.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This logo is a croc. (sorry, I couldn't control myself)

In the early 1960’s, my friends and I hung out a lot at the Flamingo Park tennis courts in Miami Beach (where I grew up). We kids were only allowed to play on the concrete courts; they saved the clay courts for the privileged few who had the right shoes—and the right shirt. In this case, it was a white polo shirt with a green embroidered crocodile appliquéd on it. A Lacoste tennis shirt.

René Lacoste, a famous French tennis player, designed the Lacoste shirt. He wore it when he won the 1926 U.S. Open championship. In 1933, he founded La Societe Chemise Lacoste with André Gillier, the owner and President of the largest French knitwear manufacturing firm at the time. They began to produce the classic Lacoste polo shirt. By the way, decades before the designer jean frenzy of the 1970s-1980s, the Lacoste crocodile appliqué embroidered on the chest, represented the first example of a brand name appearing on the outside of an article of clothing.

When Lacoste brought the shirts to the U.S. in the 1950s, they were a huge hit—the perfect preppie fashion statement—and their popularity lasted through the 1960s. General Mills acquired the brand in 1969, combined it with Izod and ran it (and the ubiquitous green crocodile logo) into the ground. Finally, they reduced the price to $35, and sold it everywhere, even to low-end stores like Wal-Mart. After that, the brand disappeared from American shelves.

But you can’t keep a good brand down. Lacoste is coming back, and CEO Robert Siegel, formally of Levi Strauss and Stride Rite, is driving the turnaround bus. Today, there’s a revival of Lacoste as a fashion statement. Teenagers and young adults are beginning to wear the classic polo. Professional tennis players and golfers are also wearing the shirt. What’s more, Lacoste has eneterd the “lifestyle” brand aerna. In addition to clothing, the little green crocodile logo is found on footwear, perfume, leather goods, watches, and eyewear.

So what have we learned here? When it comes to classic brands, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Hmm…I wonder if it’s time to bring to bring back the Pierre Cardin brand name again.

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