Does Anyone Listen if E.F. Hutton Talks in 2012?

Thirty years ago, when E.F. Hutton talked, people listened, but does anyone care in 2012? A group of former E.F. Hutton employees hope so. In fact, they’re banking on it. Investment News reported last week that former E.F. Hutton alumni, including Stanley Hutton Rumbough, the grandson of the company’s founder, are in the process or resurrecting the brokerage firm brand as well as its well-known slogan, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

listenWhat Happened to E.F. Hutton?

E.F. Hutton was a strong brand in the 1970s and early 1980s. The firm was founded in 1904 and grew to be a highly respected brokerage firm. In fact, it was the second largest brokerage firm in the United States for several decades.  Success brought growth, and as usually happens, success demands even greater success, which can lead to problems.

During the 1980s, E.F. Hutton was found guilty of check kiting, money laundering, fraud, and more. A series of mergers and acquisitions saved the company but eventually, the E.F. Hutton name was abandoned in 1990. Last year, the aforementioned group of former E.F. Hutton employees (mostly executives) bought the E.F. Hutton brand, and now, news is spreading that the E.F. Hutton brand is poised for a comeback.

What’s Next for E.F. Hutton?

According to InvestmentNews, the new E.F. Hutton will be led by Chief Executive Frank Campanale (he formerly held the position of CEO of Smith Barney Consulting Group, which was a successor to E.F. Hutton’s money-management division). He has stated that the company will recruit highly experienced, top talent and target institutional and corporate accounts. Campanale wants to “recreate Hutton’s performance-oriented, innovative culture.” You can hear his pitch in the video below.

What Needs to Be Done to Make the New E.F. Hutton a Success?

Resurrecting a brand that disappeared more than 20 years ago isn’t an easy task, particularly when that brand has some skeletons in the closet. On the positive side, the E.F. Hutton brand does hold some nostalgia. The brand’s tagline is still highly memorable. On the negative side, the brand is meaningless to a large percentage of people under the age of 40. These are people who are too young to remember the E.F. Hutton commercials (you can see one below). Nor do they remember the scandals the brand faced.

Is there still value in the E.F. Hutton brand? I think it’s safe to say that a brand that has been defunct for more than two decades but is still recognized by a significant percentage of the consumer population still holds value and brand equity. The trick is finding how to turn that remaining value into new business, and that can’t be done unless the new version of the brand is relevant to today’s consumers. E.F. Hutton needs to find a way to tie positive aspects of its history to needs of clients today and in the future without hiding from its past mistakes. That’s a tricky mix in such a competitive industry.

Market research will play a big role in developing a marketing strategy and plan that rebrands E.F. Hutton for 2012 and beyond. Just relying on name recognition isn’t enough. With that in mind, AYTM conducted a survey to find out what consumers remember about E.F. Hutton (if they remember the brand at all) and how they feel about the brand. Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll share the results and some insight into the E.F. Hutton rebranding. The results might surprise you!

Image: StillSearc

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.