Seventy-year-old Zippo Manufacturing, famed for the flip-top windproof lighter that has attained cult collector status, is introducing its first new product since 1932. The new product-touted as a stylish home accessory rather than a cigarette lighter-is designed to ignite candles, fireplaces and grills. The question is whether the leaner, longer Zippo Multi-Purpose Lighter can develop the same kind of fanatical following as its squat sibling.
The Zippo Multi-Purpose Lighter-backed by a $3 million ad effort from Pittsburgh-based Blattner Brunner-represents an attempt to fuel sales by attracting a broader target, including women, with a childproof feature. Moreover, it looks like a sleek addition to James Bond's toolbox-its refillable 8-inch-long black or silver barrel has a window showing fuel level and an adjustable flame.
"It's the kind of thing that would look great on a mantle or in a dining room sitting on a buffet to have it handy for lighting candles," said Patrick Grandy, marketing communications manager at Zippo. The product brings Zippo into new distribution channels-such as candle shops and home retailers including the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog-as well as in front of a primarily female audience.
Witness the media buy: Ads break in August issues of magazines including Martha Stewart Omnimedia's Martha Stewart Living and Time Inc.'s Real Simple, as well as Mariah Media's Outside.
new vs. classic
Zippo registered $1.4 million in sales, or 1.3% of the lighter market, in drug stores and supermarkets-venues where few Zippos are sold-for the 52 weeks ending May 19, according to Information Resources Inc.
Three print executions juxtapose the new product against the classic version. "We're trying to portray that it's going to be extremely high-quality, reliable and durable. Those are the hallmark values that the brand stands for," said Rodney Underwood, chief creative officer at Blattner Brunner.
One ad shows the new Zippo alongside four classic lighters from the past 70 years, with the headline: "Our product designers went a little crazy this year." All ads used the tag introduced last summer, "Zippo. For Real."
Like all Zippo lighters, the new product is taking on the disposable-lighter market with the message, "This is yours to keep and we're going to fix it if something goes wrong," said Bill Garrison, group creative director at Blattner Brunner. "We always go after that disposable, cheap mentality, because we can."
But will consumers pay $14.95 for the black multi-purpose lighter or $19.95 for the "deluxe" silver version that comes with a drawstring pouch and gift box?
Don Pettit, president-CEO of brand consultancy Sterling Group, thinks it's possible-but still challenging. Zippo is trying "to get people to pay more for something they've traditionally done with matches from the corner restaurant," he said, "and that's a tall order."