• Transform magazine
  • March 22, 2019

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Five minutes with Richard Finlow

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With a longstanding brand, well-established in popular culture, Zippo Manufacturing Company, the lighters and lifestyle organisation, manages to maintain its heritage while diversifying its product portfolio and differentiating its brand. Senior VP of global sales and marketing Richard Finlow talks about the brand’s future

How does Zippo’s heritage influence its brand strategy?
At Zippo, we are constantly challenging ourselves to create innovative and unique designs. We also remain committed to delivering a quality product with a lifetime guarantee so when people purchase a Zippo lighter they know they are getting a reliable brand as well as a stylish one. However, it’s not just the product benefits and design that keep people buying, it’s the heritage and the story behind the brand that give it its enduring appeal.

Our heritage is essential to our brand strategy. Over the past 85 years, Zippo has seeped into every aspect of pop culture – a symbol of the music scene, a star of the movies and an inspiration of the art world. Our mission is to continue to build Zippo’s cultural equity to introduce a new generation to the mystique and cool cachet of Zippo.

How does Zippo capitalise on brand recognition?
With over 85 years of history, Zippo has an influential and dedicated fan base. During this time, the brand has transcended its original functional benefits to become a cultural icon. With such strong recognition and support, we are always looking for new ways for our customers to enjoy the brand. While we’re known for making the ‘ultimate pocketable,’ Zippo has released a variety of new products in recent years, including a successful leather accessories range. We will continue to use the strength and recognition of the Zippo name to diversify and establish the company as a fully encompassing lifestyle brand.

How is brand differentiation being implemented?
Brands are no longer selling through messages alone, but rather through culture to strengthen the connections between themselves and consumers. This is particularly important to a brand like Zippo that organically shows up in the worlds of film, art, music and gaming. We will continue to bring Zippo to the forefront of cultural conversation to safeguard the cult status of the brand. Our marketing efforts will centre on creative, integrated global campaigns that leverage the key passion points of our consumers.

What are the challenges facing the brand with regards to shifting smoking culture?
The toughest is changing people’s predisposed mindset about the brand. We are more than just a lighter brand. Our global marketing programme focuses on the lifestyle aspects of our growing product line but we always come back to the fact that the Zippo brand is reliable, a symbol of self-expression and an iconic American creation.

What are the future strategic goals for the branding or marketing of Zippo?
The ongoing marketing challenge for Zippo is how to continue to resonate with a new generation of consumers across the globe and cement our brand equity. We’re set tackle this goal via high impact integrated marketing efforts across our key markets. Product diversification is also key. We have established a regional approach to product diversification whereby we will leverage local insights and research to define tailored product lines across Europe, Asia and the US. From men’s lifestyle accessories in Europe, and new outdoor products, like the Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmer in the USA.

Why is it important for a heritage brand to maintain relevance in terms of its product portfolio and marketing?
Zippo’s brand history is hugely important to us, as is innovation, which has long been at the heart of the company. From the early years of etching and hand-painted details to today’s cutting edge 360 MultiCut engraving process, Zippo prides itself on pushing design boundaries and staying inventive. Our focus on innovation will ensure Zippo continues to give consumers new ways to enjoy the brand all while remaining true to our past.