In Case of Emergency, Break Glass and Re-brand

Zippo Lighters, the gold standard of lighters, comes to the harsh reality of a healthier, smoke-less world – works to re-brand itself in the retail world.

Remember Harley Davidson Perfume? Presumably, the idea was to create a scent so one could “smell like a biker.”

How about Gerber Singles? The idea behind this was to produce small servings of food for single adults – such as fruits, vegetables, starters and desserts – in the same jars used for baby food of all things.

These are just two examples of monumental branding flops (Celery flavored Jell-O, anyone?) that very well-known and very successful companies suffered through over the course of advertising time and lore. These are also examples of very well-known and very successful companies and owners of brands with a very high equity attempting to milk said brand, to squeeze as much as equity as they possibly can out of it, thereby essentially devaluing and demeaning the very brand they sought so hard to establish.

In Case of Emergency, Break Glass and Re-brand 1

But, what if, you were keeper of a brand with very high equity that was staring down the barrel of extinction through no fault of your own?

Light My Fire..

Enter the Zippo Manufacturing Company… they of the world-famous Zippo Lighters, of course.

Faced with the fact that the world is smoking less, getting healthier, all that good stuff, and hence the lessening need for lighters, they have decided to try and broaden their branded horizons, if you will.

Here’s two examples of their new line of retail items…

The company also plans to offer leisure clothing, sunglasses and watches, among others that will be sold via kiosks and Zippo-brand specialty stores.

To their credit, Zippo has not entered into this new era lightly… in fact they began consumer research over 10 years ago, asking fans of their brand…

“In addition to lighters, what other kinds of products would you be interested in if we offered them under the Zippo brand?”

CEO Gregory Booth describes the brand as “rugged, durable, made in America, iconic.”

In Case of Emergency, Break Glass and Re-brand 1

And the research showed that if they stayed true to these qualities and essences of the brand, they could in fact sell other products.

Only Time Will Tell…

So, will this work? Will brand loyalists and the general public welcome and accept these new products carrying the Zippo name? Obviously time will tell but my advice to Zippo would be to stick to the core of your brand and ensure these products carry with them the “rugged & durable” feel your iconic lighters have carried with them for years.

Not sure “rugged & durable” go with cologne especially when you consider the only fluid associated with Zippo is lighter fluid, but… time will tell.

I wish Zippo all the best but remember for every Swiss Army Brands Inc., which has had much success in selling luggage, watches, clothing and even fragrances – in addition to their world-famous knife, there are 3-4 Colgate Kitchen Entrees and Bic Underwear debacles.

So, what do you think?

Do you think Zippo will be ultimately successful in re-branding themselves as more than just a company that makes lighters?

Do you think they should have perhaps created a different name/brand to launch these new items?

Or was it wiser to capitalize and take advantage of the already-established brand?