Zombie Brands

I happened across this interview with Adam Curtis in the New Statesman today, and this thought hit me like a train…

“It’s an incredibly static time. Why do you think we’ve got so many zombie movies? It’s quite obvious – it’s so obvious when you know it – it’s because the dead won’t go away. We are surrounded by the dead. Okay, The Stone Roses are touring live, but it’s a dead album. There’s a lot of music – like Kurt Cobain and all these people – they’re dead. The Rolling Stones; the music is dead, but it won’t go away. It’s constantly replayed to us, and it is like zombie culture.”

As soon as I read it, it immediately linked it to something that I’d been asked a few weeks ago at the third Deep Dive of the IPA Excellence Diploma (I was talking about Making Things People Want > Making People Want Things).

One of the people on the course, (Martin Harrison of Huge I think) asked about how relevant a lot of the stuff I was talking about was to a client of his in particular, who’re a long-standing, traditional FMCG brand from what I recall.  I don’t know if Martin said who they were, but if he did, I’ve forgotten.

Not very, we all concluded.

But, just perhaps, that might  be because the world has shifted so profoundly around that model, that many of these brands are dead already.

They just don’t know it.

Zombie Brands.


They’re still shuffling along, of course, though in that stiff, slow, leaden walk.  But they are, as we look into the medium term, dead.

For instace, supermarkets will continue to ape and replace what they offered with own label stuff, and stop listing them.  They’ll be unable to afford the money it takes to maintain a place in the cultural mindset (how do you compete with the deep pockets of tech companies?).  They’ll be too shallow and uninteresting to make the modern communications landscape work for them.  And the last generations that they truly meant something for will die out.

The companies that own these brands will rail against it, of course.  They’ll blame the economies around them, they’ll keep cutting off limbs to try and save themselves.

But perhaps, at some point, everyone around these structures has to ask themselves whether the best that can be done is managed decline… back to the Adam Curtis interview:

“All the institutions are declining. Universities are declining, spies are completely useless, and banks were our last shot at giving us cheap money and keep things going when industry collapsed. Its all a little bit like these giant institutions are all declining, a bit like the eighties and we are waiting for something new to come along and culture is letting us down.”


4 responses to “Zombie Brands”

  1. John, you should have a look at this: http://www.wpp.com/~/media/sharedwpp/marketing%20insights/yandr_service_with_a_snarl_apr04.pdf

    What replaces old ideals of service when we can’t afford it? I think it’s linked to the zombie brand notion.