Milking the Brand
Some friends were recently riffing about vacuum cleaners: “The better the vacuum cleaner, the more it sucks.” But it’s more than just comic goofing. Vacuum cleaners are also a problem for me. When I buy them, they break. Finally I stopped buying them. But I have a Hell of dust. As it happens, I was once related by marriage to an older successful businesswoman. She was successful in the rag trade, and, out of charity, taught marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She ran a national chain of lingerie stores in shopping centers. Her stores were in fact owned by the guy who owned the shopping centers. Every one of his malls had one of her lingerie stores. Apparently lingerie attracts customers to the mall, and the company would then make money by renting out the other stores. Thus she did not have to make money at lingerie, only have lots of customers. I was married to her daughter for ten years and thus observed the entire history of one product. One day my mother-in-law had the idea of licensing Hubert de Givenchy’s name and making pantyhose decorated with his characteristic G. The hose were sold as “1000 Gs”. She licensed Hubert’s name for five years. Her company owned mills in Mississippi. The first year or so, she had the mills manufacture hosiery of the highest quality which she sold at less than their true value. This established the brand. Then she sold a slighter cheaper version of the product at a slightly higher price. The last year she milked the brand. That is, she manufactured huge quantities of 1000G stockings which were all crap, but by the time people figured out 1000G stockings were crap, her licenses had expired. She had built a brand, and intentionally destroyed it. I was very surprised. She informed me that that was standard marketing practice. Now whenever I buy a vacuum cleaner which instantly breaks, I realize somebody is milking a brand.