From Ridicule to Reverence: The Brand Phoenix

It’s Easter Sunday (or just plain Sunday depending on your beliefs), and anyone out and about over the past few days cannot fail to have noticed the chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and miscellaneous cakes (the Kat, it will be noted, deftly sidesteps engaging in extended debate over whether the hot cross bun is a member of the cake family or whether it is merely a type of bread (as some would have you believe), preferring to concentrate on more IP-centric matters…) that mark this particular period in the calendar. The egg is a symbol of new life (or, if you think back to the 1980s, possibly salmonella – the Kat, however, does not wish to dwell on this particular image for obvious reasons, even though it is tangentially relevant to his point), and Easter is traditionally perceived as a time of rebirth – from eggs and chicks to frolicking lambs and fields of daffodils and tulips. A chance encounter with a car advert (bear with me, this is not as incongruous as it might seem) got this Kat thinking. Let him explain:

When he was but a kitten there was one car which, above all others, was the butt of jokes: the Skoda. No matter how reliable, economical, comfortable or successful the Skoda was (and during the 1970s and 1980s Skodas were very successful: their ubiquity on British roads, fine rallying credentials and general consumer satisfaction with them all being testament to this fact), they were still the car that you wouldn’t be seen dead in. This Kat had friends that preferred to walk to school in the pouring rain than be dropped off by their parents in a Skoda. Undoubtedly had they pulled up to the gates in a Skoda Estelle (such as the one left) then they would have been met with a barrage of witticisms (!) such as:
“What do you call a skip with wheels?”
A Skoda.

"What do you call a Skoda with twin exhausts?"
A wheelbarrow.

"Have you got a wing mirror for a Skoda?"
Okay, seems like a fair swap.
… but even so, a day spent in damp clothes was apparently worth more than the loss of face that accompanied being seen in a Skoda. While not the pinnacle of humour, these jokes certainly got a laugh around the playground – but then again so did a number of other things which, in retrospect, were not all that funny even at the time. Nevertheless...

Then Volkswagen got involved, and things began to change. From a partnership agreement in the early 1990s through the final takeover in May 2000 to the public face of Skoda that we see today, the brand has been reinvigorated – reinvented even: a Skoda is now a car to be proud of. The cars themselves were always tough and reliable, but the public's perception of them has completely turned around. Which brings the IPKat to ask whether readers can think of another brand resurrection akin to that performed with Skoda. He can think of a number of brands that have had new life injected into them, such as Cadbury’s “Wispa”, Fiat’s “500”, and even “Old Spice”, but none that have undergone such a complete reversal of reputation. Is Skoda the only modern day brand phoenix?

The history of Skoda here
More Skoda jokes here
More Old Spice here
From Ridicule to Reverence: The Brand Phoenix From Ridicule to Reverence: The Brand Phoenix Reviewed by Matt on Sunday, April 24, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. You forgot that old classic:

    - How do you double the value of a {Lada, Skoda, etc.}

    - Fill up the petrol tank.

    I'm not really not into stamped metal fetishism, but, frankly speaking, had vintage Skodas really much to envy from triumphs of British engineering such as Morris Marina or Reliant Robin?

    Skoda's background is not limited to automobiles either. Think heavy engineering, locomotives, etc.

  2. Burberry, rescued from the chavs?

  3. GOLA trainers were pretty uncool when I was young.

  4. Let's not forget Tab (for those Kats who didn't drink diet soda prior to Diet Coke), it was the ultimate girly drink--pink can and flowers. Now they're trying to sell it to the male skateboarding set.

  5. Skoda may indeed be a worthy name today, but some of its pre-VW models were
    frankly terrifying. I suspect that the Octavia Estate, vintage 1960s, was
    the worst handling car in the history of the automobile. It has swing rear
    axle suspension, and suffered terrifying changes of camber under braking
    that I suspect (without proof) would have shamed a VW Beetle. I once got a
    ride in one to a tutorial in central Melbourne on a wet day, when, going
    round a corner at a relatively gentle speed, the back end was suddenly
    visited with an insatiable curiosity to find out what the world of the
    front end looked like. So there was the hapless driver winding on opposite
    lock like a thing possessed, while yours truly only had eyes for the very
    substantial telegraph pole looming up. He stopped about a foot short of the
    pole. I'm glad I wore my brown corduroy trousers on that day...

    Fiat seems to have made a reasonable fist with Lancia, which in days gone
    by were known to rust away as you looked at them. Fiat also rescued
    Ferrari, which had some of the worst building standards in the industry
    (aluminium panels bolted directly to steel chassis (the electrochemical
    corrosion had to be seen to be believed), panels that were hand-beaten (and
    which therefore were never exactly interchangeable) and V12s with 6
    twin-choke Weber carburettors that were never in tune. Enzo Ferrari simply
    didn't care - he only built road cars to get the money to go racing, was
    staggeringly rude to his customers, who, of course, could afford to have
    the car standing around for most of the year getting fixed.

    If you have to mention the Fiat 500, you'd have to include what inspired
    it, BMW's reworking of the Mini.


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