Over the years I’ve come across quite a few products branded Vanguard, and they’ve all been a bit dodgy.
There was the UK aviation industry’s last mainstream propeller passenger plane, the Vickers Vanguard.Â Â This was a bigger and roomier version of the highly-successful Vickers Viscount, but it was launched too late, in 1959, by which time the market had moved over almost entirely to jets.Â Apart from the touchingly loyal local player, British European Airways, who bought 44 of them, Wikipedia says that the plane “was widely ignored” by the market.
At the same time, car-buyers were also doing a pretty good job of ignoring the Standard Vanguard, a medium-sized saloon car made by the Standard company from the late 40s to the early 60s.Â During that time it went through several very different model variations, but two things they had in common were that a) they were all crap, and b) none of them sold well. Together with other equally dismal cars made by Standard during the same period, they wrote the death warrant of the company, which was subsumed into another now long-vanished brand, Triumph, in 1963.
Vanguard cigarettes were another flop.Â Launched in the US right at the end of the 50s, they avoided all the health problems of tobacco by the simple expedient of including no tobacco.Â This also meant they included none of the things people liked about cigarettes, like a) the tast of tobacco and b) the presence of nicotine. Later, around 1980, the Vanguard brand was launched in the UK.Â I think I bought some.Â I think they still didn’t contain tobacco, and were still disgusting.Â They failed for a second time.
Vanguard Storage Services hasn’t failed, but it’s that slightly troubling self-storage place that you see when you drive outÂ on Western Avenue which has a tower in the middle of the building on top of which the owner likes to put things like old RAF jets on their last stop before the scrapheap and models of London tourist attractions.Â Â This is all very droll, but you do wonder a bit a) how many accidents are caused by rubbernecking motorists and b) whether this rather bizarre form of advertisement actually generates any self-storage business.
But things are about to change.Â Unless I am very much mistaken, the UK market is about to see the launch of the first undodgy Vanguard.Â The giantÂ US retail investment house, famous for selling tracker funds at incredibly low prices, is widely rumoured to be gearing up for a launch that’ll represent the biggest US invasion since the run-up to D-Day.
To be honest, I think that if they play their cards right (which is, admittedly, a very big “if”), theÂ silly, lazy, hopelessly fragmented UK industry will be sitting ducks.Â I remember working 25 years ago on the launch of McDonald’s into the UK market:Â it was said that when a senior team from McDonald’s in the US were taken on a fact-finding tour of the grim Wimpy Bars, Golden Eggs and Kardoma Coffee HousesÂ that made up the UK fast-food industry of the time, they angrily demanded that their guides stopped showing them all the rubbish competition and took themÂ to see the good places too.Â Â Â Â The guides explained that this was, honestly and truthfully, as good as UK fast food providers got, and big smilesÂ slowly spreadÂ across the Americans’ faces….
Assuming they’re able to avoid theÂ stupid and sometimes disastrous mistakes that American corporations often make when they launch over here, it’ll be nice seeing an undodgy Vanguard for a change.Â But I do rather fear for large chunks of the domestic competition, though.Â