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Sweet Brand of Youth

In uncertain times, nostalgia sells. At least that's what the marketers at Bumble Bee tuna, Dunkin' Donuts, Eight O'Clock Coffee, Nationwide Insurance (NFS), and fast food chain Carl's Jr. seem to think. All have resurrected (or consciously held on to) old taglines, advertising jingles, or products in the hope of conjuring memories of happier years. "Placing the product in the past is comforting to consumers," says Nick Hahn, managing director at New York marketing consultancy Vivaldi Partners, who has run nostalgia campaigns for Coca-Cola (KO) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). "It grounds them in a time when things were better." Dunkin' Donuts, after years of plugging coffee drinks and bagels, is again emphasizing its namesake product. It's "a fun food," says President Will Kussell, adding that the campaign aims to show the company's "small role" in buoying consumers' spirits. Meanwhile, Eight O'Clock Coffee has postponed a packaging change, its Web site says, because "Americans are looking for consistency."

Marketing experts say nostalgic ads run the risk of making a product look outdated. The trick is to evoke a brand's heritage in a contemporary way, says Dave Melbourne, senior vice-president of consumer marketing at Bumble Bee in San Diego. Bumble Bee is reviving its jingle from 30 years ago ("Yum, Yum, Bumble Bee Bumble Bee Tuna") by poking fun at its own campaign. In its TV spot, a goofy 1970's era guitarist pops up from the past repeatedly—unbidden and unwanted—to belt out the tune to startled consumers.

THE GOOD OL' DAYS

Mining the past for reassuring marketing messages

Bumble Bee Foods

Owner: Centre Partners

A new marketing push revives an old jingle in the 110-year-old brand's first TV campaign in almost 20 years.

Eight O'Clock Coffee

Owner: Tata Group

After asking consumers to vote on a new package design for its 150th anniversary, the coffeemaker decided to stick with the original

Dunkin' Donuts

Owner: Dunkin' Brands

A back-to-basics marketing campaign includes a contest to design a new doughnut variety.

Carl's Jr.

Owner: CKE Restaurants

The fast-food chain is temporarily bringing back its chili dogs, evoking its origins as a Los Angeles hot dog cart

Nationwide Insurance

Owner: Nationwide Mutual Insurance

In mid-April the insurer will revive its old tagline "Nationwide Is On Your Side"

Data: Companies

iPhone's Asian Disconnect

How is the most talked-about mobile phone doing in one of the world's fastest-growing markets? Poorly. In India, unsold iPhones are stacking up at shops run by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, the carriers Apple (AAPL) has chosen as its wireless partners. Apple won't provide sales breakdowns by country, but analysts in India estimate that iPhone sales have yet to reach 20,000 units. That's puny, given that Indian service providers have added nearly 20 million new customers since the phone's August 2008 launch in India. (Nokia dominates India's smartphone market.)

The problems: Because carriers don't subsidize phones in India, where most users eschew carrier contracts for prepaid plans, the iPhone is especially pricey, at least $700. And with download speeds slow on India's non-3G networks, the iPhone just doesn't dazzle the way it does in the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Europe. Also, Indian mobile users like to forward the text messages they get, says Sanjay Gupta, chief marketing officer of Airtel's mobile business. The iPhone is still rolling out a software upgrade that will allow for that.

The flop in India could portend poor sales in China, where Apple may launch the iPhone as early as June. China's mobile market, the second-biggest after the U.S., measured by revenue, is similar to India's. China's 3G networks are not fully built, and, like Indian consumers, the Chinese typically don't sign multiyear service contracts. (An additional obstacle: Beijing doesn't allow phones with the Wi-Fi functionality required for many data-heavy iPhone functions.) Early smartphone adopters in China have either bought unlocked iPhones on the gray market or gone with other smartphone brands.

Unless Apple can persuade the local carriers to subsidize the phone, says Trip Chowdhry, a California-based analyst for Global Equities Research, the push into Asia "is just not going to work." For now, he says, Apple's plan is "to launch the phone and learn." Apple spokesperson Bethan Lloyd said price and marketing decisions are made by the iPhone's local partners.

Pricier Premiums for Directors

Board members at banks may want to start saving for a more-than-rainy day. A sharp rise in subprime-related shareholder lawsuits means that directors' and officers' liability insurance is harder to get—and much pricier. Premiums are up 50% to 300% in recent months, says Karen Kutger, a broker at Professional Risk Solutions in Blue Bell, Pa., and this has led some banks to "go bare," or be self-insured. Should such banks become insolvent, she says, "directors are on their own" when it comes to paying claims.

Major banks typically seek $50 million to $100 million in total D&O insurance, Kutger says, but "I don't think they'd be able to get that these days." If they do, they'll pay plenty. Kevin LaCroix, a manager at OakBridge Insurance Services' Beachwood (Ohio) office, says a big commercial bank with significant subprime exposure could pay up to $200,000 per $1 million of coverage. Insurers are also refusing to cover certain types of claims, says LaCroix, who has seen exclusions in new policies for exposure to the Madoff Ponzi scheme and accused fraudster R. Allen Stanford. "Underwriters are reading the headlines," he says.


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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