May 02, 2011

A 1974 Chevy Nova

In Gliebers Dresses: Catalogs on Trial (Amazon Kindle, B/N Nook, $0.99), we deal with the concept of a "1974 Chevy Nova".

My first car was a 1974 Chevy Nova.  I paid $800 for her in the Spring of 1988.

In the Spring of 1989, it was time for a new car.  

You'd shut the car off, and pull the keys out of the ignition.  You'd close the door, and you'd walk into your local Perkins Restaurant.  Thirty seconds after entering the restaurant, the car would still be running.  Eventually, she'd shut herself off ... making a "PIRRRRRRRROOOOOWWWWW" sound, followed by a "BANG", and a puff of dark blue smoke.

Now, I could have rebuilt the car, from scratch.  She was rusty.  The front grill was damaged after hitting a deer at 50mph on a freeway.  She needed new tires.  The carburetor was ruined from an incident where I accidentally put unleaded gasoline in the car.  Or, I could have gone out and purchased a new car.  In other words, I could have continued to invest in what was old, or I could have invested in something new.

If I were to rebuild her in 2011, I'd have two choices:
  • I could restore her to her original condition, as she was back in 1974, and then buy a modern, 2011 SUV or mini-van or sedan, loaded with all of the modern conveniences offered by modern cars.  I could park two cars in my driveway.
  • Or, I could modernize the 1974 Chevy Nova, with all of the latest gadgets and gizmos.  I could add a navigational system, I could toss in a subwoofer and iPod connectivity.  I could install a moon roof ... you get the picture!  But she'd still be a 1974 Chevy Nova, an odd one at that.
This is the decision that we face, as shepherds of brands.  Do we add social media to a brand embraced by a 62 year old customer?  Do we add mobile to a brand embraced by a 58 year old customer unlikely to ever own an iPad?  Or do we "park two brands in our driveway", one that is authentic and relevant to the 1974 Chevy Nova audience, and one that is appropriate and relevant to a twenty-eight year old Mom needing a mini-van?

This is an important issue that the Management Team at Gliebers Dresses face.  Best practices suggest that you modernize your 1974 Chevy Nova, making it a "multi-channel" vehicle.  

You could also consider parking two cars (brands) in your driveway, each one suited for different purposes.  You could let the 63 year old feel nostalgic about driving the '74 Chevy Nova, and you could allow the 36 year old to drive a functional vehicle tailored to the needs of a 36 year old.

You do not have to force "multi-channel" upon every customer in the same way, do you?  There's nothing wrong with building a "social" or "mobile" brand, from scratch, letting a classic catalog brand do what it does best, while making a bet on the future.