R.I.P. Pontiac. It has gone the way of the mullet. That was part of the problem. Think of one and you eerily begin to think of the other.
The venerable brand that brought us the GTO, the TransAm, and many iconic V-8 muscle cars is quietly being put to rest.
What happened? Seems to me that the Pontiac was the case of the non-adaptive brand. Think Studebaker. Edsel. Saturn (one of which I still own!).
Adaptive brands change, morph, reconfigure and adjust to the times. They broaden their aperture and constantly develop new points of relevance.
A good — should I say ‘classic? — example is Coca-Cola. A Coke bottle would feel just at home in a Frank deCapra movie as it would Mad Men or Jersey Shore. It has a palette of personalities, images, and experiences that is so vast it fits in every context, every emotion, every age. As one of its many taglines put it, “Coke is Life!”
Then there are the brands that adapt in a more sudden even violent manner. Here are three I remember from my youth. (BTW, my youth was a very long time ago.)
Mountain Dew. Back then, Mountain Dew was the hillbilly 7-Up. It was tank tops, cut off jeans and a tire swing into an Arkansas mill pond on a hot summer day. It was syrupy with a funny yellow color. Most of all, it was cheap.
Old Spice. That was my father’s brand. Ironically (or iconically!) my Dad was a sailor, a Chief Petty Officer, WWII veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor. He was a mans man. He went to the barber shop monthly, shunned shaving creme (hot soapy water worked just fine) and was suspicious of cologne (Old Spice was an after shave).
Cadillac. Our German-Italian neighbor in New Orleans, Mr. Doescher, drove a Cadillac. Mr. Doescher was a devout Catholic. He was also the head of a longshoreman’s union with shadowy wealth that combined with strong middle-class, blue collar values. You could find him every Saturday in his t-shirt and boxers watering his lawn with a garden hose.
That was then. Now is now. Today all three of these brands are edgy, hip, young and very, very current. They are X-games, retro-cool, hip-hop and — in the case of Cadillac — a dash of classic rock and roll.
For Pontiac, something got lost in the transition from the Grand Prix to the Vibe.
It stayed Smokey and the Bandit in a world of Glee and Dexter.
Rest In Peace.