What’s in a Name

Recently, there has been an interesting uptick in the return of nostalgia brands. This was brought home by the announcement in late August of the return of the iconic FAO Schwarz toy store brand.

FAO Schwarz, which closed in 2015 and was owned by the now defunct Toys “R” Us, was acquired by ThreeSixtyGroup Inc., in 2016. The firm has big plans to revive the brand, beginning with a bricks and mortars presence in Rockefeller Center which is being designed to be “as much about the experience as the buying” and is set to include “product demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing various costumed roles, including toy soldiers.” Further, the costumes for the toy soldiers have been designed by one of the millennial celebs of the moment, Gigi Hadid, a super model, designer and general lifestyle influencer.

Everything old is new again?

Several other retail brands of the past appear to have captured the hearts of consumers. Adidas has hopped on the athleisure wear bandwagon and has also been endorsed by a number of celebrities of all ages. Ditto, the Birkenstock, a brand formerly worn by the socially, not fashion, conscious. This list goes on, Tommy Hilfiger, Polaroid and almost every comic book character you knew as a child. And who can forget the public mourning, followed by jubilant celebration, over the imminent demise and subsequent rescue of Hostess Twinkies, when Hostess Brand went under?

Every brand needs a face

Much of the success of recent brand revitalization has been through an association with a successful spokesperson, celebrity or retail brand; the FAO Schwarz brand is a prime example. Celebrity collaborations are becoming a commonplace to draw attention and potentially a new audience to a brand. Gigi Hadid, for example, really gets around; she has also collaborated with Tommy Hilfiger to revitalize that brand and with Stuart Weitzman, a maker of classic high-end women’s shoes, to bring the brand to a new, younger audience.

When EF Hutton talks (again) will everyone listen?

Financial services have been less interested in reviving old brands, which may be because most brands have disappeared under less than positive circumstances. But there is an example in the revival of the once venerable EF Hutton brand, which disappeared in the 1990s through various mergers after the firm suffered a number of financial and regulatory issues. Fast forward to the 2000s, and the brand, then owned by Citigroup, was sold during the financial crisis to a group that includes a grandson of EF Hutton.

The new EF Hutton was formally relaunched in 2016 and offers online discount trading, a digital advisor platform and research on cryptocurrency, as well as being the sponsor of a prospective new cryptocurrency exchange known as ACEx. No information is available on how the firm is doing, so it remains to be seen whether the nostalgia for brands of the past extends to the less tangible world of financial services. This leads one to ponder the question of who would be an appropriate celebrity spokesperson, influencer or collaborator for reviving an old financial services brand. We’re guessing Warren Buffett is otherwise occupied, unfortunately….