Let me preface this very interesting story by Rob Walker in the New York Times Magazine “Can a Dead Brand Live Again?” with the fact that I remember the other half of the Brim Coffee ads:
“Only half a cup…”
“It’s Brim, it’s decaffeinated”
“Fill it to the rim”
This will be germane to the articles discussion of manufactured memory and the nature of brand consciousness. What I think I found most interesting was the general mechanism of well known or popular brand extinction- corporate mergers and consolidation. Acquisition of like brands renders well known lines redudant, thus they get shelved. While this is an obvious business decision, it helps explains how brands that either seem successful or incredibly long lived just disappear.
Walker discusses a firm that aims to capitalize on resurrecting brands that linger in our consciousness as essentially pre-marketed items whose memory is widespread but fuzzy enough their branding can be tweaked or the nature and extent of the product can be altered to fit into some new niche.
I don’t harbor nostalgia over many of these products, just a sort of jarring realization (felt way before reading the article) that some of these things just disappeared off the face of the earth like some nefarious force just pulled them off the shelf, simultaneously silencing the marketing voice that had been constantly reminding us of their supposed importance in our purchasing routines. It’s like these products were ripped off our televisions to be executed in some lonely forest.
Of course I obsess about branding because in our youths, companies like Nabisco felt content to market cookie brands that are now over 100 years old year in and year out, while now all cookies must be variants of Oreo or Chips Ahoy, and all crackers Wheat Thin, Triscuit, or Ritz based. Cookie Jesus cries for YOU, Cameo Cremes!