“Things were better way back when…”
Why we may not have seen the last of Top Shop on the High Street…
Recently a tweet sparked rumours that British favourite Woolworths was about to make a return to the High Street, prompting an outpouring of fond reminiscences – Pick ‘N’ Mix anyone? The rumour proved to be unfounded, much to the disappointment of “Woollies” fans who have clearly stayed loyal in the decade since the last store closed.
Nostalgia is powerful tool that can help marketers make instant connections in the minds of different consumer demographics. One brand doing this to good effect at the moment is Cadbury, which is promoting its ‘grown up’ Darkmilk bar to the Generation X age group with references to iconic moments from the 1980s and 1990s such as Scott and Charlene’s wedding and the Kids in America (if you don’t know what we’re talking about, this chocolate bar is not for you!)
More generally, Cadbury is hanging on the hook of the ‘eighties revival influencing popular culture -from “Stranger Things” and “Cobra Kai” to fashion and home decor; ‘eighties kids are now grown up and have more than just pocket money to spend.
This tactic creates a shortcut to positive associations from the past which is especially effective in the uncertain climate of our new “roaring” twenties. In a whirl of nostalgia, we decided to take a look at some of the brands of bygone days to find out “where are they now?” in trade mark terms.
Drink it in the Sun – Sunkist is the one
US readers may be wondering what we mean, as Sunkist remains the most popular orange carbonated drink in the States but, in the UK, it is rare to find this beverage on shop shelves. A catchy advertising slogan accompanied by images of Californian sunshine was more than enough to tempt rain-drenched Brits to buy into a piece of summer. Sunkist is actually still licensed in the UK by Vimto Group, from the Sunkist Growers Corporation, which produces the fruit it contains. The Sunkist Growers Corporation maintains a range of trade marks for products derived from its citrus produce.
Perhaps it is time for a Sunkist revival in the UK? We could all use a little sunshine.
This is one for technology geeks. Long before the iPad cornered the market in touchscreen-led mobile personal computing, the PalmPilot was the way to organise your life and stay connected.
Featuring an easily misplaced stylus and resolutely monochrome screen, the PalmPilot was the first successful mass market Personal Digital Assistant. So popular was the brand that, even after pen manufacturer Pilot succeeding in objecting to the “pilot” element of the name, it stuck to the extent that consumers began referring to any device of its type as “a PalmPilot”.
However, from near-genericide, brand-fortunes changed. Following the sale of Palm Inc to HP in 2010 momentum stalled and just a year later HP stopped making Palm devices – nearly 20 years after the brand first launched.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
The Palm trade mark was sold to Chinese electronics firm TCL in 2014 with a view to resurrecting it for “crowdsourced smartphones”. In 2018 a new “Palm” came on the scene, in a TCL-backed venture to develop a slimmed down smart device that is designed to solve the smartphone addiction by being less immersive than conventional smart devices, minimising distractions to keep people “connected, not consumed”.
Aimed at tapping into the desire to eliminate screen-fatigue, the new Palm is backed by NBA star Stephen Curry as an investor and advisor, and is being marketed as a tool for “minimalists, athletes, and families” who want few distractions from the life in front of them.
Whether it ultimately proves effective against the power of digital dopamine – and some pretty big brand competitors – remains to be seen.
The Sweater Shop
For a period in the 1980s it was not unusual to see entire families decked out in colourful sweaters with “The Sweater Shop” embroidered proudly on their chests. Founded in Leicestershire in 1973, the brand quickly grew its High Street presence across the UK, sponsoring the 1995 Snooker Open Championship and opening a factory in Scotland with Diana, Princess of Wales cutting the ribbon in 1992. That year it was subject to a management buyout of £150m. However, its multicoloured fortunes faded and the business went into receivership in 1998, closing its 78 stores.
A search of the UK IPO trade mark register reveals a number of expired UK marks in the name of the original Leicestershire company, plus current EU and UK marks under the ownership of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
Sadly, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which also owns the Jaeger and Peacocks brands, is a recent casualty of difficult trading conditions and has appointed administrators, so we’re unlikely to see the brand make a return soon. Still, the affection with which it is remembered is evidenced by the fact that vintage Sweater Shop items can be found changing hands for £125 on eBay – time to clear out your cupboards perhaps?
Brand bargains – ASOS swoops on Top Shop and Miss Selfridge
The power of nostalgia means that brand assets remain valuable decades after their heyday. Forward-thinking investors can do worse than count on the inevitability of nostalgia and invest as the intellectual property rights for some of today’s struggling brands become available. ASOS is doing just that in its swoop for the much-loved Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge brands – while the switch to digital is now inevitable for these High Street favourites, we wouldn’t bet against them reappearing in real life in the decades to come.
So, while it might be hard right now to imagine looking back at 2020 with a rosy glow of reminiscence, it could be worth taking a bet on the future value of today’s IP assets.
For a look at how brand IP rights are proving a big draw for bankruptcy bidders in the US, check out this article from The Fashion Law.
Maintaining a legacy trade mark for future use means keeping close track of renewal dates and deadlines. To find out how WebTMS can help you keep track of your trade mark portfolio, visit https://www.webtms.com/im-a-brand-owner-in-a-corporation/