Comfort marketing is amusing, and yet a bit sad. Steve Jobs would be appalled: he didn’t even want to keep old computers around, much less old brands.
Now, the vintage Smith Brothers brand of cough drops is poised to try a comeback, keeping its familiar brand symbol of a pair of bearded brothers and expanding into a line of health and wellness products.
The campaign is an example of an effort to breath new life into what is known as a ghost brand: a once-popular mainstay among packaged goods that fell dormant or out of favor because of a loss of consumer interest and advertising spending. Some ghost brands disappear from stores altogether, while many others remain but are banished to bottom shelves in supermarkets or drugstores and get little or no marketing support.
Other examples of ghost brands include Aim, Ammens, Aqua Velva, Armour, Barbasol, Breck, Brylcreem, Bromo-Seltzer, Brut, Camay, Close-Up, Comet, Duncan Hines, Fab, Hydrox, Kretschmer, Lava, Log Cabin, My-T-Fine, Oxydol, Parkay, Pepsodent, Pert Plus, Prell, Schlitz, Spic and Span, Sure, Vitalis and White Rain.
There are a couple of reasons it is common during uncertain economic times to seek to restore ghost brands to health. One reason is that it can be far less expensive to reintroduce a brand that was formerly well known than to bring out an entirely new product.
A second reason is that ghost brands fit a trend called comfort marketing, which uses nostalgia to appeal to shoppers in tough times. The belief is that consumers who are carefully watching their spending will be reassured by a product’s longevity and authenticity, deeming it of value because it has been around for decades.
Looks like this is an actual marketing trend, and not just something dreamed up by editors at the NYT:
What is inspiring the trend is a belief that shoppers — watching carefully what they spend in an uncertain economy — seek authenticity in brands because a product’s longevity suggests it has value and is thus worth buying.
“At General Mills, with cherished brands like Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, we are seeing an uptick in interest” in mainstay products, said Elizabeth Crocker, associate marketing manager for Cinnamon Toast Crunch at General Mills, “from both millennial consumers who enjoy the taste and fun, as well as older consumers.” (Yes, Elizabeth Crocker works for General Mills, home of another longtime brand character, Betty Crocker.)
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story “Social media is helping to fuel the interest in historic brands and favorite icons,” Ms. Crocker said, citing popular memes like Throwback Thursday (#tbt) and Flashback Friday (#fbf). “For many fans of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the cereal brings back happy childhood memories, so it’s an easy tie to fun #tbt social content,” she added.