The rebirth of Zenith

You can't keep a good brand down....

You can’t keep a good brand down.

Zenith, that venerable old consumer electronics workhorse, is being revitalized, thanks to a new owner, a technologically enhanced product lineup and a healthy infusion of marketing cash.

Last November, Chicago-based Zenith was purchased by Korean electronics and appliance manufacturer LG Electronics.

Following years with nary a marketing peep from Zenith, the deep-pocketed new owner has committed $5 million to the Canadian launch of a Zenith-branded line of premium television sets – including high definition, plasma display panel and flat-screen models – as well as DVD players.

‘It’s been a major revamping and a major relook at the brand,’ says Robert Donnelly, Canadian marketing manager for LG Electronics. ‘It’s been a fabulous exercise in re-establishing communications.’

To generations of North American consumers, the Zenith name was synonymous with the trunk-sized TV sets that adorned family rooms across North America throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. But while the product lineup had evolved, the last decade or so saw little in the way of support beyond in-store promotions.

That’s about to change as Zenith tries to capture a sizeable chunk of Canada’s $1.1-billion TV market.

It’s a market that’s evolved dramatically in the past few years, Donnelly says, as consumers indulge their taste for the latest in television technology. According to Zenith, one in five TVs sold this year were big-screen models and DVDs are poised to be the next must-have item, with more than 200,000 units sold in 1999.

But would Canadians embrace Zenith as a leading-edge brand? To answer that question, Zenith conducted research to discern public perception of both LG and Zenith. What they discovered, says Donnelly, was that while the LG brand was virtually unknown, Zenith – despite nearly a decade without any mass media support – was still a brand that held equity.

‘Given the fact that we’ve been quiet for a number of years on the brand, that [result] was really outstanding,’ he says.

The reintroduction of Zenith began earlier this year though a series of grassroots promotions, which included a 20-city mall tour and contests with McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada and Alliance Atlantis Communications in which Zenith products were offered as prizes.

The company has also placed its plasma display panels in several Canadian TV programs, including Canada A.M., where one is built right into the set.

The big push, however, came Oct. 16 when the company launched a new commercial adapted from an LG spot that ran in Europe earlier this year.

The spot, which features a girl with piercing blue eyes in a crowd of blind automatons that regain their vision when she turns on a Zenith set, is part of a global LG campaign.

The original creative was done by Ogilvy & Mather for the European market and adapted here by Goodgoll Curtis.

Among the agency’s tasks was to painstakingly replace with Zenith-branded sets a number of LG-branded sets using motion-control animation. It was a task complicated by the need to retain the original images on each TV.

Matt Freeman, the Zenith account supervisor at Goodgoll Curtis, says the goal of the Canadian adaptation is to make Canadian consumers aware that Zenith is producing products that are ‘technologically relevant.’

The TV buy is focused on the top 20 markets with a 60/40 mix of broadcast to specialty channels. Print ads will break in November and run through to next spring.