Old Brands, Nostalgia And Remarketing
January 27, 2004 11:26 PM   Subscribe

Old Brands Never Die; They're Just Waiting For Someone To Wake Them Up: With the Nostalgia and Retro boom playing off the increasing number of niche markets made possible by the Web, it's time to start desperately plugging those favourite, time-honoured brands which "they" unforgivably stopped making, leaving their loyal fans in the lurch. What would you bring back, given half a chance? (I'll weigh in with Sobranie Black Russian cigarettes; the original Volkswagen Beetle; the Oldsmobile or, definitely, the Olympia manual Monica typewriter.)
posted by MiguelCardoso (19 comments total)
Sobranies are the odd one out there, Miguel, because they're still being sold, just in limited markets, creating a scarcity (and the demand to pay top prices) in other places. It means there's a kind of cultural arbitrage as well as an economic one at work. Same applies to Ireland's Sweet Aftons, and I have to admit that even my fingers got twitchy for one after seeing The Royal Tenenbaums. (And I see, now, that Wes Anderson actually bought into the retro thing himself, since that brand was an allusion to Louis Malle's Le Feu Follet.) But after getting an Irish friend to buy some for me, I realised that they weren't being sold worldwide for a good reason: they're bloody awful.

There's also a distinction between 'old, lost and considered top-end even in their supposed heyday' (Sobranies) and 'old, lost and considered cheap in their day, which can now be sold with a Retro Premium'. But I'm sceptical about the so-called resurrection of 'time-honoured' brands: the Italians who 'revived' Bruce Chatwin's Moleskine haven't just exploited the brand to take it in all sorts of directions which compromise their own carefully-constructed 'aura' -- pink fur? what the fuck? More importantly, they've sacrificed the whole point of the original, which was that it didn't have an 'aura' or an 'allegory': it just did the job. Which makes Moleskines fit into the worst category of all: retro products with an invented heritage.

So while I agree with the linked piece -- that there's a paradox at work -- it also shows how much we've lost the ability to judge things, especially tools, based on their fundamentals. Meaning that I don't miss much. If you value something that's not a consumable, then you can seek it out second-hand (we can always dream) and perhaps restore it and all's well with the world.

Consumables are more problematic, especially ciggies: I know of a pipe-smoker who tried buying up as much Three Castles as he could, when rumours circulated that it was being phased out. And an old roll-yer-own colleague still complains that they 'changed' Old Holborn in the 80s, and it's never been the same since.

But the people I feel sorriest for are 'scent widows': women who go to replenish their favourite type of perfume, only to find that it was discontinued six months earlier. It's apparently far more common than you'd think.

(I do miss Spangles. I think they've tried to relaunch them a couple of times, and they've always been shit. And wanting Spangles back has been a tenet of retro product fetishism long before 'perpetual retro' was itself fashionable.)
posted by riviera at 4:34 AM on January 28, 2004

the Oldsmobile , that is made by GM, you linked Plymouth, which may have had good cars at one time, but can't think of a model I would be caught driving. As a teen it was a "mom's" car.

that such a car has been superseded by technology and simply could not be sold today: MkDonold's(sic) fries. Yet the company's first seller were their shakes.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:10 AM on January 28, 2004

Burry's Fudgetowns (and their Burry's Best chocolate chip cookies too)
posted by amberglow at 6:01 AM on January 28, 2004

Fizzies, no question......
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:10 AM on January 28, 2004

Re Plymouth: Not even a Prowler or Superbird? I think I'd donate a kidney for Hemi Superbird.

The one consumable I'd like to see come back is Schweppes Grape ginger ale. It was a sad day when I consumed the last bottle of my stock.
posted by Mitheral at 7:44 AM on January 28, 2004

Plymouth: Not even a Prowler or Superbird? I think I'd donate a kidney for Hemi Superbird.

Plymouth Prowler is stuck in my head, yet it's a Chrysler, yes or no? iirc, The Plymouth line was the fancier Chrysler models like Mercury is for Ford, why the "mom's" remark. And a Hemi "anything" would rock.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:01 AM on January 28, 2004

The Prowler was a Plymouth, but when they killed the brand they made it a Chrysler. The same goes for the Voyager, which was killed last year. The really interesting thing is that once Plymouth was killed, Chrysler erased all traces of it from its websites. That is, it was always a Chrysler Voyager - the timelines on the site prove it. It was always a Chrysler Prowler. Popular Plymouth concept cars like the Pronto? Chryslers. I found that really, really fascinating. ("Plymouth? We don't know of any Plymouth 'round here....")

The Prowler, also, was a bit of an oddball for the brand - it was there with the Neon, Breeze (decontented Dodge Stratus,) and Voyager. Plain jane cars, and a wild-looking hot rod. It just didn't gel.
posted by hijinx at 8:40 AM on January 28, 2004

also, Fudgetowns! (I do remember seeing them in canada a few years ago, but perhaps that was the last of them)

(Amberglow, that's freaky. I was just searching the web for those,
and it was the first thing I thought of when I read the FPP. )
posted by milovoo at 8:50 AM on January 28, 2004

Oh, and also, wasn't there an American version of the Aero Bar.
I think it had a different name. I miss that too.
posted by milovoo at 8:52 AM on January 28, 2004

The prowler didn't fit in with the (last) current lineup, sure; however, the original Prowler show car was cobbled together using the parts bins of those other vehicles. That's how they afforded to bring it to market - so many of the parts were already in use.

An adjacent question to Miguel's is, what brands *were* brought back, but poorly? Today's Impalas and Malibus really don't live up to their names. I have a 1970 Impala, and those bat-tailight POS's running around today don't deserve the name.
posted by notsnot at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2004

I swear that someone follows me around and makes a note of what I buy just so they can discontinue it! I'm the kiss of death for perfumes - all of my favourites have vanished from the market, but I particularly miss Aqua Manda, Woodhue and Vu. The Body Shop even trashed my moisturiser last year and I'm doomed to wrinkle, as I can't find a suitable replacement.
I miss some of the old chocolate bars the most - Aztec and the wonderful Swisskit (a muesli bar covered in plain chocolate).
I used to drive a VW Beetle and now I have a Saab 900, and they've stopped making that too!
posted by tabbycat at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2004

Is it it too early for 90's nostalgia? I miss the Newton.
posted by Scoo at 2:10 PM on January 28, 2004

I still get a craving for Carnation Breakfast Bars every so often.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:26 PM on January 28, 2004

great minds think alike, milovoo---I so miss them (poking the middle part thru and eating that first especially--next to making cups and boats and other fake things out of tin foil ringding wrappers it was heaven) : >
posted by amberglow at 3:33 PM on January 28, 2004

How about the Seven-Up candy bar? Seven different fillings in one candy bar. They were available well into the 1970s, at least; I read recently that 7-Up acquired the company so they could take full control of the Seven-Up trademark. (The candy bar predated the soft drink.)

If anyone here is interested in restarting some old candy brands, here's a great list to start from.

I didn't know Carnation Breakfast Bars were discontinued, but I am annoyed with the loss of some of my favorite varieties of Instant Breakfast. (Carnation still makes it but it's harder to find the small single-flavor boxes, and there used to be another brand that made it as well, with better taste, and that brand is gone.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:32 PM on January 28, 2004


I know what you mean about Carnation Instant Breakfast. I like the malt chocolate flavor and in the past I've had to settle for the creamy chocolate flavor.
posted by republican at 7:46 PM on January 28, 2004

oh, Big Buddy gum too--you could share a lot of it, and still have enough for yourself to last for ages.
posted by amberglow at 8:23 PM on January 28, 2004

U2 couldn't revive these if they put them in a rock video... Trabant
But I bet you if someone does (revive them that is), that this little gem will someday replace the Mini as the "it car". Maybe not. Something about this car just says "crash me" to me.
posted by hypnorich at 8:36 PM on January 28, 2004

republican: Yes, the chocolate malt was the best. Wow, that was good stuff.
posted by litlnemo at 8:58 PM on January 28, 2004

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