I woke up in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada this morning with my nine-year old son, Tate, whistling the Old Spice tune on his way to hockey camp. The cologne my grandfather wore. The cologne my father wore. Now the deodorant and body spray my son proudly wears and happily whistles the tune to.
When I was a kid I remember seeing two bottles of cologne on my daddy’s dresser – Old Spice and Brut 33 by Faberge. I didn’t know their names, but I recognized the cream-colored bottle with a red ship and the green glass bottle with a silver-colored medallion. I think just about every dad in America owned one or both bottles.
Old Spice, launched its first product called Early American Old Spice for women in 1937, followed by Old Spice for men in 1938 – 79 years ago. Their rival, Brut, grooming and fragrance products was first launched in 1964 by Faberge – 53 years ago.
I own a few fancy colognes – Acqua di Parma being my favorite. But I must admit, I also own both bottles of Old Spice and Brut 33. Call me nostalgic – the fragrances make me think of my father and grandfather.
If I ask my son Tate if he wants to wear Brut 33 by Faberge, he would say, “Never heard of it!” But every time he pulls out the Old Spice, he whistles the tune. The kid loves the products and he loves the TV commercials.
Old Spice reinvented itself. Four generations later – from my grandfather, to my father, to me and to my sons – still relevant today.
Brut 33 by Faberge, on the other hand, will most likely die when I die.
Makes we wonder – if Old Spice, a 79-year old company, can reinvent itself, why didn’t these eight companies find a way to reinvent themselves?
1. Blockbuster video rental – founded in 1985 and became the world’s largest movie rental and video game chain. In 2004, it had more than 9,000 stores and more than 60,000 employees. Blockbuster filed bankruptcy in 2010.
2. Pan Am – founded in 1927 and once the most prominent international airline. Filed bankruptcy in 1991.
3. Concorde Airplane – built in 1969 as the first supersonic passenger plane. They flew for 27 years but its low profitability and a single accident forced them to exit the market in 2003.
4. Kodak – founded in 1889, no other brand in the world dominated the photographic equipment market like them- declared bankrupt in 2010.
5. Tower Records – pioneered the concept of the big-box music retail store. Filed bankruptcy in 2004.
6. Polaroid – founded in 1937 and was the pioneer and leader of instant camera’s. Filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
7. Circuit City – founded in 1949 and once the number two electronics retailer (behind Best Buy). Went bankrupt in 2008.
8. Borders – founded in 1971 and once the second largest big-box bookstore (behind Barnes & Nobles). Bankrupt in 2011.
The list goes on and on. There are other once dominant brands, like Blackberry, Sears and JC Penny that are on the endangered list as well.
Is your company Old Spice? Or is it Brut by Faberge?
Whatever industry you are in, we are all one move away from becoming irrelevant. Your customers don’t all have to whistle your company jingle, but they sure as heck all need to be drinking your Kool-Aid.
A few years ago, I ran into the Director of Product Development for Old Spice. She and her team were doing an off-site corporate meeting at C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado. I proudly told her that my grandfather and father used their products. I also shared with her my concern for their company’s relevance. I’ll never forget her response. This woman had more passion and excitement about the future of Old Spice. She assured me that my kids will be whistling the Old Spice tune and using their new product line for years to come. Reinvent or die was her team’s motto.
And she was right, three years later both of my boys are whistling the Old Spice tune.