Sandra Guy in the Chicago Sun-Times, "a Frango mint viewing kitchen and a private entrance to the women's couture 28 Shop will return."
But Linda Stanley's question is haunting: "Why do modern managers think they can slap on a new name and retain customers? Am I alone in feeling manipulated and ripped off? How many other venerable brands have been trashed for cash, not nurtured?"
I was always intrigued by Cingular and its curious name that should be spelled "singular." The company had grabby, hip ads that a legion of youngsters glommed on to. As AdAge.com pointed out, it cost $4 billion to make it a household name.
Stodgy, boring old AT&T bought Cingular with the intention of killing the name, the brand and the logo. It will be renamed AT&T wireless, a bit of an oxymoron, since the last "T" in "AT&T" is Telegraph, a primitive communications systems that relied on wires. In any case, analysts believe the tab to explain what happened to Cingular to its customers will be around $2 billion.
Many years ago, Jock Bickert, a wonderfully urbane gentleman, founded National Demographics and Lifestyles—known throughout the direct marketing community as NDL. It was the most elegant of data gathering business models. Bickert's company would contract with manufacturers to put warranty cards in with their products—kitchen appliances, watches, computers and anything else that could break or wear out before its time.
These warranty cards had dozens of questions beyond the few bits of information needed to register the purchase—name, address, date purchased, store where purchased and model number. This was followed by a slew of lifestyle and demographic questions ranging from hobbies and interests, financial information, credit cards, automobiles, magazine subscriptions, home ownership status and even illnesses and medications. The result was a treasure trove of information that enabled marketers to create a vast electronic dossier on 41 million households. It was not a question of tricking anyone or surreptitious snooping, since all the information was self-reported. (It seems people love to fill out questionnaires and talk about themselves.)