With the summer TV season in full swing and the next edition of Mad Men delayed until 2012, what better time than now to test an idea for a branding reality show? Here’s the concept: We’ll call it Brand Survivors, where a group of weakened brands struggles to remain relevant and profitable amid a sputtering economy, customer uncertainly, and some monumental hurdles.
And you, Valued Reader, can vote to see which brand is picked to bite the dust first-meaning thrown on the branding junk pile, acquired and dismantled, or taken to the brand recycling center on the third Thursday of the month for a complete refurbishing.
Since there is no budget whatsoever, no advertising contract, and no TV network with the least bit of interest in this, we’ll keep it to one episode and a simple survey link. Vote for the brand you think will fail first and say why, if you wish. We’ll print the leading vote getter and best comments in a future column. Now here are the players and little bit of background:
Sears/K-Mart: The web site 24/7 Wall St. recently nominated Sears Holdings, which owns both companies, as one of the brands most likely to disappear in 2012. Last year they correctly picked T-Mobile and Blockbuster (even my dog saw that one coming), but missed badly with Kia and Old Navy. K-Mart actually had a tiny increase in same store sales last year, but Sears dropped 3.4%. There doesn’t seem to be any way to combine the two brands into one, but it’s hard to imagine either departing too quickly, either. Blue light special, anybody?
Any cigarette brand: In the wheezy world of Big Tobacco, the product remains legal, but governmental regulation continues to compress them like a giant anaconda. Printed health warnings on packs of smokes have morphed into actual photographs of diseased lungs and other body parts. It would seem to be a deathblow to an entire category of brands. But Canada has required the same type of warnings for a decade and their cigarette brands live on, albeit with gradually declining sales as their customer base quite literally dies off. Going up in smoke, eh?
MySpace: The original social network, once far larger than Facebook, has found its way onto our show and many other deathwatch lists as well. The numbers are scary-less than 20 million users in the U.S. compared to estimates of over 150 million for Facebook according to a recent Ad Age survey. Their owner, News Corp. is trying to sell them. But look at the flip side-they have almost TWENTY million users. That’s a lot more than all but the biggest sites. MySpace is trying to become a little more nichy and hip with a music sharing focus, which is all any site can do to compete with the Zuckernaut. Will it work?
Gatorade G-Series: See, it’s not just a sports drink, it’s a hydration system consisting of before, during and after exercise components to “achieve your best every step of the way,” according to the G-Series web site. I know I’m at my best before exercise and some time after; it’s the “during” part that I find challenging. Do I need three different drinks now? The G-Series is relatively new and it has PepsiCo muscle behind it, but has this elaborate brand extension got enough traction to live on?
Fiat: As the venerable niche brand of Saab appears all but dead, Fiat is re-entering the U.S. market with the Fiat 500, which is somewhere between a Smart Car and a Mini-Cooper in size, styling and performance. As a global brand, Fiat is safe. But in this country, can a single car model, sold through Chrysler dealerships, really take hold, especially when the Hyundai Accent is less expensive and offers more features?
Donald Trump: Apart from the so-called reality of Celebrity Apprentice are we done with this guy? Is there anyone left who will take what he says seriously and believe he should be influential as a brand on anything? When the President of the United States slam-dunks you to your face at the White House Correspondents Dinner it may be time for a little soul-searching. If only The Donald had one. (Too easy?)
Ok, so if even a handful of readers head to our link, we can digitally snuff the torch of one of the above brands and call this season a wrap. And what the heck, it’s my show, so write-in votes will be accepted as well, with the best getting a mention. Here’s the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/brandsurvivors. Have fun. Brand on.