By Paul Pannone
eWedNewz continues our investigation into the changing demands of today’s consumer and how businesses are trying to adapt to keep them satisfied. The changes are so profound major companies that once dominated their industry are crumbling, replaced by new and improved products led by technology.
This week Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure its business and function in a new age. Members of the Wedding Water Cooler gave their view of what’s happening to these major brands and why giant companies are failing.
“How does a brand name become “beloved.” It takes a lot more than nostalgia. Many years ago, Oster was the generic name for blenders — you didn’t buy a blender, you bought an Osterizer; Kleenex was and remains (to a much lesser degree) the generic name for facial tissue; Electrolux was the generic name for a vacuum cleaner; After Six was the generic name for a tuxedo; Kodak was a generic name for a camera.
Two elements are required to create and sustain a brand name: a cutting edge product; a consistently strong marketing and advertising campaign. Nostalgia is great but it wouldn’t push me to purchase an Oster blender; an Electrolux; an After Six tuxedo; or a Kodak camera. After Six no longer exists. Kodak is breathing its last breath. Regardless of the amazing popularity of a brand name, a brand will wither and die without effective marketing. Once that happens, it proves to be impossible to revive it.
It all boils down to intelligent management. Arrow and Van Heusen probably are both doing just fine these days. I know nothing of these companies. However, as a consumer, I learned these brand names when I was in high school and college a hundred years ago. Ask high school or college kids today to name a shirt brand. They’ll talk about H &M, they’ll talk about Abercrombie & Fitch, they’ll talk about The Gap, they’ll talk about Old Navy. Maybe one in a hundred (if that) might mention Arrow or Van Heusen. While high school and college aged kids are not the Arrow or Van Heusen target, this age group is vital to establishing a name brand image for older customers. If you wait until the guy begins his first job, he will be much less susceptible to branding.
There was a time when both Arrow and Van Heusen had strong marketing campaigns. What ever happened to the guy with the eye patch? Management may be saving a few bucks on marketing and advertising but they’re losing their shirts (pardon the pun) to generic merchandise. Arrow and Van Heusen are going the way of most major department stores
and there’s only one way to stop them from heading in that direction … a strong marketing campaign. You have to spend the money to make the money or you can bend over and kiss your own brand name good-bye,” according to Jim Duhe.
Duhe and other senior members of the WWC are able to look back at the past and now forward to the future with an objective look, seeing the world as it once was– and what its become. But there’s a new generation of management emerging; educated on the experiences of a time gone by, armed only with standards that are no longer relevant to today’s society.
JC Penny continues to reinvent itself, updating products and the overall shopping experience to its consumers.
In a recent story Michael Kramer, president and chief executive officer of Kellwood Co at the time of his interview, admitted keeping on eye on reality shows, social media and reaching consumers in a new way. In his interview Kramer mentions shows like the Kardashians and the Jersey Shore and following celebrity news (newZ) including J.Lo’s divorce.
“When I read the story about Mr. Kramer I couldn’t help thinking how social media and connecting with consumer is the way business is conducted today, ” says Brian Weintraub of FLOW Formal.
Weintraub is the third generation of apparel makers dating back to when his grandfather and father began importing clothes manufactured off shore. Today, Weintraub and his family realize how important it is to connect with consumers, leveraging the use of social media, celebrities and promotions.
“We’re a branded label company; the forerunner of social networking when people connected by wearing quality clothes under recognized named like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, etc. Now we’re following their lead and using the power of the internet to connect consumers with products through our stores,” says Weintraub.
Weintraub admits he’s in a conservative industry but also knows implementation of today’s new business approach is a must for continued success. Weintraub’s first project was signing TV reality celebrity, the Situation, to connect with a new generation of formal wear users that no longer want to be told what to wear.
“Luckily we represent the best world-class names for the part of the market they speak to. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Joseph Abboud spend an enormous amount of money to keep their names in front of consumers. By adding the Situation, we boosted our overall marketing visibility to millions of television viewers and internet followers that watch what Mike Sorrentino (the Situation) does,” says Weintraub.
Weintraub told eWedNewz he’s being asked for interviews by publications, both in and out of the trade, interested in his business views and the future of the formal wear business.
“Whatever happens the world is not going back to where it was; the internet is here to stay and the impact of new-age marketing will continue to grow at the expense of print and all other forms of (traditional) marketing,” feels Weintraub.
Since his interview, Michael Kramer was named Chief Operating Officer of JC Penny. Like countless other companies, Penny is a conservative, moderate-priced company that struggles to connect with a changing business environment. But unlike its competitors, JC Penny is revamping its reputation and including major changes that make it easy for consumers to buy product in stores– and online. According to About.com, JCP.com (JC Penny) is ranked number three behind Amazon and Avon.
Website and Wedding expert, Christine Boulton, told eWedNewz,” Years ago there was JC Penny and Sears; you were a customer of one or the other. They were both good product retailers at moderate prices. Today that still holds true but Penny has been able to reinvent themselves, their reputation and how they appeal to a new customer– Sears, in my opinion, has not. A lot has to do with moves to make their products more appealing and hiring people like Kramer. He worked with Abercrombie & Fitch so that part of what he learned goes with him to JC Penny.
It’s like everything else; if you have company management and leadership that can’t look past their glory days, they’re never going to be able to connect with what’s relevant in today’s world. That type of thinking no longer works; it hasn’t for some time,” feels Boulton.
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