The decline of some once great brands. It's nothing really new. Many of you may have noticed it too, but may not talk about it. Sometimes it outrages me but, mostly it just saddens me. I think some of it is driven by the Wal-Mart mentality, where we have been trained by our culture to value a low price above all other factors when making a purchasing decision. I'm sure some of it is simply driven by corporate greed to show continuous growth and profitability, not that profit and growth are bad. Mostly I think it is just shortsightedness on the part of corporate leadership.
A couple of years ago, I set out to buy a new push mower for our little corner of green, here in the suburbs. A little research with the leading consumer magazine led me to investigate a Cub Cadet mower. I soon learned that Cub Cadet is now owned by MTD and the engine is no longer a Briggs & Stratton, or other quality brand, but is a Chinese import. I promptly went home and repaired my then 23 year old Homelite, another once proud brand that is now owned by a Chinese conglomerate known as TTI. I then wrote a letter to the Quality director and Marketing director of MTD expressing my disappointment with a Chinese engine on their product. As expected, I never received a reply. Clearly profits are more important than any quality concern from a potential customer. By the way, the old Homelite is now in it's 25th year and continues to serve me well.
My latest disappointment is with a Stanley Thermos Bottle I received as a Christmas gift. There was a time, when Stanley Thermos bottles were made in Tennessee. The Stanley bottle was always a bit more expensive than the competition, but they were guaranteed for life and were known to be a quality brand. I think I paid $20.00 for one back in the early '80s. Quite a bit at the time, when a cheap no-name bottle could be had for less than $10.00. I finally tossed it out (big mistake) because it was so beaten up that I was ashamed to be seen carrying it, but it still kept my coffee hot! Of course my new Stanley thermos was made in China. As of last week it no longer keeps my coffee hot. The brand value of Stanley is now much lower in my mind. I may as well just buy a cheap vacuum bottle at Wal-Mart, since the Stanley is simply another cheap Chinese copy of the original. No point anymore in paying extra for the brand.
Now it has come to my attention that a local manufacturer is moving one of it's most important product lines to Malaysia. I'm sure this will result in a short term cost savings, but what will be the damage to the brand? This manufacturer is well know as a producer of innovative products designed and made in the USA. Will this company become another on the list of once great brands? Will consumers begin to associate this brand with other cheap commodity products from that region of the world? I don't know, but I think the answer is as close as the nOSE on your face. As for the laid off workers, I hope something good comes their way so they will be Better Off Somewhere Else.