-Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash Name Development

The music streaming service Rhapsody just announced that they are rebranding themselves as Napster, a brand they acquired in 2011. Is bringing back this historic brand name a good idea?

Let me go on record as saying I’m a huge fan of leveraging existing brand equity in historic brand names. However, you must do this with extreme care because existing brand equity always includes baggage.

Here is an example of good baggage and bad baggage. At the North American International Auto Show in 2012, Chrysler/Fiat unveiled the 2013 Dodge Dart. This was not the first time Dodge returned to a historic nameplate rather than introduce a new name. A few years before Dodge reintroduced its muscle car as Dodge Challenger.

The new Dodge Dart was a great car. It used the mechanical platform of a vehicle by Alfa Romeo, a Fiat-owned brand in Europe. This Dart was loaded with technology and attention to detail that is not normally found in a compact car. The Dodge Challenger was also an excellent car.

But bringing back the Dodge Dart name was a poor choice, while reusing Dodge Challenger was a great choice. The existing brand equity on the name “Dodge Dart” was horrible. The existing brand equity on the name “Dodge Challenger” was perfect.

Did Chrysler/Fiat actually do any research on the equity present in the historic names? I doubt it. You can understand this if you ask a few friends 3 important things they recall about Dart and ask the same questions about Challenger:

  1. Who owned the car?
  2. What was their ownership experience like?
  3. What is their lasting memory of the car?

The answers you are likely to get are as follows:

Who owned the car?

Dart = my grandmother; Challenger = my crazy, risk-taking uncle

Ownership experience?

Dart = she drove it to church on Sunday; Challenger = he drag raced it on the street

Lasting memory?

Dart = car rusted away in the driveway; Challenger = coolest car ever

As a result you will see why Chrysler/Fiat recycled Challenger as a muscle-car name. But you will be shaking your head over why Dart was the name for the new Chrysler/Fiat compact car.

Many who owned an original Challenger still regret the day they sold it. Many who owned an original Dart still regret the day they bought it. Sometimes it is far better to create a new name rather than to use an old one with baggage like that!

So it is no surprise that the new Dodge Dart has already been discontinued.

Napster? Have they done the necessary research to understand that brand name’s baggage? I certainly hope so…otherwise the name Rhapsody will be a fond memory of people who used to work at the music streaming service as Napster gets discontinued.