Brands in the Retrospective. A consumer motivation study

Master's Thesis, 2004

112 Pages, Grade: 8 (1,7)


Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 General introduction to the topic
1.2 Problem statement
1.2.1 Sub questions
1.3 Delimitations of the study
1.4 Contributions of the study
1.4.1 Theoretical contribution
1.4.2 Practical contribution
1.5 Outline of the study

2 Brands and Brand Revival
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The concept of the brand
2.2.1 Brand definition
2.2.2 The role of a brand for consumers
2.2.3 Role of a brand for companies
2.3 Retro branding
2.3.1 The notion of brand equity
2.3.2 Definition of retro branding
2.3.3 Differentiation to similar concepts
2.4 Conclusion

3 Opportunities and Risks of Brand Revival (Retro Branding)
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Changed conditions of brand management
3.2.1 Savvy consumers
3.2.2 Brand proliferation
3.2.3 New brand launches with increased competition
3.2.4 Ageing customer bases
3.3 Retro branding and line extension
3.3.1 Line extension
3.3.2 Integrating retro branding
3.4 Opportunities of retro branding
3.4.1 Consumer level
3.4.2 Retail level
3.4.3 Company level
3.5 Risks of retro branding
3.6 Conclusion

4 Factors Influencing the Intention to Buy Retro Brands
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The basic influencing concepts of nostalgia and authenticity
4.2.1 Nostalgia
4.2.2 Nostalgia and retro brands Communal nostalgia Personal nostalgia Historical Nostalgia
4.2.3 The Quest for Authenticity
4.2.4 Quest for authenticity and retro brands
4.3 Additional influencing factors
4.3.1 Identity and retro brands
4.3.2 Individualism and retro brands
4.3.3 Brand familiarity and retro brands
4.3.4 Perceived quality and retro brands
4.3.5 Updating and retro brands
4.4 Conclusion

5 Methodology
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Primary data and secondary data
5.3 Qualitative versus quantitative research
5.4 Research Approach
5.5 Analysis of the results
5.6 Assessment of the Research
5.7 Conclusion

6 Discussion of the Results
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Nostalgia
6.2.1 Proposition 1a
6.2.2 Proposition 1b
6.2.3 Proposition 1c
6.2.4 Proposition 1d
6.3 Authenticity
6.3.1 Proposition 2a
6.3.2 Proposition 2b
6.4 Identity
6.4.1 Proposition 3
6.5 Individualism
6.5.1 Proposition 4a
6.5.2 Proposition 4b
6.6 Familiarity with the brand name
6.6.1 Proposition 5a
6.6.2 Proposition 5b
6.6.3 Proposition 5c
6.7 Perceived Quality
6.7.1 Propositions 6a and 6b
6.7.2 Proposition 6c
6.8 Updating
6.8.1 Proposition 7
6.9 Additional factor: cheating
6.10 Conclusion
6.10.1 Initial trial of retro brands by older consumers
6.10.2 Ongoing purchases of retro brands by older consumers
6.10.3 Initial trial of retro brands by younger consumers
6.10.4 Ongoing purchases of retro brands by younger consumers

7 Conclusion
7.1 Recommendations
7.1.1 Product-Related Decisions
7.1.2 Promotion-Related Decisions
7.1.3 Price-Related Decisions
7.1.4 Place-Related Decisions
7.1.5 Outlook
7.2 Further Research
7.3 Limitations

8 References

9 Appendix

Table of Figures

Figure 2.1: Roles of brands from the customer perspective (adopted from Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002)

Figure 2.2: Roles of brands from the perspective of a company with respect only to firm interactions with consumers; not company intern (adopted from Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002)

Table 3.1: Confrontation of the characteristics of line extensions and retro branding to show analogies

Figure 3.1: System of objectives for retro branding (adopted from Caspar, 2002)

Figure 4.1: Conceptual Model of factors that have an influence on the intention to buy retro brands

Figure 6.1: Influencing factors for older respondents: “Why would you buy a retro brand?”

Figure 6.2: Influencing factors for younger respondents “Why would you buy a retro brand?”

Figure 6.3: Authenticity perception of retro brands (Older respondents): “In how far would you describe these brands as Authentic?”

Figure 6.4: Authenticity perception of retro brands (younger respondents): “In how far would you describe these brands as authentic?”

Figure 6.5: General buying behaviour description of older respondents: “What do you look for in your general buying behaviour?”

Figure 6.6: General buying behaviour description of younger respondents: “What do you look for in your general buying behaviour?”

Figure 6.7: Reasons where a relationship is seen between today’s society and the trend towards retro brands (older respondents)

Figure 6.8: Reasons where a relationship is seen between today’s society and the trend towards retro brands (younger respondents)

Figure 6.9: Reasons why retro brands are seen as a point of difference by the older respondents

Figure 6.10: reasons why retro brands are seen as a point of difference by the younger respondents

Figure 6.11: familiarity with the brand name of a retro brand positively influences the buying intention (older respondents)

Figure 6.12: familiarity with the brand name of a retro brand positively influences the buying intention (younger respondents)

Table 6.1: Familiarity with the brand name of a retro brand diminishes the risk perception (older and younger respondents)

Table 6.2: Familiarity with the brand name of a retro brand positively influences the initial trial/spontaneous purchase of the brand (older and younger respondents)

Table 6.3: The quality perception of retro brands (older and younger consumers)

Figure 6.14: Justification of a higher price of retro brands compared to competitive offerings (younger respondents)

Table 6.4: Evaluations of older and younger respondents concerning the updating of retro brands

Figure 6.15: Influencing factors and their interactions in the initial trial of a retro brand (older consumers)

legend 6.1: Definition of the strength of influencing Factors

Figure 6.16: Influencing factors and their interactions for ongoing purchases of a retro brand (older consumers)

Figure 6.17: Influencing factors and their interactions in the initial trial of a retro brand (Younger consumers)

Figure 6.18: Influencing factors and their interactions for ongoing purchases of a retro brand (younger consumers)


I would like to thank all of my supporters during the last time. Everyone who helped me make the last months of my study a rather pleasant than awful time.

First of all, I want to thank my mother Gabi Grosskopf and my stepfather Wolle Hesse. They have been there for me nearly 24/7 and helped me a lot when my motivation was down. Especially their late-breakfasts on Sundays always gave me a valuable break. Thanks to my “little” brother Jonas, for helping me with all my computer-, but also inspiration-related problems. Thanks to my boyfriend Nicolas Tschechne, who supported and helped me especially in the beginning of my work to see the essential, but also provided me with the ambition to keep on, being the aim to meet him Down Under (Hello Australia!). Thanks to my father, Lutz Henning for his efforts to make everything evident again and bringing me back on the path, which also is true for Anna Maria Schulz. Thanks also to my friends, but especially Friederike von Natzmer, Judith Rösing, Kirsten Schmäing, Vanessa Sauer, Philip Rawe and Daniel Asselmann for consulting me repeatedly, and being there.

Of course, I am very thankful to all my interview partners, who gave me one hour of their valuable time: Daniel Asselmann, Antonia Buller-Audick, Sebastian Eggert, Jutta Finke-Schneider, Gabi Grosskopf, Regine Grosskopf, Jonas Henning, Lutz Henning, Oliver Henze, Wolle Hesse, Sandra Oberliesen, Judith Rösing, Christine Schlering, Kirsten Schmäing, Anna-Maria Schulz, Kathrin Sommer, Ulrike Tschechne and Wolfgang Tschechne.

Furthermore, I thank my correction readers Friederike von Natzmer, Kirsten Schmäing, Philip Rawe and Nicolas Tschechne for providing me with valuable critics and motivations. I hope ‘too many cooks did not spoil the broth’.

Moreover, I want to thank Sonja Wendel, my supervisor for this thesis, who always provided me with valuable recommendations and material for my work, but who also made the meetings in Maastricht very motivating for me to carry on.

Finally yet importantly, I also want to thank my grand parents Hanna and Dieter Grosskopf, who “always knew that I would succeed”.

1 Introduction

1.1 General introduction to the topic

One notable trend that can be observed in the 21st century is the increasing visibility of objects that stem from or look like products of past times. In nearly every market segment consumers nowadays can find products from bygone decades. Concerning automobiles, for example, the industry offers the New Beetle of Volkswagen, a modernised version of the Mini Cooper of BWM, and the PT Cruiser of Chrysler. With regard to furniture, consumers witness the reoccurrence of beanbags, inflatable chairs and fringed carpets (Flokati), just like the ones that were popular during the 70ies. Fashion companies like Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) and C&A (founders: Clemens & August Brenninkmeyer), as well as sports wear producers like Adidas and Puma, offer clothes that look like the fashion from the 60ies or 80ies. Taking a closer look to the German market, the TV broadcasts 80ies TV-shows, such as for example “Die 80er Jahre Show” (translation: The 80ies show) or the “Comeback Show”. Add to this, nightclubs and cafes are even decorated with 70ies wallpaper. Furthermore, the beverage industry offers soft drinks and syrups that were popular during the 70ies and 80ies such as TRiTOP, Bluna and Afri Cola (Eberenz, 2003; Seidel, 2003).

Sometimes, these products are just nostalgia styled like the PT Cruiser. The vehicle looks partly like a “1920s gangster car, part[ly like a] 1950s hot rod and part[ly like a] London taxicab” (Ball, 1999). However, other products appear with the name of a once very prominent brand. These brands had either completely disappeared from the market or had become for some reason unfavourable in the eyes of consumers and sales levelled towards zero.

One of the most well known examples of these revived traditional brands is the already mentioned VW New Beetle. The brand was reintroduced in 1998; about 20 years after Volkswagen stopped producing the original Bug (Naughton & Vlasic, 1998). Since its reintroduction, sales proof very successful, already 600.000 models have been sold. Other very successful examples of currently reintroduced or “re-discovered” brands – so-called retro brands - in Germany are TRiTOP, Ahoj-Brause, Afri Cola, Brauner Bär ice cream, and Crème 21, amongst others. If one considers this multitude of revived brands, it seems that managers can reintroduce nearly any ancient brand successfully on the market. Indeed, there are several advantages for a company if it revives a brand, especially when compared to the introduction of a completely new brand. However, there also exists a certain challenge for a firm, as to how to make a brand popular again, which was for some reason no longer attractive for consumers. Thus, it is important for a brand manager to know how consumers evaluate these revived brands. Managers need to know what makes these so-called retro brands valuable for a customer to buy. Furthermore, a brand manager also faces the challenge of how to consolidate two potential consumer groups: those who still know it from their youth and those who are too young to remember the brand from its first time on the market.

This final thesis aims at exploring the factors that influence consumers to buy retro brands. These factors can then be regarded as an anchor for marketing managers on how to handle the elements of the marketing mix. More specifically, this concerns which decisions marketing managers have to consider with respect to the revived brand itself, its promotional programme, its pricing strategy, as well as its distribution. This leads to the following problem statement:

1.2 Problem statement

Which factors influence consumers to buy retro brands, and how do these factors affect decisions concerning the marketing mix?

1.2.1 Sub questions

1 ) How can retro branding be defined?

2) What are the opportunities and risks for a company in reviving a brand?

3) What are the influential factors for a consumer’s intention to buy retro brands?

The first sub-question is essential to clarify what retro branding is. In order to explain this, the concept of a brand in general has to be understood, as well as its role for consumers and companies. In this context, the notion of brand equity is essential, as it supports to define the strategy of retro branding. Furthermore, retro branding has to be distinguished from similar sounding or similar concepts.

The second sub-question further explores the strategy of retro branding and integrates it into the existing brand management literature. Retro branding’s analogies with the strategy of line extension are pointed out. Based on these analogies, the opportunities and risks for a company to revive a brand can be derived from the advantages and disadvantages of line extensions.

Finally, to answer the problem statement, it is crucial examine the influential factors concerning the intention to buy retro brands as they are presented in the existing literature. These factors are addressed in the chapter answering the third sub-question.

1.3 Delimitations of the study

The underlying thesis explores the popularity of retro brands from the customer perspective in order to conceptualize implications for management how to handle revived brands. Researchers such as for example Brown, Kozinets and Sherry (2003) addressed the issue of retro brands from a consumer perspective as well. In essence, they analysed retro brands with the help of a netnographic study. More specifically, they investigated chat room postings over a three month period. The study focus was on two very prominent, internationally well known brands, namely the VW New Beetle and the Star Wars movies. As these brands gathered a great international community of fans over the years and are therefore examples that represent a special era in world history, their study has to be seen in a more widespread and global context.

The underlying study, in contrast, is mainly examining only national specific examples, such as “Crème 21”, “TRiTOP”, “Ahoj”, effervescent powder, “Afri Cola”, “Bluna” lemonade and “Brauner Bär” Ice Cream. These brands are only available on the German market or in German speaking countries. Thus, this study has to be seen on a more narrow and national level. During the interviews, international retro brands were talked about as well, such as the VW New Beetle and Adidas. However, the respondents only used them to exemplify or contrast certain themes.

Concerning the individual factors of the conceptual model presented in Chapter 4, similarities can often be found in their descriptions. Either in the descriptions of the typical behaviours concerning these factors, or concerning what the brands might represent. This might be because the factors are interrelated, thus depend on each other or influence each other. In fact, all factors are based on descriptions of consumer behaviour or ways of thinking, which makes it even more difficult to grasp them in isolation from each other. Therefore, in some cases it is cumbersome, to see the clear differentiation between one factor and the other. For example, the two factors communal nostalgia and identity are quite similar in their descriptions of what a brand represents. Another example is the factor authenticity, which has many similarities to the description of identity. In fact, much authenticity-searching behaviour of consumers is intended to (re)connect with identity (Lewis & Bridger, 2000).

Furthermore, due to the complexity of the topic as well as its unexplored nature, probably not all variables or factors have been taken into account for the development of the conceptual model in Chapter 4. In addition, this also made the definitions of, or propositions about, potential interrelationships between the factors difficult. Therefore, no links between the factors are identified in the conceptual model (Figure 4.1). Consequently, the qualitative study, which is based on this model, did not consider these links. However, due to the open-ended questions, some factors became clearer through the descriptions of the respondents. In addition, some interrelationships between the factors could be identified during data analysis.

1.4 Contributions of the study

The contributions of this research are twofold. On the one hand, it has an added value to academic literature, on the other hand, it offers suggestions for business, more specifically, brand management.

1.4.1 Theoretical contribution

The emergence of retro brands is a topic, which has only sparsely been researched until now (e.g. Brown, Kozinets & Sherry, 2003, Brown, 1999, 2001a). This will become clear also during the fourth chapter, where the existing literature on retro brands is examined. Most of the applied literature is only of theoretical nature derived from expert interviews published in newspapers, as well as from books; however, not from empiric research. This study will thus explore the topic further to contribute more insights to the limited existing empiric knowledge. More specifically, it will study retro branding from a consumer perspective. In particular, consumers will be asked to frame their motivations, which may influence them to buy retro brands. Furthermore, this thesis integrates retro branding into the existing brand management literature. More specifically, the underlying study considers retro branding as a special type of brand extension. Although this has never been researched and thus not been proven, the author here adopts the view of Brown, Kozinets and Sherry (2003) that retro branding can be regarded as a special form of brand extension. The reasoning for this will be clarified in Chapter 3.

1.4.2 Practical contribution

The practical contribution of this study is to offer realisable suggestions for managers with respect to the introduction and management of retro brands. Whilst studying revived brands from the perspective of the consumer, the results are used to conceptualise implications for management, which elements of the brand should be stressed in the reintroduction campaign and further management of the brand. Concerning this, implications are given related to the four elements of the marketing mix: product, promotion, price, and place.

1.5 Outline of the study

The underlying first chapter introduced the topic and posed the problem statement of the study, as well as relevant sub-questions to answer this problem statement. Furthermore, the delimitations of the study were pointed out and the theoretical as well as practical contributions mentioned.

In the following, chapter two discusses the first sub-question on how retro branding can be defined. First, the concept of brands in general is explained, as well as how they differentiate from products. Second, the roles brands play for consumers and for companies are discussed. Finally, retro branding is defined and differentiated from similar sounding concepts.

The third chapter gives an answer to the second sub-question of what are the opportunities and risks for a company in reviving a brand. First, changing conditions within the field of brand management are examined. Then, retro branding is integrated into the existing branding literature strategy, and its analogies with the strategy of line extension are pointed out. From this, the opportunities and challenges for a firm concerned with the revival of a brand are pointed out.

Chapter 4 examines the existing literature for factors, which could influence consumers to buy retro brands. Thus, the third sub-question is answered. From these factors propositions are drawn, which serve the development of the interview guide used in this study.

Chapter 5 describes the methodology of the conducted qualitative interview research. The research is a deductive exploration of the topic, conducted amongst a sample of eighteen respondents.

Further, Chapter 6 discusses the results from the interviews and provides interpretations of them. Finally, the concluding seventh chapter answers the problem statement on how the most important factors in consumers’ intention to buy retro brands influence their marketing mix. Thus, recommendations are derived from the discussion concerning the four elements of the marketing mix, further research possibilities are proposed, and the limitations of the study are discussed.

2 Brands and Brand Revival

2.1 Introduction

The following chapter answers the first sub-question on how retro branding can be defined. The chapter is divided in three sections. The first section deals with the concept of the brand in general and its different roles for consumers and firms. The second section introduces the concept of brand equity and subsequently defines retro branding and differentiates it from similar sounding concepts. The third section provides a summary of the chapter and gives an answer to the first sub-question.

2.2 The concept of the brand

2.2.1 Brand definition

The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition” (Keller, 2003, p. 3). According to this definition, the essence in creating a brand is to choose a name, logo, symbol, package design, or other characteristic that gives a product its own identity and distinguishes it from others. These identifying and differentiating components of a brand are called brand elements (Keller, 2003).

However, Keller (2003) remarks that many brand managers understand a brand as more than the definition given by the AMA. They define a brand “in terms of having actually created a certain amount of awareness, reputation, prominence, and so on in the marketplace” (Keller, 2003, p. 3).

Meffert, Burmann and Koers (2002) point out that there has to be made a differentiation of the brand concept, as there is the legal brand definition, the business definition of a branded product and the brand perception in the minds of consumers. Thus, in the legal sense (Neumann, 1992: §1, 1), a trademark primarily serves the differentiation of the product of one producer from those of another. Its producer guarantees that its supply is always of the same or increased quality. In addition, its appearance or packaging is always marked with a sign (company name, word or symbol) that identifies its origin (Lehnich, 1956: §38a, 2, 1).

The business definition of a branded product given by Meffert et al. (2002) complies with the AMA definition quoted above. In their work, Meffert et al. (2002) stress the behavioural economic definition of brands from a customer perspective. In this respect, they define a brand as a definite, distinctive image of a product or service positioned as such in the mind of consumers. The product or service serves a market, which is as large as possible over a long time period. Furthermore, the offering is presented in a homogeneous appearance and with an identical or improved quality (Meffert et al., 2002).

Similarly, Riedel (1996) summarises the constitutive characteristics of a brand as being a distinctive identification mark, having an identical or improved quality, an identical supply and a homogeneous appearance.

Furthermore, with respect to a brand, it is of importance to note the difference to a product. Kotler (2002) notes that a product is anything that can be offered to a market for attention, acquisition, use, or consumption that might satisfy a need or want. A brand can therefore be seen as a product. However, it is a product that adds other aspects or values, which differentiate it in some way from those products that are designed to satisfy the same need or want. These differentiating dimensions might be of a rational and tangible nature, thus related to the functional product performance of the brand; or they might be more of a symbolic, emotional and intangible nature, thus related to what the brand represents (Keller, 2003). In this respect, the following quote of Achenbaum (1993) is valuable: “…what distinguishes a brand from its unbranded commodity counterpart and gives it equity is the sum total of consumers’ perceptions and feelings about the product’s attributes and how they perform, about the brand name and what it stands for, and about the company associated with the brand” (c.f. Keller, 2003, p.4).

Thus, some brands will provide a company with a competitive advantage only through product performance. Other brands achieve a competitive advantage by non-product related means, through relevant and appealing image creations surrounding the product. Therefore, marketers try to understand consumer motivations and needs, and then turn those desires into associations connected to the brand (Keller, 2003).

Here comes into play the marketing mix of a brand. More clearly, there are a great number of associations that can be linked to a brand and brand managers have many different possibilities to create them. In essence, the entire marketing program can influence how consumers understand and perceive a brand and how they value it. This includes the brand itself, its name, its packaging, its price, promotional strategies etc. All these elements must be appropriate to consumer’s perception of the brand, appealing, and differentiating (Keller, 2003).

Now that the concept of the brand has been defined and clarified, it is important to understand the roles a brand can play for consumers as well as for companies. These will be discussed in the following two sections.

2.2.2 The role of a brand for consumers

With respect to consumers, branding literature (De Chernatony & McDonald, 1998; Gotta, 1994; Huber, 1997; Keller, 2003; Riedel, 1996) presents several roles that brands play. They are discussed in the following, as well as displayed in Figure 2.1.

First, brands serve as an identification mark for the source or the maker of the product, so that products and services can be distinguished. In fact, this represents the basic idea of branding (Riedel, 1996). As such, the brand increases the transparency of the market so that consumers are able to identify a product faster as being the requested (Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002). Meffert et al. (2002) argue that this so-called orientation role of the brand serves the consumers’ need for convenience, meaning that their search and information efforts are reduced. For example, with the help of names, symbols, signs, colour composition etc. associated with a brand a consumer can easily distinguish two brands of body milk, e.g. Nivea and Dove, or two brands of instant coffee, e.g. Jacobs Suchard and Nestlé.

Second, next to the orientation role of a brand, Meffert et al. (2002) mention the relief role of a brand. Product decisions usually take place under conditions of imperfect information (Meffert et al., 2002). However, consumers learn about a brand over the years from experience with it. Consequently, with a repurchase of the brand, the consumer obtains a significant acceleration and simplification of the buying process and thus brands allow him to lower search costs (Keller, 2003; Meffert et al., 2002). This is true for both internal – the amount of thinking and processing needed – and external search costs – the amount of time needed to look around. Based on consumers’ already existing recognition and knowledge about a brand – in terms of quality, product characteristics, etc. – they can make assumptions and derive realistic expectations about what they may not yet know about the brand. Thus, they do not have to engage in much more additional thought and processing of information when making a product decision (Keller, 2003). Meffert et al. (2002) as well as Riedel (1996) put it this way: brands function as so-called “information chunks” with which customers associate many different combined cognitions. Thus, they serve as a complexity relief under conditions of increased information abundance (Meffert et al., 2002; Riedel, 1996).

Third, Keller (2003) points out that the relationship between a consumer and a brand can be seen as a promise, bond or pact. The brand on the one hand – representing the maker of the product - “promises” that it will behave in a certain way, that it will provide the consumer utility through consistent product performance, and that its pricing, promotion, and distribution programs will be appropriate. The consumer, on the other hand, offers its trust and loyalty in return. Thus, as long as the consumer derives satisfaction from product consumption, he can be expected to continue to buy the brand. Meffert et al. (2002) term this the trust role of a brand.

Fourth, brands can signal certain product characteristics to consumers, especially under conditions of perceived risks based on information deficits (Meffert et al., 2002). In this context, Keller (2003) points out various forms of risks. For example, that the product does not perform up to expectations (functional risk), that the product is not worth the price paid (financial risk), that the product poses a threat to the physical well-being or health of the user or others (physical risk), or that the product results in an embarrassment from others (social risk). The degree of uncertainty or risk perceived by a customer depends on the assessment conditions of an offering. Here the literature (Keller, 2003; Meffert et al. 2002) distinguishes between search, experience and credence goods. Whereas search goods’ product attributes can be assessed by mere visual inspection (e.g. the size, colour, weight or ingredients composition of a product) with experience goods product attributes can only be learned through trial,(e.g. durability, service quality, safety) and credence goods’ product attributes are rarely learned (e.g. with insurance coverage) (Keller, 2003). For example, in case of a holiday trip it is often difficult to assess the technical maintenance condition or security of an airplane. In these cases, consumers often rely on the airline brand, which has a reputation of security, or one with which they already had a positive experience. Thus, the brand signals a certain quality and contributes to the reduction of the perceived risk. In sum, a brand often represents a certain proof of security under conditions of perceived risk (Dawar & Parker, 1994; Meffert et. al, 2002). This security is deducted from the assumed quality of branded products (c.f. branded products are of identical or improved quality). Meffert et al. (2002) call this the quality assurance role of a brand.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.1: Roles of brands from the customer perspective (adopted from Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002)

Fifth, the benefits a consumer derives from the purchase and consumption of a brand are not always only functional in nature. Brand management literature (BBDO Consulting GmbH, 2001; De Chernatony & McDonald, 1998; Gotta, 1994; Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967; Keller, 2003; Meffert et al., 2002; Riedel, 1996) also points out that brands serve as symbolic devices (Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967; Keller, 2003) or social indicators (Gotta, 1994), which allow consumers to communicate certain values and reflect their self-image. Consumers have a perception of themselves, and one of the purposes of using particular brands is either to maintain or enhance this self-image (De Chernatony & McDonald, 1998; Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967; Meffert et al., 2002). As particular brands are associated with being used by particular types of people, they reflect different values and characteristics. With the consumption of these brands consumers can communicate to others, as well as to themselves, the kind of person they are or would like to be (Keller, 2003; Meffert et al., 2002). Meffert et al. (2002) term this the empathy or prestige role of a brand.

Figure 2.1 provides an overview display of the above-discussed roles of a brand for consumers. The following section is going to examine shortly the roles of a brand for a company.

2.2.3 Role of a brand for companies

In the following, the roles of a brand for companies will be discussed shortly. As in the underlying study mainly the roles of a brand for consumers are of importance, the subsequent discussion only involves the roles of a brand for a company with respect to the interaction with customers. These are summarised in Figure 2.2.

First, all investments by a company in a brand will optimally result in a product with unique associations and meanings held by consumers, so that it differentiates from competitive offerings (Keller, 2003). On the one hand, a brand helps that consumers can form a certain image of the brand in their minds. Meffert, Burmann and Koers (2002) call this the profile formation or preference creation role of a brand. Thus, although it is easy for competitors to duplicate manufacturing processes and product designs, the lasting thoughts and impressions in the minds of customers may not so easily be imitated (Keller, 2003). On the other hand, a brand name assists that a brand can be differentiated from competitors, its so-called differentiation role (Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002). Both roles are important as popular brands can serve as a basis for a positive overall company image. Thus, a well-known and popular brand name can function as an appropriate communication device that has positive repercussions on the overall corporate identity of a company (Meffert et al., 2002).

Next, as already mentioned in the previous section, a brand that signals a certain level of quality will probably lead satisfied consumers to choose the brand again. With this high level of satisfaction with the brand’s performance, customers are likely to become brand loyal. This brand loyalty, as a result, decreases the volatility of demand of a company (Meffert et al., 2002; Keller, 2003). Meffert et al. (2002) call this the customer loyalty role of a brand.

Furthermore, particularly strong brands enable a company to set them at a price premium and decrease consumer reactions to price changes (BBDO Consulting GmbH, 2001). Thus, the more successful a company is in positioning its brand as something “unique”, representing special values and images in the minds of consumers, the higher is its so-called price politic leeway (Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002).

The different roles a brand can play for a company with respect to the interaction with consumers are displayed in Figure 2.2.

To sum up, this section introduced some basic notions about brands and the roles brands can play for consumers (Figure 2.1) and for companies (Figure 2.2). With regard to brands, however, one of the most important concepts is the one of brand equity. It is introduced in the next section, as it is a basic concept for understanding the strategy of brand revival or retro branding, which is discussed subsequently. The terms brand revival and retro branding are used interchangeably during the process of this paper.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2: Roles of brands from the perspective of a company with respect only to firm interactions with consumers; not company intern (adopted from Meffert, Burmann & Koers, 2002)

2.3 Retro branding

2.3.1 The notion of brand equity

Brand equity can be conceptualised in various ways; either as a financial measure (e.g. Simon & Sullivan, 1993) as a measure of consumer behaviour (e.g. willingness to pay a price premium, brand loyalty, c.f. Aaker, 1991; Erdem & Swait, 1998), or as a measure of consumers’ beliefs (Keller, 1998; 2003).

In particular, the focus on the financial aspect of brand equity mainly serves the determination of a brand’s valuation for accounting, merger, or acquisition purposes (Pitta & Katsanis, 1995). From the consumer behaviour perspective, Aaker (1991) defines brand equity as a set of assets and liabilities, which are linked to a brand’s name and symbol, and which add or subtract value from the product or service. Adopting an information economics position, Erdem and Swait (1998) view consumer-based brand equity as a credible signal of a brand’s position for consumers. Keller (2003), in contrast, defines brand equity from a cognitive psychological point of view. In 1993, he first introduced customer-based brand equity, which he defines as “the differential effect that brand knowledge has on consumer response to the marketing of that brand” (Keller, 2003, p. 60). Thus, for Keller customer-based brand equity is what consumers’ belief about a brand, based on what “consumers have learned, felt, seen, and heard about the brand as a result of their experiences over time” (Keller, 2003, p.59). Customer-based brand equity is positive when customers react more favourably to a branded product than to its unbranded version. That is when the customer identifies the product because of its brand and prefers it to its unnamed version or a version with a fictitious name (Keller, 2003). Although a number of different specific views of brand equity prevail, most researchers consent on the thought that brand equity can be described as the value a brand name adds to a product (e.g. Farquhar, 1989). For the purpose of this work, the definition of the customer-based brand equity concept of Keller (2003) is adopted. It will be discussed in the following.

As already mentioned above, Keller (2003) argues that customer-based brand equity is influenced by a customer’s brand knowledge. This brand knowledge consists of two components, brand awareness and brand image (Keller, 2003). Brand awareness is defined as the ability of the customer to recognise and recall a brand in purchase and consumption situations (Keller, 2003; Aaker, 1991, 1996; Pitta & Katsanis, 1995). First, brand recognition requires that a consumer correctly identifies the brand as having previously been seen or heard about (e.g. when a consumer goes to a store and sees the brand, he recognises that he has already been exposed to it). Second, brand recall requires that consumers recall a brand from memory when given a relevant clue, such as the product category (Keller, 2003). With regard to the relative importance of both components of brand awareness, Keller (2003) points out that this depends on the extent to which the brand is actually physically present in the product-decision situation. For example, in the in-store environment brand recognition is likely to be more important, as the brand is physically present. Outside the store, it is probably more important that the consumer can generate or recall the brand from memory.

According to Keller (2003), the second component of brand knowledge – brand image – is created with the help of marketing programs. These intend to produce a positive brand image by linking “strong, favourable and unique associations to the brand in memory” (Keller, 2003, p. 70). Thus, a marketer should create a set of positive associations with the brand held in consumers’ memories. At the same time, these should contain meaningful differentiations between the brand itself and competitors’ products.

In sum, a positive customer-based brand equity with a high level of brand awareness and a distinctive brand image provides a company with a competitive advantage as it influences consumers to buy the brand. In essence, a positive customer-based brand equity is essential for a company considering to revive a no longer marketed brand. The strategy of brand revival or retro branding will be examined next.

2.3.2 Definition of retro branding

One way a company can leverage on the highly valuable asset of brand equity is the revival of an old or traditional brand. More clearly, brand revival is the reintroduction of a brand that is “being harvested or which has previously been eliminated” (http://www.buseco. This strategy is based on the belief that customers recognise the brand; that the brand still has positive customer-based brand equity (

However, if an exact reproduction of a product is brought back on the market, the problem of not being able to meet today’s performance standards exists, be it functionality, safety or quality (Brown, Kozinets & Sherry, 2003). This is then what distinguishes retro products from inherently nostalgic products and services. Retro products are a combination of old-fashioned forms with the most advanced functions. Moreover, like this, they manage to bring into line the past with the present (Brown, 1999, 2001a).

In the following, the author adopts the definition of retro branding developed by Brown, Kozinets and Sherry (2003). Thus, retro branding is: “the revival or relaunch of a product or service brand from a prior historical period, which is usually but not always updated to contemporary standards of performance, functioning or taste” (p. 20).

Concerning this, the differentiation of retro brands and nostalgic brands is of importance. Their distinguishing characteristic is the one of “updating”. Thus, a nostalgic brand is a completely new offering, which only looks old-fashioned (Brown et al., 2003).

2.3.3 Differentiation to similar concepts

The strategy of retro branding or brand revival has to be distinguished from the similar sounding or related strategies of brand reinforcement, brand revitalisation and brand re-launch.

First, whereas brand revival - or retro branding - is a one-time strategy, brand reinforcement constitutes a continual process to fortify a brand. By definition, it is an activity that is “associated with getting customers who have tried a particular brand to become repeat purchasers and with attracting new users” ( dictionary/bbb.html). Keller (1999, 2003) points out that the most important consideration with reinforcing brands is the consistency of the marketing support that the brand receives. This means both the nature and the amount of support. Consistency, however, does not mean that no changes should be made in the marketing program. In fact, changes are often needed to maintain the strategic direction and thrust of the brand when there are changes in the marketing environment (Keller, 1999, 2003). According to Keller (1999, 2003), this strategy involves marketing actions that reinforce brand equity by consistently communicating the meaning of the brand to consumers. This has to be done in terms of “what products the brand represents, what core benefits it supplies, what needs it satisfies (Keller, 1999, p.120). For example, Nivea has expanded from its basic product cream to other categories of face, hair and body care (e.g. also offering cosmetics), cementing its reputation as a maker of “care products” (Lüke, 2002). On the other hand, this involves questioning “how the brand makes those products superior?” (Keller, 1999, p.120). For example, as Black & Decker has continually developed its products further and has successfully introduced brand extensions, the brand is now seen as offering “innovative designs” in the category of small appliance products (Keller, 2003).

Second, brand revitalisation is an approach employed when a brand has reached maturity and profits begin to decline (Bradmore, 2000). This strategy actually is very similar to brand revival. Bradmore (2000) draws a distinction between brand revitalisation and brand revival, where the former is defined as just stated, the latter is “the resurrection of a brand that is being harvested or which has previously been eliminated. [With brands] where the brand name is still strong, [it] is often a less costly strategy than the creation of a new brand and may provide a firm with a significant advantage in a mature market” ( result/match/492a4710a0d94e28c4672191d410d297/index.php). According to Keller (1999, 2003) brand revitalisation comprises a general brand comeback. Keller (1999, 2003) further argues that the revitalisation of a brand requires that lost sources of brand equity are brought back or that new sources of brand equity are identified and established. Taking into account the concept of customer-based brand equity outlined previously, two general approaches for revitalisation are possible. First, the depth and/or breadth of brand awareness can be expanded by improving brand recall and recognition during purchase or consumption situations. Second, the strength, favourability, and uniqueness of brand associations – the brand image – can be improved (Keller, 1999, 2003). Therefore, the different techniques of revitalisation are an expansion of the existing market (e.g. brand extension to acquire new customers), a modification of the brand (e.g. a new packaging), a repositioning of the brand (e.g. giving it a “younger” image) or a combination of these three ( As Keller (1999) points out, the steps undertaken for brand revitalisation have to be more radical changes compared to the more incremental changes needed for brand reinforcement. For example, in 1993, Adidas, which saw its sales being taken over by rivals such as Nike and Reebok, decided to change its image as a generic sports brand for everyone. The company instead concentrated on the teenage market, refreshing its image with great success in both the sports and fashion segments (Goldman, 1994; Levine, 1996; c.f. Keller, 2003)

Third, a brand re-launch is the reactivation of a brand, which is still available on the market ( This is done not only for brands, which are not doing well anymore, but also for brands, which are doing well, but should to do better. The main objective of a re-launch should be to increase its sales, market share and profit (Kapoor, 1999). In general, a re-launched brand has usually undergone one or more changes. For example, it may be technically modified, re-branded, distributed through different channels or repositioned ( Concerning re-branding, the brand is overhauled in every element of the marketing mix, including the brand name, the product ingredients and the pricing. Finally, it is re-launched with a new price and a different appearance (Kapoor, 1999). With respect to different distribution channels, this is often the case when the current distribution channels are ineffective due to the choice of inappropriate outlets, ineffective trade margins or even an ineffective marketing strategy. In these cases, the brand is accepted by consumers and its awareness is high, it is, however, not available when and where the customers want it. Therefore, valuable advertising money is wasted (Kapoor, 1999). The repositioning, in turn, aims at changing the perceived value of the brand in consumers’ minds. Nothing is changed with the product itself, its pricing or distribution. Only the communication, often involving the packaging is changed. This approach is usually taken when consumers have accepted the product, find it affordable and available, but do not want to use it due to feelings that the brand does not match their needs or aspirations (Kapoor, 1999). An example would be the re-launch of the Fa range of toilet soaps by Henkel Spic India Ltd (Henkel). The company decided to do so as its objective in terms of market share and volumes were not achieved. In effect, it changed the product formulation, packaging and graphics, while at the same time reducing the price. Further, it supported its re-launch with a broad range advertising campaign on TV (Kamath, 2002).

To summarise, the strategies of brand revitalisation and brand re-launch comprise many of the characteristics of retro branding. This makes differentiation among the terms quite cumbersome. However, retro branding specifically involves only the comeback or re-launch of those brands from a prior historical period, whereas the other two strategies are more non-specific or broad, thus involving brand comebacks in general.

Another important differentiation is the one between the term retro branding and the concept of retromarketing. The former was defined as “the revival or re-launch of a product or service brand from a prior historical period, which is usually but not always updated to contemporary standards of performance, functioning or taste.” (Brown, Kozinets & Sherry 2003, p. 20) The latter is a position taken by Stephen Brown (2001a; 2001b). He claims that marketers should go away from the consumer centric position, where products are brought to the market in a timely and efficient manner, so that they are available when and where the consumers want them, and at a price, they are prepared to pay. Brown argues that marketers should limit the availability of products, that consumers’ expectations about the products should be heightened, and that a product should be perceived by the customers as hard to get. In sum, retro marketing is about that consumers want and should work hard for what they get, just the way marketing was like some decades ago (Brown, 2001b).

2.4 Conclusion

This chapter discussed the strategy of brand revival or retro branding by first defining a brand in general and pointing out the difference between a brand and a product. The various roles of a brand with respect to consumers were discussed, which are the identification of the source of the product, the assignment of responsibility to the product maker, the reduction of search costs, a promise, bond, or pact with the producer, a symbolic device or social indicator, a signal of quality, or a risk reducer. Furthermore, the functions of a brand for the firm were explained, yet only with respect to the interaction with consumers, as only these are of relevance for the purpose of this thesis. The roles a brand plays for a company comprise the following: a means for endowing products with unique associations, a signal of quality level to satisfied consumers, a source of secured financial return, and a source to justify a price premium.

Next, the concept of brand equity was introduced, and retro branding, which is used interchangeably with the term brand revival, was defined and described as a strategy to leverage on a brand’s equity. It was defined as the revival or relaunch of a product or service brand from a prior historical period, which is usually but not always updated to contemporary standards of performance, functioning or taste .

Finally, to clarify the concept, the differences between the terms retro branding or brand revival and the similar sounding terms brand reinforcement, brand revitalisation, and brand re-launch were explained; as well as the difference between retro branding and retro marketing.

The next chapter will examine some of the changing conditions of brand management. Furthermore, the strategy of retro branding will be integrated into the current branding literature. Moreover, based on retro branding’s analogies with the strategy of line extension, the opportunities and risks of retro branding will be discussed.

3 Opportunities and Risks of Brand Revival (Retro Branding)

3.1 Introduction

This chapter answers the second sub-question on what are the opportunities and risks for a company to revive a brand. The first section examines the changed conditions of brand management to deliver a background on today’s branding challenges. The next section discusses the strategy of line extensions and compares it with the definition of retro branding, in order to show that retro branding is a special form of the strategy of line extension. The subsequent section points out the different opportunities of retro branding on the consumer, retail, and company level. This is followed by a section, which shortly discusses possible risks of the revival of an already established brand name. Finally, the last section provides a conclusion of this chapter, giving an answer to the second sub-question.

3.2 Changed conditions of brand management

In recent years, a number of developments have occurred that significantly complicated marketing practices and therefore pose challenges for brand managers. In the following, these are examined shortly.

3.2.1 Savvy consumers

An important development in today’s market place is the extensive increase of consumers’ access to information sources. They can easily access websites or inform themselves via consumer guides, so that in total they are much more experienced and informed about the developments in the markets, where they can get the best prices and best quality, etc. (Brown, 2003; Lewis & Bridger, 2000; Keller, 2003; Shocker, Srivastava & Ruekert, 1994). Therefore, it got more complicated to convince consumers by traditional ways of communication, as they are not so easily impressed anymore by the scenes they see in advertisements and doubt more and more what they see on TV.

Furthermore, the more things become mass-produces, the less people are likely to buy them (Yovovich, 1988). Some marketers, such as Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi, believe that what consumers want from products, services, and brands, has changed. He maintains that every relationship, with a person or with a brand, can be plotted on a love-respect axis, respectively to what this relationship is based on. Nowadays, however, it is no longer sufficient for a company to just create a brand, which is respected by consumers. Instead, marketers have to create “trustmarks”, which are distinctive names or symbols that emotionally bind a company with the desires and aspirations of its consumers (Webber, 2000). Roberts (Webber, 2000) describes “trustmarks” as attractively designed and mystical in that a belief is built around them. Furthermore, they combine the past and the present in their core message (reveal their history), as well as communicate a certain spirit instead of only brand values. Ultimately, however, these “trustmarks” have to be turned into “lovemarks”, in that the brand plays a role like a partner in a love relationship (Webber, 2000). According to Roberts (Webber, 2000), this includes that brands (and thus the brand managers) take on the responsibility to keep this relationship going.

A retro brand can at least represent a “trustmark”, in that it combines the past (from which it stems) with the present (to which it is updated). Further, a retro brand is likely to communicate a certain spirit next to its brand values, as it represents the spirits of a certain time, such as the 70ies or 80ies. This, in turn, may create its mystery. Furthermore, the attractive, trendy design of a retro brand plays an important role, which can be verified in the analysis as well as the results of the qualitative research (Chapters 6 and 7 respectively).

The next section deals with the challenge of brand proliferation, and with it the multiplicity of information a consumer is exposed to today.

3.2.2 Brand proliferation

A second challenge for today’s brand management represents the steadily growing proliferation of new brands (Keller, 2003; Meffert & Giloth, 2002; Wölfer, 1994). This generates an increase in media expenses and an immense multitude of promotional messages. In this respect, it does not matter if the message contents are similar or distinct from each other, as the mere abundance of promotions makes it complicated for a consumer to differentiate brands (Keller, 2003; Wölfer, 1994). Meffert and Giloth (2002) term this a “positioning narrowness in the minds of consumers”.

Additionally, as this proliferation is in part advanced by the increase in brand and line extensions, brand names are now associated with a range of different products with varying degrees of similarity. Consequently, branding decisions made by a company are increasingly complicated, while at the same time consumers’ buying decisions get more complex (Keller, 2003).

A retro brand represents a competitive advantage in this respect, as many consumers, who know it from their childhood or youth, recognise its brand name. This already differentiates retro brands from other brands. Furthermore, in many cases, a retro brand only represents one product, or at least a concise range of products. For example, TRiTOP offers only syrup with six different tastes; Crème 21 has a cream pot, a body lotion bottle and a cream tube version. A more detailed discussion on the point of difference of retro brands deliver propositions 4a and 4b in Chapter 4, as well as the analysis in Chapter 6. Furthermore, section 3.4 provides additional opportunities concerning the use of a retro brand under conditions of increased brand proliferation. In the next section, the brand management challenge of new brand launches in a surrounding of increased global competition is addressed.

3.2.3 New brand launches with increased competition

A third challenge for contemporary brand management is due to the increased competition in product markets. This makes the establishment of new brands increasingly difficult, risky, and costly over time (Hart, 1998; Keller, 2003; Wölfer, 1994) More clearly, the development and promotion efforts rise enormously while the chances for success do not grow at the same pace if at all (Wölfer, 1994). Furthermore, the cluttered nature of the world’s trademark registers makes finding a free, available name that is without any negative linguistic associations in most countries of the world harder than ever (Hart, 1998). These challenges can even be expected to increase in magnitude with the acceleration of deregulations, internationalisation, globalisation, and low-priced competitors (Keller, 2003; Wölfer, 1994). Section 3.4 provides a discussion on opportunities of a retro brand compared to the introduction of a completely new brand, for example, decreased expenses and emotion efforts, as well as no need to search for an appropriate brand name. Next, the opportunities concerning an increased average age level of consumers are discussed.

3.2.4 Ageing customer bases

Another development influencing today’s brand management strategies is the age of the consumers. Due to declining birth rates and medical progress in Germany and other industrial countries, the average age of the population is constantly increasing. For example, prognoses say that by the year 2010 more than 40 percent of the German population will be older than 50 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2000; GfK, 2000).

Evidently, this segment growth has certain repercussions on the consumption structure. For example, empirical research on the general consumption behaviour and preferences of elder consumers has shown that elder people are more focused on quality in their product decisions (Häberle, 2000). Furthermore, Häberle (2000) found that elder consumers relate quality much more to brand names than younger consumer groups. Additionally, this segment of older people has a higher brand loyalty (Häberle, 2000). Thus, when brands are established on the market for a long time and have a high recognition amongst customers, (e.g. Nivea, Maggi etc.) it makes the establishment or acceptance of new brands amongst this older consumers group comparably difficult. This is due to the partly long-lived experience of the older consumers groups with the brand (Meffert & Giloth, 2002).


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Brands in the Retrospective. A consumer motivation study
Maastricht University  (Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Department of Marketing)
8 (1,7)
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The netherland grade 8 is comparable to german 1,7
Brands, Retrospective
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Nora Henning (Author), 2004, Brands in the Retrospective. A consumer motivation study, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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