Monday 11 February 2019 10:39 am

It’s time for brands to let their old products pass away

Corporate giants in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector have been sitting on their hands for the past decade, waiting for the startup bubble to burst so that they can rule the supermarket shelves once again.

They’ve been dozing, and are only now realising that these plucky challengers aren’t going away.

The number of brands out there is immense. They won’t all survive, but the ones that will understand a simple truth: you need a quality product that’s actually relevant to today’s consumer.

Unfortunately, some big corporates are too far out of touch to know the difference, and think that a new lick of paint will cut it.

But now is the time to be brave – nostalgia is no reason to keep an old brand of products around.

A fresh generation of brands are harnessing new data and technology to make things in a better way. As well as creating better products, they’re maximising the opportunities offered by science and technology to make goods that use less of our planet’s natural resources.

These are the businesses that we need to make way for.

It’s widely recognised that consumers would be happy if 75 per cent of brands disappeared tomorrow. There’s simply too much stuff. Instead, we need to champion quality over unnecessary quantity. Big corporates need to get back into that old entrepreneurial mindset, and ask themselves honestly: would this brand be created today?

Of course, nostalgia can create a strong emotional connection with the consumer; marketers have leveraged it for years as a mechanism for creating desire.

However, the brands that harness nostalgia well also offer a fresh and relevant perspective on the future. They have an understanding of modern culture and how it’s changing. They ask: “what is my role as we move into the future?”.

Take Marmite. It’s not necessarily a product that would thrive if launched today, but over the past 116 years the brand has become a household staple.

Brave campaigns such as “End Marmite Neglect” have drawn on its heritage status, while engaging a modern audience, winning an influx of new consumers, and helping those that may have drifted away to rediscover the product.

In recent years, the high street has seen the demise of brands that had outstayed their welcome in the modern world. Look at Woolworths or Blockbuster: they were simply too slow to tap into consumer demand or see what was coming from the likes of Amazon and Netflix.

Maybe we need to start seeing more of this extinction in the FMCG world, so that businesses’ intellect and energy can be spent on behaving in more challenging and progressive ways.

There can be no more excuses. If your product’s not relevant or isn’t answering a specific need in a smart way, let it go.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.