Attack Of The Zombie Brands!

If you think you are having flashbacks every now and then, you are right. So are manufacturers, who grab onto every advantage–even a dubious one–to make their products stand out in a crowded marketplace. Thus, Ford pulls the 500 badge and revives Taurus. Coca-Cola revives Tab as Tab Energy, and Life magazine is demoted to a newspaper insert. From Slate’s Daniel Gross:

What gives? Why kill a product only to resurrect it? Businessspeople and marketers put great store in the concept of brand equity, the set of intangible factors that account for the value of a brand or a product. Even when products fail or are withdrawn from the marketplace, they still retain vestigial brand equity.

SAM GLOVER

(Photo: joelf)

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  1. RandomHookup says:

    True, but the brands mentioned above are ones that held a strong brand following for a long time and are still generally perceived as positive.

  2. thisiskspraydad says:

    Taurus has a positive image?

  3. mopar_man says:

    @thisiskspraydad:

    I saw a segment on TV where they surveyed X amount of people. WAY more people recognized the Taurus name and knew what it was vs. the 500. Not saying that the Taurus was a good car but Ford seems to think that name recognition will sell more cars.

  4. Trackback says:

    I won’t be posting a lot to this blog in the next few days, as Ben Popken asked me to fill in for him at the Consumerist while he bakes his pasty whiteness during a much-needed vacation.

  5. donnajean says:

    hmm, maybe pepsi will bring Crystal Pepsi back.

  6. BMR says:

    if you ever drove a Taurus, you’d recognize the name – as you shudder in horror.

  7. B says:

    The reason Ford is bringing back the Taurus name is because the 500 was such a disaster.

  8. nweaver says:

    For the 80s, theh Taurus was great. The modern dump-on-rental-fleet is an abomination.

  9. shiny says:

    @donnajean: I’m assuming you meant this as an allusion to the first re-invention of the Tab name — when Tab Clear was put on the market to compete with Crystal Pepsi. It also sparks memories of the Saturday Night Live parody ad where they introduced “Crystal Gravy.” Good times…

    Say — does Napster count as a Zombie brand?

  10. kerry says:

    @nweaver: Our family had the first iteration of the Taurus wagon. My parents never bought an American car again.

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Conan O’Brian has joked a few times that he drives a green Ford Taurus. It is the “everycar”, the American equivalent to the Honda Civic. The perfect example of a typical American automobile. I keep up with the new vehciles that come out, but I’m sure you mention the Taurus to someone on the street, they will know it is a Ford. Even with it’s shakey reputation, familiarity holds a lot of weight.

  12. emax4 says:

    According to Consumer Reports, the Ford Fusion is the reincarnation of the Taurus, not the 500. Most first-year cars have poor reliability reports, but they were surprised that the Ford Fusion has excellent reliability.

    I don’t think product name resurrection is anything new. The Atari 7800 was a reincarnation of the 2600 that could play 2600 games and a few more new games that it couldn’t. The same was done on TV with The Twilight Zone.

  13. emax4 says:

    By the way, my girlfriend drives a used 2003 Ford Taurus. She gets the oil changed on time and has it inspected regularly and hasn’t had any problem at all. Are all Taurii that way? Probably not.

  14. I think companies do this – skip a generation and relaunch a product with a familiar name – because as Americans, we’re nostalgic about brand names.

    After the Taurus restyling debacle of the late 90s, Ford went to the mattresses and renegineered and restyled the car – giving it a name that a greying generation might buy into – the 500. People who grew up in the 60s saw the Galaxie 500 as the premium family sedan – one step down from a Mercury or Lincoln. Obviously, this didn’t work for Ford, even though the 500 was competent enough – so they went back to the more-recognized Taurus brand – the people who remember the Galaxie 500 are mostly well-off yuppies who drive upmarket sedans, not American boxes.

    Apple, after some disastrous product naming decisions in the 1990s (Performa, a zillion product numbers, Power Macintosh) just started calling it’s computers Macs again when they switched to Intel chips. The computers underwent an architecture change and Apple got a simplified naming structure at the same time – Mac, iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac Book.

    Sure, it smacks of consumers being manipulated, but that’s what marketing is.

  15. WindowSeat says:

    I’m thinking Ayds won’t be resurfacing anytime soon.

  16. thisiskspraydad says:

    @windowseat…

    I was a fat kid…I loved Ayds.

    Re: Taurus…

    Yes…it is very recognizable…it was the number 1 selling car in Canada for quite awhile…but isn’t it recognizable for BAD reasons?

    Ford did this with the Thunderbird…they tried it with the Probe/Mustang fiasco…

    Thankfully they haven’t brought the PINTO back to life.

    Name to bring back:

    Toyota Celica/Supra

  17. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I’m looking forward to this happening with the Camaro/Firebird. I’m not crazy about the concept designs, but it would be great to have them back. I didn’t care much for the last model of the Camaro…yet the last Trans Am looked great!

  18. thisiskspraydad says:

    @Altered…

    For my 40th Bday I’m buying myself a 1978 Trans Am…yeah!

    As for the new ones…they should have made them hybrids.

  19. konstantConsumer says:

    but, of course, actual TaB is still around.

  20. raindog says:

    I think to be a zombie brand rather than a resurrected brand, the brand needs to be applied to something worse than the original. The jury’s still out on the Taurus/500, and depending on your tastes, Tab Energy might taste better than original Tab (personally, I think Coke Zero tastes just like original Tab and Tab Energy is a slightly more palatable Red Bull.)

    Napster is like the quintessential zombie brand, a name being used for almost exactly the opposite of its original meaning.

    As for video games, I don’t think the Atari 7800 qualifies since it was really intended as a new console (much as the first model of the PS3 plays most PS2 games and a couple dozen new ones), but look at some of what’s being sold as Coleco video games nowadays. They have yet to put out any actual games from Coleco’s successful days, opting instead for licensed Sega stuff and generic sports games. Intellivision did almost the same thing a couple years ago, but at least their games were poor recreations of the original games and not completely unrelated stuff.

    I also saw something called Corn Diggers recently. Corn Diggers were originally like Bugles but more buttery and less plasticky. Corn Diggers are now cheap imitation Fritos. Bummer. See also: Munch ‘Ems, originally little hexagonal rippled crackers with like a jillion grams of fat, and now dry little salty shards of some flat potato/matzo-like substance. And I just saw Ovaltine on a supermarket shelf last month. Wonder how old those jars were…

    I was disappointed to hear about Life Magazine. Used to be the pinnacle of a photographer’s career, and now it’s just a vehicle for prescription drug ads and dodgy mail order offers.

  21. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @thisiskspraydad:

    Up till a few years ago, I had a ’79 Trans Am! I loved it! I lived in an apartment at the time it was totaled, and only had enough space to park one vehicle. I’m thinking of picking up another, and dropping in a 455 (once I free up some finances).

  22. Amsterdaam says:

    @BMR:

    Hey, come on now, mine only completely broke down every 2 or 3 days and I only had to put water in it once per destination!

  23. BMR says:

    New tag-line:

    The 2009 Taurus, Undesirable at Any Speed.

  24. kimsama says:

    Hmm…I’ve been driving my ’97 green Taurus for nigh on 7 years (got it used) with no problems. I guess it’s just me and Conan against the world…

  25. CeilingCat says:

    In Canada they have revived the Pop Shoppe brand but I think the current owners have completely missed the boat.

    Instead of a scheme where you go to a local depot and mix and match different (and interesting) flavors and later return the empties they are now just five rather dull flavors sitting in the back of the cooler at the local 7-11, lost among Jones Soda and it’s imitators.

    Gone are the distinctive bottles in lieu of cheaper mass produced bottles that look like everything else on the shelf. It was an *event* for kids back in the day to pile into the car and go to the local depot. It’s a textbook lesson in how to take a unique product and cultural phenomenon and suck the fun out of it completely — it’s now just HFCS, artifical flavor, and (hopefully clean) water.

    Raindog:

    You make a good point about Atari, but I remember the dark days when first Hasbro, then later Infogrames were the rights holders to the Atari name and logos. Both companies consistently churned out utter dreck under the Atari banner. Now Infogrames has abandonded their name and hides behind the Atari logos.

  26. SexCpotatoes says:

    I just bought some TaB at a Kroger’s in WV…