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To briefly comment on the worth of a Brand is a little like saying … let me explain the meaning of life in 30 words or less.  Mercifully, this narrative will not attempt such an ambitious endeavor. Rather, I will simply share some thoughts on an article in NY Times covering an auction at the Waldorf-Astoria. What was being auctioned – brand names that are no longer in use.

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What I found interesting, if not really surprising, is that brands have a significant monetary worth even when they have been retired from the marketplace – or said more directly, after they have died. Duh, you say.  Isn’t the Elvis brand worth more now that it was when The King was vertical?  Well, the argument could be made that an everyday brand that is no longer fit for commerce (unlike the Elvis® brand) has lost its currency with the consumer and, hence, it’s worth or value. Not so.

Brand names auctioned off covered a number of categories from beverage to financial to packaged goods, among others. A total of 170 product or corporate brand names were included in the auction. And while only a couple of dozen names were claimed, you might find the winning bid price on selected brands of interest.

Collier, the name of a magazine that went out of business over 30 years ago, was purchased for $2,000. The highest bid was submitted for Shearson at $45,000. Meister Brau, a beer I was intimately acquainted with several years ago, went for $32,500. And Handi-Wrap, a former plastic wrap brand, sold for $30,000. Remember Infoseek? It was a popular search engine in the 90’s before an obscure brand, Google, out “googled” them and rendered them extinct. Infoseek was purchased at a bargain — $2,000 as a package deal with Big Yank and The Linen Closet.

Allen Adamson, managing director of corporate identity firm Landor Associates, summed this up nicely. “The reason old brands are relevant is that they provide some level of authenticity and trust.” He went on, however, to challenge those that purchased the brands. “Can you imbue the name with meaning that is relevant for today?”

What is your brand worth? Certainly it can be calculated in annual sales, projected sales or other hard metrics. But coming to grips with the worth of a brand to a consumer can be discerned by a number of brand equity or brand personality exercises. We’ll talk more about these in future articles. The point is there are established methods for clearly defining the emotional link between a brand and its consumer.

One brief example. We were involved in an extensive brand equity study some years ago for McCormick Spices. In in-depth focus groups respondents had a difficult time articulating in a rational way the differences in one spice brand versus others. When loyal McCormick spice purchasers, however, spoke about what distinguished their brand from competitors we consistently heard the following (paraphrased) comment – “when I use a McCormick spice or ingredient in a recipe and the end dish fails, I immediately think it was something I did wrong … because it couldn’t have been McCormick’s fault.” What an incredible brand-consumer bond.

Once more, what is your brand worth?

About Charles “Bubba” Cooper

Bubba Cooper is Senior Partner at On Brand Management, a diverse problem-solving firm offering local and regional businesses access to expertise normally reserved for global and national companies. Contact Bubba at bubbac@onbrandmanagement.com. On Brand helps clients navigate today’s dynamic market by providing performance-driven solutions to sustain an organization’s stability and growth. On Brand has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC and St. Petersburg, Fl.

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