September 21, 2005
Marshall Field's: Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Brand
Today we mourn the final passing of a great brand. For some, it only died today. Yet others, myself included, have missed it for a very long time. We have missed its quintessential sense of style, its reassuring nearness and its unerring ability to make us feel like someone special. Marshall Field's and its predecessor, Dayton Hudson belong to Macy's now, not just in financial terms, but in name as well. Frankly, I preferred it when they belonged to me.
I have emotionally bonded with Dayton's for almost 30 years, since the day in 1978 when they gave me my very first credit card. I loved them for their liberal return policy, their Daisy Sales, their Santa Bears, their Christmas memories. But most of all, and more than love, I trusted them. Which speaks volumes for Dayton's since what is, after all, a brand, but a promise?
When Dayton Hudson bought the likewise Midwestern Marshall Field's a few years ago, the brand changed, but it did not die. The Dayton's name morphed to Marshall Field's with its fancy Frango mints, Field Days and Field Gear. The return policy tightened, but the sale days flourished, and some sense of regional, if not local, presence was retained.
Today, however, we lay both Dayton's and Marshall Field's to their final rest. They have been replaced by an East Coast name and logo. They have been replaced by a brand we barely know. A brand that does not share our Midwestern values. A brand that will not even allow its employees to greet us with "Merry Christmas."
I tell myself this really hasn't happened and I realize I'm embracing the first of five stages of grief: denial. Denial will soon be followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. My recovery will take a very long time.
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