Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
If there’s anything absolutely true about technology and consumer tastes is that these ‘demand factors’ evolve. Nothing is static, trends come and go, and new products are always working to phase out old household names, motivated by the whims of the market and the ingenuity of the industry power players. Both factors play into the trends negatively affecting these five consumer brands.
A casual observer might place the lion’s share of the blame for Gap’s slow slide into mediocrity on the long, slow fade of malls in general. There might be some truth to that, but the plain fact is, some “mall brands” are excelling, even as the shopping centers that once housed them are emptying. These brands have found a niche and a new way to attract consumer interest. Meanwhile, Gap stores are closing as younger consumers, the former core of Gap’s customer base, are describing Gap products as “boring” or “uninspiring” or lackluster.” These are not good terms if you are trying to capture the interest of younger demos.
Once a powerhouse in the consumer appliance market, Kenmore is fading along with its former brand owner, Sears. It’s been a precipitous fall for what was once considered among the top of the line brands in the appliance market. Modern appliance manufacturers are shying away from putting the Kenmore brand on their products because customers just aren’t associating the name with “top quality” anymore. “Outdated, often forgotten,” some market watchers have described Kenmore as the “flip phone” of the smartphone era. While not necessarily outpaced in technology, from a consumer demand standpoint, the description is apt.
The Chevy Volt
Electric cars were supposed to be the wave of the future. And, for some automakers, they have been… but the Volt is fast becoming the exception to that rule. As of March 2019, Chevrolet announced the company would no longer manufacture either the Volt or the subcompact Cruze sedan. The fact is, there were too many electric or hybrid vehicles on the market, and with the SUV and light truck markets making a comeback in an era of falling fuel prices, Chevy’s Volt didn’t do enough to turn enough heads to stay competitive.
There was a time when consumers on a diet almost universally reached for SlimFast, but those days appear to be behind us. The fact is, most weight-conscious consumers these days are eating raw, going vegan, or trying keto, rather than trusting meal replacement shakes. In an effort to grab a more snack-happy consumer market, the brand tried selling cookies and protein bars, but those markets were too crowded for the brand to grab much attention. So, a brand that was purchased for $2.4 billion in 2000 sold a few years back for about $350 million.
Ask just about anyone who was a kid in the 70s through the 90s, and they will fondly remember Kraft singles. It was a staple in millions of American households for generations, slapped on burgers hot off the grill or melted into hot grilled cheese sandwiches, and served with soup on cold winter days. Modern consumers want to eat “cleaner,” so they are opting for “real” cheese or “organic” dairy, rather than “processed cheese food.” Sharp cheddar may not melt as nicely on grilled cheese, but modern consumer choices are still trending in that direction.
Targeted and effective consumer PR could help at least some of these brands turn their fortunes around. There was something consumers once wanted about these brands, and that could be something they still want if they are reminded in the right way. Alternatively, these brands could look within, find a way to shift with the market to get ahead of the trends. This begins and ends with effective market understanding and compelling consumer PR.