Popular brands don’t always stay popular. Many fight to stay at the top of the heap, and it’s not uncommon for brands to spend their commercial lives persevering through bankruptcies, restructurings and plain obsolescence.
It’s also not unheard of for a brand to fall out of favor with consumers, get left for dead, but still return to the marketplace later on. Sometimes these brands have even managed to come back in better positions than they held before being written off. It’s rare, but it happens.
What follows is a list of 10 brands that faded away and then made a comeback. Some lord over the global marketplace today, and some are still just barely hanging on. Whatever the case, these brands beat the odds and defeated death — even if only temporarily.
Read ahead to see 10 brands that defied conventional wisdom and came back, long after everyone had counted them out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 05 April 2012
Few brand comeback stories are as legendary as that of Apple. The computer company experienced a positive consumer response in the 1980s, but floundered in the 1990s and saw its market value plummet. That changed in 1997, when Steve Jobs, the ousted co-founder of the company, returned in an advisory capacity.
After some Machiavellian maneuvering, he become the new CEO and set about restructuring the ailing brand. Under his supervision, Apple shifted its focus from computers to mobile devices, and produced such popular products as the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. From that point, the company earned annual profits of more than $1 billion. In July 2011, it was reported that Apple actually had more cash on hand than the U.S. government.
Dr. Martens is a brand of footwear known for its yellow stitching and patented air-cushioned soles. The brand was adopted by British punk rockers in the 1970s, but went mainstream during the grunge movement of the 1990s. As with all things fashion, the brand eventually fell out of favor and the company was forced to downsize in the face of declining sales. It even stopped production in the U.K. and moved those operations to China.
In 2007, Dr. Martens reintroduced the Dr. Martens “Vintage” line, which was basically the original shoe by a different name. By 2010, it could be seen on multiple fashion show runways in the collections of designer Michael Bastian and the Generra Sportswear Co., as well as in shows in Paris and the U.K.
Garanimals is a children’s clothing line founded in 1972. The line was designed to be simple enough for children to coordinate the outfits themselves, an approach championed by no less an authority than Dr. Joyce Brothers, who said that it “helps the pre-schooler to handle his/her own wardrobe. That sense of 'I Can' fosters the child's growing sense of independence."
The brand fell out of favor after the 1980s, and promotion came to a halt. That changed in 2008, when the advertising firm Gardner Nelson + Partners began a new television advertising campaign for the product that ran on the Disney, Oxygen and We networks. The spots promoted a new line of clothes and accessories sold exclusively through Wal-Mart stores, and the campaign was bolstered in 2011 by an increased social media presence on mobile devices. The current spring line features such au courant items as jeggings.
Although Keds sneakers were introduced in 1916, they are mostly associated with the fashions of the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, it was a dominant brand with broad appeal, and a line even existed for professional athletes called Pro-Keds. By the late 1990s, sales declined as the buying public lost interest.
The sneakers returned to popularity in the mid-2000s, thanks to some creative assistance. In 2007, designer Nanette Lepore created a “fun, flirty line of women’s Keds,” and in 2008 the company introduced Keds Studio, which allows people to customize their own pair of shoes with colors, patterns and pictures. In February 2012, the company introduced a line with stripes and polka dots inspired by the Madewell Spring 2012 collection.
Lego is a brand of interlocking plastic bricks that children have obsessed over for more than 60 years. It’s easy to see why -- they take a beating like no other toy on the market, and few others can offer children the opportunity to build a car, then a skyscraper and then a dinosaur. However, in 2003, the brand experienced a precipitous 35 percent decline in U.S. sales.
In 2004, the company underwent a drastic turnaround implemented by its CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp. It eventually returned to profitability, and it’s had successful licensing deals with toys and video games based on the “Star Wars” and “Toy Story” franchises. In 2012, it introduced the Lego Super Heroes and Lego “Lord of the Rings” lines.
(In a previous version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that Lego was purchased by Mattel in 2004.)
Marvel has published comic books since the 1930s, and it introduced such well-known characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America. In that time, Marvel experienced multiple periods of decline and rebirth, but things looked their most grim when the company filed for bankruptcy protection in the late 1990s.
In 1997, the parent company, Marvel Entertainment Group, merged with the toy company Toy Biz to form Marvel Enterprises. This led to an era in which Marvel characters were the subjects of massively profitable film franchises, including the “X-Men” series and particularly “Spider-Man,” a 2002 film that grossed almost $822 million at the worldwide box office and spawned two sequels that were nearly as successful.
Kermit the Frog and his Muppet posse have been such an integral part of U.S. popular culture for so long that, to many people, they’re celebrities in their own right. Aside from appearing in a host of children’s television shows and movies over the years, Miss Piggy wrote a diet guide for Ladies Home Journal and was interviewed by journalist Morley Safer in 1979.
While the Muppets never experienced a major period of decline, they faded from view in the 2000s. That changed when Walt Disney purchased the brand in 2004 and later began a concerted effort to bring the puppets back to their former glory. Part of this effort was a campaign of videos created for YouTube, one of which depicted the Muppets performing a version of the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The 2009 video quickly went viral, and set the stage for a new Muppet movie. The film, simply titled “The Muppets,” was released in 2011 to overwhelmingly positive reviews and earned a domestic box office gross of $89 million, almost double its budget.
The Nintendo Co. has existed for over 120 years. It was founded in Japan as a manufacturer of playing cards, and was an early entrant in the videogame business, beginning in 1974. In the 1980s, it created the “Donkey Kong” and “Super Mario Bros.” arcade games, which both became massively popular. In 1989, it produced the popular Game Boy handheld gaming device. This was followed by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which went on to sell more than 49 million units, and finally the GameCube.
Nintendo’s fortunes declined significantly when its rival, Sony, released the PlayStation 2, the best-selling game console of all time with more than 150 million units shipped. The future seemed bleak for the company until 2006, when it released the Wii, a game console that uses motion-sensor technology. The product completely turned Nintendo’s fortunes around, and the Wii now leads PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 in worldwide sales.
Old Spice grooming products for men were introduced in 1938. The brand became very popular with the manly men of the hirsute 1970s, but when fashions changed in the following decade, the brand fell out of style. In 1990, its producer of more than 50 years, the Shulton Co., sold it to Procter & Gamble. The new owner overhauled the brand, changing its scent, replacing its iconic clipper ship logo with a yacht, and targeting a younger demographic.
The strategy was successful, thanks in part to television advertisements featuring “Old Spice Man,” a corporate mascot who advised potential customers to “Smell Like a Man, Man.” The strategy was so successful that in 2008, the company resumed production of the original brand, renaming it “Classic Scent” and promoting it with the slogan, "If your grandfather hadn't worn it, you wouldn't exist."
For a while, no camera was as technologically impressive as the Polaroid One-Step. During an era in which developing a roll of film took days, the Polaroid dispensed a photo at the moment it was taken and the picture developed right in front of users’ eyes. Eventually, the digital camera came along, which offered both instantly uploadable photos and a seemingly limitless number of pictures. The now-obsolete camera ceased production in 2007, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008.
Fast forward to 2010: The company that had been left for dead was producing a 21st century take on its original concept. The new Polaroid camera, which looks very much like the old one, is digital and instantly dispenses photos via an on-board printer. However, Polaroid’s chief marketing officer, Jon Pollack, announced in 2010 that the company would still make the old style of camera.
"Digital is the future, but the market has screamed for the return of Polaroid film," he said at the Consumer Electronics Show. He said that the camera would be an item for artists and hobbyists, and that it would be "pretty expensive." The company also partnered with musician Lady Gaga, appointing her to the position of creative director.