The goal of a successful brand is to have consumers associate a certain desired quality with that brand. BMW is luxury; Obama is hope; you get the idea. Depending on what or whom you’re trying to market, there is an endless spectrum of qualities that might be appropriate to associate your brand with, but the most successful brands focus on one quality and everything else feeds into that brand image.
Corporations spend huge chunks of their budgets building, launching and zealously protecting their brands. Sometimes these efforts are effective. A brand like Coke is so strong and popular that it has withstand decades of legitimate attacks attempting to sway the public from associating Coke with smiling polar bears and happy childhood memories to focusing on the Coca-Cola Corporation’s relationship with anti-union death squads in South America or water exploitation in India. Some brands, like Spam, AIG, or Blackwater end up so deep in the crapper that they can virtually never crawl out (In fact, Blackwater officially changed it’s name to Xe (pronounced “Zee”) and the CEO of AIG admitted to Congress a few weeks ago that that AIG name was now shredded beyond repair).
You would think that having a brand associated with bankruptcy would be bad thing, right? If you were to ask people what they think about “bankruptcy” they would probably say, “It sucks,” “Fuck that,” or “If that ever happens at my job, I’m gonna tell the boss to eat my shit on the last day of work.” Not exactly what you want people thinking about the plasma screen TV, bed sheets, or remote control can opener that you’re trying to sell them.
But the New York Times reports today that liquidators – or “asset recovery specialists,” as they prefer to be known – have actually found a booming market for brands of recently bankrupted companies, like Sharper Image, Circuit City and Linen n’ Things. The brands of these failed companies are pulling in big bucks – Systemax paid $30 million for the rights to use the CompUSA brand last year. The logic is apparently that people are more willing to trust a brand that they know (sucks) that an unknown brand and it’s cheaper to buy a failed brand than it is to build up a brand from scratch.
I just hope that someday FoxNews will go bankrupt, so I can buy their brand and use it to start marketing organic fertilizer with the tag line “FoxNews: Slightly less full of shit than before.”