December 19, 2005
Big brands cashing in on retro craze
By Nichola Groom
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Everything old is new again for
many of the best known U.S. brands.
From Walt Disney Co. to Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc. to Burger
King Corp., corporations are resurrecting decades-old mascots,
logos and slogans in a bid to cash in on consumer nostalgia for
the "good old days" and the craze for anything classic, vintage
"People like to bring back the old stuff," said Jack Trout,
president of marketing strategy firm Trout & Partners. "These
are all classic brands so they have a history ... it is sort of
reintroducing the brand to a new generation, using the old
In the last year alone, Anheuser-Busch launched a series of
retro Budweiser cans, Yum Brands Inc. unit KFC revitalized the
name "Kentucky Fried Chicken," and General Mills Inc. brought
back the Jolly Green Giant from a decade-long hibernation.
Kellogg Co. put vintage packaging designs on a new line of
cereal bowls, Peanuts characters like Snoopy and Charlie Brown
turned up on high-end T-shirts, and McDonald's Corp. will
launch a vintage-inspired clothing line for young adults next
year featuring the chain's old advertising themes and
Playboy Enterprises Inc. has tapped into the swinging
history of its adult magazine by putting retro images of its
bunny logo on items from clothing to martini shakers. In
Britain, a photo exhibit of Playboy images from the past 50
years is also tied in with luxury department store Harvey
Nichols, which will sell T-shirts featuring vintage Playboy
Classic images of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters
have also undergone a renaissance after the company in 2003
struck a deal to sell retro-Mickey T-shirts and other clothing
at the Los Angeles celebrity shopping haven Fred Segal.
Since then, couture designers like Dolce & Gabbana have
also latched on to retro-Mickey, helping add $200 million to
the $1 billion in sales growth of Mickey products since 2003,
said Dennis Green, Disney Consumer Products' creative head.
The aim of the revitalization, Green said, is twofold.
"Number one is to get Disney and the brand and its
characters cool, and the number two hope is that the mass
market will jump on it," he said in an interview, adding that
nearly three years after appearing at Fred Segal, retro Mickey
products are now being sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Reinforcing a brand's history and tradition is useful,
according to Trout, because it gives corporations a way to
stand out from the crowd at a time when the market is being
bombarded with cheaper, healthier or newfangled alternatives.
"These things stick in people's minds," Trout said.
"Heritage in a category is a very powerful differentiator."
Levi Strauss & Co., where vintage details have been sewn
into everything from $500 premium denim to its more modest $39
518 jeans, is banking on just that.
"You see a lot of people coming to brands like ours for
nostalgic reasons, for simplification," said Amy Jasmer, a
spokeswoman for privately held Levi. "There is so much in the
market, they don't know which brand to choose."
Budweiser's limited edition series of three retro cans and
one bottle served a similar purpose.
"It reinforced the incredible heritage and quality that
only Budweiser can own," Anheuser-Bush's vice president of
brand management, Marlene Coulis, said in a statement.
The idea of heritage and tradition has also been key to
revitalizing the sales of some struggling brands, including
hamburger chain Burger King.
As part of a broad turnaround of the No. 2 burger chain,
Burger King in 2004 brought back its "Have it Your Way" slogan
30 years after it debuted.
"Even though billions of dollars have been spent on other
ad slogans, somehow 'Have it Your Way' continued to shine
through as one of the more indelible ad campaigns we ever
introduced," said Russ Klein, Burger King's chief global
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage)