Not with a song, but with an M & A. I'm talking brands, people. Those things which advertisers create with 'personalities'. The repositories of our 'love' and 'trust'. Now that the world and their uncle is on a buying spree, someone's gotta give. Some brands must say their goodbyes.
Now in products like steel and aluminium it probably doesn't matter. And at the corporate level you can always hyphenate it - Tata-Corus, Mittal-Arcelor. Sounds cool enough, in fact adds a little sheen - esp to the Mittal name.
But what about consumer brands? Hutch will soon be replaced by Vodafone, but really, telecom is one of the relatively easy categories. You're locked into a service by virtue of owning a number. When Orange became pink (Hutch), the transition was pretty seamless. The ubiquitous dog walked into an ad with the new candy coloured logo. Besides, you could bombard subscribers with your message via sms and use the monthly bills/ prepaid recharge card to communicate the story.
And oh, Vodafone's already killed the 'bought out brand' in 20 odd countries so by now they've probably got a 'how to manual'.
But what about other, less 'locked in' categories. What does the Acquirer company do with the acquired - competing - brand. The classic example is 'Thums Up' . After Coke bought out Ramesh Chauhan's cola brands - which had put up a spirited fight to Pepsi - the company struggled with the question. Ab kya?
Killing off 'Thums Up' was not an option. Because it was found that consumers would not necessarily, automatically, switch to Coke. So Thums Up lived on, like a neglected old family member. Its once iconic advertising (who can forget 'Taste the Thunder'!) a chapter in history.
The brand was reduced to the status of a 'tactical weapon' against Pepsi. And yet, the Grandaddy of India Cola refused to die. As recently as 2003 - 10 years AFTER Coke bought Thums Up - it was the leading cola brand in India with a market share of 23.7 % vs Pepsi's 21.6 %. As recently as 2005, Coke refused to share figures of its individual cola brands, merely stating that the Coca Cola company had a consolidated share of 60.9 %.
Makes you think hey, maybe Thums Up could have fought off these two firang brands. The fact however is that Ramesh Chauhan know his bottlers would start deserting him -so he had no choice but to sell out.
So what is the inexplicable magic of Thums Up - a brand that existed only for 16 years before its buyout? I don't know. Some kind of hangover effect? Maybe nostalgia for days past?? Of course, many simply like the stronger, fizzier taste. Which is what the advertising emphasises these days - the new 'macho' drink.
Actually, there could be a super campaign on the 'swadeshi' platform. But hey, that would be senseless. Since it is owned by the Coca Cola company...
And the point is?
That brands are entities with an irrational, emotional pull. Obviously, the best brands also offer quality products and services at prices that consumers endorse through purchase behaviour. But you never can say what will happen when you kill a trusted name - even if it's on the decline.
So there are hybrid models. Little known Chinese company Lenovo buys out IBM and kills of the acquired brand. But its notebooks retain the 'Thinkpad' tag reminding users of its IBM heritage.
Lastly, there's the 'attempted suicide' model, also known as 'repositioning and relaunch'. In this model, company apne haathon se brand ka gala ghot deti hai and hopes to see it swiftly and painlessly reborn in a new and cooler avatar. Sometimes it works - and sometimes it doesn't.
Like I recently saw an ad on TV for Dove soap which featured young women age 22 and 26. That is pretty weird because Dove has had a pretty consistent advertising campaign aimed at women in their 30s. Guess the brand believes the India 'youth' story and wants to catch 'em much before they get wrinkled.
Considering that the soap offers a tangible functional benefit ( 1/4th moisturising cream) it could work. However, women in their 20s may not actually need that extra cream - as you tend to have more oil in your skin at a younger age. And a lot of young women in the target segment use facewash these days.
Speaking of second life, there's the spectacular rebirth of AT & T. The brand was killed off after its buyout by rival Cingular a couple of years ago. Only to be revived and relaunched last month after another complex series of mergers and buyouts.
Which is wonderful news for advertising agencies, logo designers, TV networks and hoarding contractors. At least someone benefits from all the chaos. I mean think of the good people in the business of printing visiting cards...!