Magazine article ADWEEK

A Wrenching Story: Craftsman Never Used to Need a Handsome Model to Sell a Tool. Now That It Has One, It's Not Even Clear What's for Sale

Magazine article ADWEEK

A Wrenching Story: Craftsman Never Used to Need a Handsome Model to Sell a Tool. Now That It Has One, It's Not Even Clear What's for Sale

Article excerpt

The business of building a brand name suffers no shortage of hard lessons. Here's one of the harder ones: Even if your name has been famous for generations, never assume the newest generation will know or care who you are. Take the two ads here for Craftsman tools, which illustrate a cautionary tale that could easily apply to many heritage brands: Fame is fleeting, and banking on it isn't always a good idea.

"In both of these ads, there's an implicit, Pavlovian presumption about the Craftsman brand name," observed Kenneth Homa, who teaches marketing at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. "With the older ad, it's understandable, because Craftsman was once synonymous with do-it-yourself tools. With the new ad, there's this presumption that Craftsman still means something. But Craftsman now has a low level of awareness, so this is a heroic leap."

Which is too bad, since Craftsman is a textbook American success story. Started in 1927, when Sears wanted a tool brand to cater to a fast-growing segment of Americans buying automobiles, Craftsman set itself apart with design flair (all of its pieces were chromed) and quality (its lifetime guarantee was famous.) Laugh all you want at that dork cranking his boxhead ratchet in this 1976 ad from Hot Rod magazine; Craftsman was the real deal. It's what the pros used. What's more, Homa says, in the days before DIY acquired its yuppified, Martha Stewart chic, the target audience for this ad was as easy to identify as he was to sell to. …

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