It’s no easy feat reviving a brand that has lost its luster. Some try in vain and find only limited success.
Polaroid has reinvented itself several times since its heyday in the analog era, but never found a major route back to prominence.
For every Apple, a brand that regains a lost throne, there are scores that failed in the attempt.
It takes perseverance and the willingness to adapt to changing times and tastes to win back your place at the head of the table.
Here are three recent brands that came back from the brink stronger than ever:
The first high-top sneaker sensation was a megahit in the 1930s, but by the ‘90s they and parent company Converse were all but overshadowed by the Nike / Reebok wars.
But, the brand made a smart partnership in 2001 with fashion designer John Varvatos that is still proving fruitful today. In 2003, Nike bought the company and initiated a widescale revival.
Converse only brought in $200 million in sales the year Nike acquired it. In 2016, the company reported $2 billion in revenue, a tenfold increase in just over a decade.
Today, the brand is positioned at musicians, artists, and other “cool” celebrities, and is thriving in a marketplace where sneakers can be high fashion.
The world’s most famous building toy also nearly didn’t make it to the twenty-first century. The Danish company was near bankruptcy in 2003 and looked like it was going to be made irrelevant by video games and apps.
New CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp joined the company and initiated a turnaround. One of his biggest moves was to take greater advantage of cross promotional tie-ins from media properties like “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars.”
“Star Wars” kits first hit store shelves in 1999 and were LEGO’s first licensed product. Branded kits of X-Wings and lightsaber wielding minifigs helped the company survive the lean years, and the Lucasfilm property is still its most popular license.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst, affectionately shortened to ‘PBR’ by fans, has been wearing its blue ribbon since 1882. But, perhaps the low-cost beer brand was resting on its laurels a tad too long, because sales peaked in the 1970s and then suffered a slow decline.
However, in just the last few years PBR has had something of a renaissance in trendy Millennial enclaves like Brooklyn, New York; Austin, Texas; and Oakland, California.
Seeing the potential, Eugene Kashper, who had already made a name for himself turning around several Eastern European breweries bought the company along with private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners in 2014 for $700 million.
Now CEO, Kashper is leading a daring push to take on the big boys (Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors) using unconventional tactics like sponsoring local artists and bike messenger races rather than just traditional marketing.
Their efforts are showing dividends and winning some new kudos for the brand, including a gold medal for best American-style lager at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
There’s as much art as science in a well executed brand turnaround.
But, with diverse and compelling advertising and promotional strategies developed by taking the time to reexamine the marketplace and consumer sentiments, older brands can reinvigorate themselves, win back old fans, and find new ones.