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The first brand I worked on out of college, back in my ad agency days, was an iconic teen brand (which will rename nameless) that had seen better days. If you’ve worked on one of these brands, you know they can simultaneously elicit overwhelming affection and extreme frustration from those charged with nurturing them. Their brand caretakers wrestled with retaining the brand’s charm and reenergizing it at the same time. This is particularly true for the stewards of youth brands, who may have memories of the role the brand played in their own lives, but who have to rediscover the right way for these brands to connect with today’s youth.  We’re often asked for guidelines or rules for keeping classic brands cool…Clearly, one size doesn’t fit all in this regard. But we think Radio Flyer has struck a nice balance between authentic and exciting with some of their most recent innovations. Here’s how they’ve done it:

  1. They built from, not against their brand.  While Radio Flyer could have gone “everything container,” or even everything wagon, the brand seems to have recognized early on that its style was as important as its ride. Sure, its offerings are almost all of the four-wheeled variety (with the exception of little wheelbarrows and rocking horses), but they stand out versus the competition because they’ve kept to their classic look. Many brands have made wagons – even red ones – but the shape, the style and the lollipop-delicious-look of Radio Flyer products take them from scooter to sculpture. And when they have walked away from heritage red, they kept it basic: pink for girl trikes and primary colors as accents to their steer and fold riders. The essence of Radio Flyer exists in the middle of nostalgic and modern, and the brand seems to embrace it in product type, form, and aesthetic.    
  2. They found a way to fit families (not the other way around). The little red wagon might represent the most basic mode of transportation for the kid set (and for their stuff), but today’s parents are far from simple when it comes to their strollers. This generation of parents – especially those living in urban areas where your carriage carries more cache than your car – see their prams as much more than practicalities. It might be retro, but Radio Flyer delivers on timely design. Not only are the sleek lines and nostalgic materials (wood and aluminum) hip again, but the available add-ons make the wagon the perfect transition from baby’s stroller to big kid’s transport. With padded seats, beverage carriers and sun-shading umbrellas, the new Radio Flyer wagons meet the needs of moms and dads while the cushier seats suit the bottoms of the post-Pamper set.     
  3. They gave families a reason to re-buy, not re-use. Finally, following a trend set by many entrenched brands looking to re-establish their relevance, Radio Flyer went the custom route. Sure, you might have an old red wagon in your garage. But now you can get one made to order, with your child’s name on it. You can pick your own design, making the old fashioned four-wheeler fit whatever your style is. And it doesn’t just stop with wagons.  Radio Flyer kept the technology of their scooters simple – and reminiscent of the scooters they’ve sold since the 1920s – but they give kids a chance to put their personal stamp on them. The Style N’ Ridebrings the customization and collectability of charm bracelets to a much more active mode of play.

Of course, keeping a brand strong over time is easier said than done. But we think Radio Flyer shows that oldies can be goodies if they’re treated with the care and consideration they deserve.