Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Brands through rose-tinted glasses

I was interested to read that Cadbury's, after pressure from a Facebook group, are bringing the 1980s brand Wispa back to the UK for good. This got me thinking about my recent experience in Canada, where I tried to reaquaint myself with some of those "blue-remembered brands" from the North American holidays of my childhood.

I was in Canada a few times as a child in the 1960s and there are certain products and brands that made an impression on me: Cracker Jack, Lifesavers, grape soda (can't remember the brand) and root beer. When I started on my quest, the first thing that struck me about the soft drinks/candy/snack fixtures was how disappointingly familiar everything was. Coca-Cola, Mars, Pepsi Co and their ilk really do rule the world. There was even our own Ritter Sport in great abundance.

I did track down Cracker Jack. It's now in a bag (no surprise as the brand now belongs to FritoLay) and while the nutty popcorn was as yummy as I remembered, the magic of the box and the surprise was gone. Ditto Lifesavers, which is now part of Wrigley: the remembered foil tube was nowhere to be seen so I bought a plastic bag of - get this - individually wrapped candies at the airport. They taste much the same, too, but I winced every time I unwrapped yet another layer of totally superfluous packaging.

I know that brands have lifecycles and maybe these two are past their sell-by date. But I can't help but wonder if the continual succession of new brand owners and brand managers doesn't really help. After all, there are plenty of brands of the same age that go from strength to strength - just look at Coca-Cola.

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