Pink Slip vs. Protobrand on New England’s top brands
An outfit called Protobrand recently released its list of the most powerful brands associated with New England.
I only sort of half-glanced at what they were up to, and decided to come up with my own list – without, of course, looking at their criteria. I am, after all, a lifer, a home-town-honey, so I figured it would be no sweat to come up with 25 brands that I personally, as a lifer and home-town-honey, associate with dear old New England.
Right off the bat, my thoughts went to the Big Four brands in this sports besotted region. Just walk around town a bit, and you’d have to be blind not to notice all the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and – after a bit of a hiatus – Bruins gear. Slam dunk, these have to be on anyone’s list of the top New England brands.
Put them all together, and a more modern sports-related brand comes to the fore: ESPN. I actually thought the “E” stood for “Eastern”. It doesn’t: it’s Entertainment. And, yes, they do cover everything and everybody. So maybe it’s because of Bill (Sports Guy) Simmons’ connection with ESPN, but I think of this network as “ours.”
Back to the Red Sox – the primo New England sports brand – and my mind just leapt to the brand that sponsored their televised games during my early years as a fan: Narragansett Beer. God knows whether anyone still drinks it, other than at Fenway, where it is sold, but if there’s one consumer brand that says “New England Summer” to me, it’s ‘Gansett. (‘Hi, neighbor. Hi, neighbor.’ Wherever you go, people will say, ‘Hi, neighbor, Hi, neighbor. Have a ‘Gansett lager beer.’ Now. whether those words were ever uttered in real life is another story…)
Another proud New England sports sponsor – only this time for the Friday night fights on the radio – was Gillette. Sure, they’re now owned by P&G, but they’ve still got a big facility in South Boston, and it still says Gillette on it, so: New England brand, it is.
Sports, of course, reminds me of the iconic Converse Chucks (Chuck Taylors). Gotta be on anyone’s list. Who’da thunk that the goofy sneakers that boys wore when I was a kid – available in basic black and basic white (one step up from Henry Ford’s Model T choices), and high top and low cut – would be worn by hipsters and wannabes all over the world. If my brothers had saved theirs, they’d be fashionistas!
So, sports exhausted and eight brands down, I have two words for you. Actually, one word and an acronym: Harvard and MIT. And I’m not just putting MIT on there because I did some time there. New England = colleges and universities. I could go on, but these are the top two.
But we’re not all sports and academia. We’ve got our artsy side, too. Think Norman Rockwell, who, I understand is making a comeback. (Not literally. That would really be something.) Talk about an instantly recognizable New England brand.
And who gets small town Mainers better than Stephen King? I was laughing out loud while reading The Dome.
We also do highbrow: Tanglewood. And middlebrow: The Boston Pops. And easy listenin’: James Taylor, who gets extra points for having a song with my birthday mentioned in it. (“The first of December was covered with snow. So was the Turnpike from Boston to Stockbridge…” Rockabye, Sweet Baby James.)
(If you’re wondering why Steven Tyler isn’t on the list: I associate him with cadavers, not New England.)
But you can’t eat or drink culture, and New England runs on Dunkin’. I had a gift card, so I just downed a Starbucks iced coffee. Give me the Dunkin’ Donuts version any old day. Then there’s Vermont’s own Ben and Jerry’s. And Ocean Spray cranberries. And, since you must occasionally eat something solid, other than a Dunkin Donut chocolate honey dip: Trust the Gorton’s Fisherman. (Actually, a fish stick would taste pretty good just about now. Has it really been 40 years since I last ate one?)
We could eat off them off plates, or we could eat them out of a Paul Revere bowl. I have no idea whatsoever if these are actually made around here, but they should be.
And we would eat Gorton’s fish sticks and Ben and Jerry’s Fro-Yo while wearing tee-shirts and khakis from L.L. Bean. If it’s winter, we may chose to complete the look with Timberland boots. Neither of which brand, alas, is likely to be available in Filene’s Basement which, although it has lost a considerable measure of its luster and allure over the years, is still a store that I occasionally look into. (Mostly I just like the idea of it – which I would like even better if it were still in a basement, rather than in an above ground store. But there’s that unfortunate hole in the ground where the late lamented Filene’s (the extinct upper reaches, and the lower depths devoted to The Basement) used to stand. I used to “hit The B” once or twice a week. These decades, I might hit it once or twice a year, generally when I’m looking for an umbrella.)
How we going to pay for all this? From our money market accounts in Fidelity. Or, if we’re a bit more well to do, from State Street (which really only makes the list because I need a 25th brand, plus I just watched HBO’s Too Big to Fail, and, although State Street played a bit role, they still did get $2B in TARP largesse.)
So, how’d I do vs. Protobrand?
I guess I could have done better if I’d looked through their criteria first, and realized what they were after.
To make it onto the study, a brand had to:
1. Be headquartered in New England.
2. Have marketing direction coming from New England.
3. Have a significant portion of revenue coming from consumer markets, which excluded brands that operate primarily business-to-business, such as State Street and Boston Scientific.
4. Have a national footprint.
Plus they asked marketers from outside of New England. So it’s not surprising that we came up with different lists. Here’s theirs:
A bit of overlap: ESPN, Dunkin’, Ben & Jerry’s, Ocean Spray, LL Bean, Timberland, Gillette, and Fidelity.
I know Subway’s HQ is in Connecticut, but I really don’t associate them with New England. And GE says “Schenectady” to me, not Connecticut. I’ll grant you that Sam Adams is a more widely known brand than Gansett, but I’ll stick with my sentimental pick. Nice to see Tom’s of Maine on the list, even though I never quite like the flavor of their toothpaste.
Anyway, a fun little exercise coming up with New England brands. (Next time I’ll compile a list of defunct ones: Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Carling Brewery (“The best beer in the world comes from Carling. On the shores of Lake Cochituate. Da-da-dum-dum. New England.”)