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  • Posted by: Fred Burt on Tuesday, December 20 2011 02:40 PM | Comments (0)

    Earlier this month, Napster merged with Rhapsody in the US. With this merger, came the end of one my tech era hero brands.

    Ah, Napster! For me, the year was 2000. Napster was among the fastest-growing businesses on the planet during the dotcom boom. I remember recreating a virtual top 40 from the mid-1980s in mere minutes. I remember thinking Napster was the coolest thing -- and the fact that it was “kind of illegal” made it all the more thrilling. I even wrote an article, “Napster: 9 Lives,” to articulate my enthusiasm for the brand.

    The story behind Napster is, in my opinion, far more interesting than the Facebook/Zuckerburg saga that seems to dominate the news. Have a look at the comments posted at the bottom of this recent Mashable article “RIP Napster”. You will see the undeniable emotional attachment that so many of my fellow techies have to Napster. I suspect other high-profile tech demises were not accompanied by such fond reflection.

    One of Napster’s chief mourners will, of course, be Apple. The trail for iTunes was, after all, blazed by Napster. BitTorrent, Spotify and others also owe Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning a huge debt of gratitude. (Parker’s alleged $2bn personal wealth suggests he’s moved on, but Fanning’s appearance on this 2009 VW ad suggests that he has not.)

    Napster hasn’t been the original, irreverent Napster for a good number of years. The brand will now still live outside the US, but, whether or not the audience and the music industry have moved on, remains to be seen.

    Few tech brands manage to transcend their functionality and become a truly loved cultural phenomenon, so, when one does, it should be cherished. While Napster may be gone for now, it has come back before, so I wouldn’t rule out a resurrection.

    Do you remember your first Napster experience? Comments, please, from the other tech fogeys out there!

    Fred Burt is the Director of European Clients in Interbrand’s London office.

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  • Posted by: Lizzy Stallard on Monday, September 12 2011 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

    While this certainly isn’t new practice, there’s been a flurry of recent activity between fashion brands and wheels. Let me explain. First, we have luxury exercise bike manufacturer, Ciclotte, which is working with with Roberto Cavalli to produce a new collection of colorful (and of course, animal print-infused) bikes. At first glance it seems rather bizarre, but then digging deeper, it appears that this collaboration comes ahead of the designer’s upcoming gym wear collection. Ah, there’s the link. I was struggling there for a minute.

    Next on the list comes the Gucci and Fiat 500 lock up. One could argue that the Fiat 500 / Gucci link seems to work as the 500 is steeped in Italian history and exudes a sense of Italian style, aspects that are mirrored in Gucci’s roots. What is critical though is the execution of the partnership. To what extent is a Gucci-clad interior plastered in the recognizable print possibly eroding the brand? If you ever wondered what it might be like to drive around in a Gucci handbag, now you can find out. Perhaps more discreet detailing could be more in keeping with maintaining quality and exclusivity, but then again if you are buying a Gucci branded car, your motivations are possibly not to keep it a secret.

    Then we move on to Victoria Beckham and Range Rover – this is an interesting one. Of course Beckham has earned her stripes in the fashion world, but she has a certain marmite-ness about her. People love her or hate her. To what extent is it a risky strategy for such an established heritage brand to lock in with someone who creates divided opinion? That said this collaboration feels fresher than perhaps the Gucci/ 500 partnership, because as “creative director” the customer will start to discover infusions of her style through the partnership, as opposed to just wrapping the car in a brand à la Gucci style.

    Collaborations and partnership strategies certainly require a great deal thought, careful execution, and ongoing management. Ultimately the underlining motivation for the tie up in the first place must be focused on increasing the value of the brands in question, as opposed to the lure of the short term sale. Approach is any other way, and it’s guaranteed to backfire.

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