by David, United States
A candle lights up nice with a “Bic Click” disposable lighter, and a “Bic Stick” disposable pen will produce a nice reliable stream of ink for whatever one would want to write… but “Bic Pantyhose”?
Well you could say that they threw the party but no one came. There were several snags in the idea from the very start.
The 1976 press release announcing the new pantyhose line advised that Bic’s managers believed most pantyhose buyers were working women, not stay at home housewives. So they decided they would market the cheap disposable pantyhose line with the familiar yellow and black “Bic” logo in office and stationery supply stores only… and advertise in trade and industry publications like “Today’s Secretary”.
This sounded kind of sterile and unimaginative to me… not sexy or romantic. If I wore pantyhose, I would want to see my brand on attractive models in fashion magazines, or right here at Fantasy Stockings, where I could also find ideas for outfits and accessories that might complement my legs … not in an office trade magazine, stuck in between ads for staplers and liquid paper.
When I read the release, I caught a slight aroma of chauvinism. It almost smelled like butane… Bic Perfume? They even tried that!
I could picture the “boys” in the Bic executive suite lighting their disposable cigars and saying, “That’s it! The “girls” can pick up a few pair of our pantyhose at the office store while their bosses are out on the golf course!” This, at a time when women as a social group were moving up higher in the executive suite and trying to earn their way out of stereotypes like being subservient to their male counterparts. They wanted to be respected on the golf course, not pandered to in the office supply store.
Ultimately the brand failed because the product was not a logical extension from Bic’s existing successful products. Consumers couldn’t make the mental or emotional connection between throw away pens and lighters, and women’s pantyhose. Additionally, the pantyhose line didn’t mesh with the manufacturing and distribution capabilities which Bic had mastered; the Bic managers weren’t sticking to what they knew. With pantyhose they were trying on something outside of their niche.
Herbert Jack Rotfeld, Department of Marketing, Auburn University, summed up Bic’s big goof this way:
“As a broader lesson, this is an example of a company that was more focused on the name than what the name means. In these days of product placement and viral marketing, companies of all types focus on brand awareness and an extensive effort to put their name out there (wherever “out there” might be). But it is not just having a name that is important, but the image that the name conveys to consumers.” – Journal of Product and Brand Management, 2008