Monday, February 25, 2008

Fads into Lovemarks

First, a quick Lovemarks primer. The Love/Respect Axis has four quadrants: Fads, Commodities, Brands and Lovemarks. In the excitement of transforming brands into Lovemarks and lifting commodities into the brand sector, we sometimes lose sight of the creative energy of Fads. Fads sit in the High Love and Low Respect quadrant. It’s where we find the here-today-gone-tomorrow passions that sweep through the markets and our lives.

Why today’s lesson? Because one of the princes of the Fad kingdom died recently at the age of 82. Richard Knerr founded the company Wham-O (how 1940s American is that?) with his colleague Arthur Melin, and together they invented some of the greatest fads the world has known, and even a few Lovemarks. I’m talking about the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, the SuperBall.

Wham-O sold over 40 million Hula Hoops in the first year after launch in 1958. Two years later it had made 100 million sales! I remember as a kid trying to use rubber car tires - not quite the same effect and that black ring round the stomach took weeks to go away! In the end, the Hula Hoop Fad turned out to be just that. Left with a Hula Hoop mountain in their warehouse, Wham-O found their profits eaten up by unsold merchandise. Their mistake? They forgot that it is moms, dads and kids who decide when a Fad has fizzled and when it is ready to become a Lovemark.

With the Frisbee, Knerr and Melin became more involved in the customer experience and this helped transform the flying disk into the Lovemark it has become today. Other Wham-O fads did not make the leap. Think mail order mink coats, DIY bomb shelters and instant fish. Then there’s the Slip ‘N Slide water slide, the SuperBall and cans squirting Silly String. They were all loved for a while but never won the Respect that would make them be embraced generation after generation. The skateboard, by contrast, has achieved this remarkable feat. Will PlayStation, Wii or Xbox make it?