Brands: Dead, Dying or Defunct

Posted by Alex

My most recent assignment for my MFA program is a pretty exciting one. Our task this semester is to pick a dead, dying or defunct brand and revitalize it. We are free to choose pretty much whatever we want so long as we can make a case for its need of a makeover and/or repositioning. The goal is not only to develop a new identity system for the brand, but also to extend its focus into untapped commercial avenues. For this part especially, we are encouraged to let our imaginations go wild. At the end of the project we will have an overhauled identity system, new product extensions, and an imagined history starting from wherever we picked up — the only thing that must be carried over is the original name.

Pan Am, a most beloved brand, would be a great example of something that would work really well for this project. Picking something that is familiar to people and in the public consciousness is always a good strategic choice. Although, you do run the risk of competing with a powerful history and a previously very effective identity. Another good example that Scott and I discussed was General Dynamics.

Today in class we went over everyone’s choices and there were some pretty cool ones; some very random, and most with lots of potential for sure. I am still on the fence with my choices, but I think I’ll come round this weekend when I have more time to think of potential futures. Right now, I’m thinking it might be fun to try and make No Fear cool again. They obviously aren’t an extinct brand, but if you visit the website you’ll see there is room for some…improvement.

Anyone think of other brands that are in desperate need of a renovation or rebirth? We found this list, but most I had not heard of. I’m sure there must be some others out there just screaming for an overhaul. Sound off in the comments.

UPDATE: The brand I ended up choosing was Playboy. Read about it here.

36 Comments Leave A Comment


drew kora says:

September 11, 2009 at 5:10 am

Ah man, I feel your caution with Pan Am is good thinking: it’s sacred ground so let it be.

No Fear = Awesome choice. Man, I remember everyone EVERYONE had a stupid No Fear shirt when I was a kid (I never did…seems like the stuff was too expensive). I would love to see a concept for reinventing the brand. Go for it.


walter says:

September 11, 2009 at 6:38 am

there are some really cool brands on that list to choose from…. how about vision street wear or commodore?


Striker says:

September 11, 2009 at 6:39 am

Not sure if this fits, but what about a defunct sports franchise? It may be tough to come up with new product extensions, but nothing feels better than re-imaging a sports history that could have been.


Jared says:

September 11, 2009 at 6:46 am

I thought this one had potential, from brandlandusa:

#71: Pennsylvania Railroad. Pretty hard to bring back a railroad when some other company owns the track, but if Amtrak is pulled apart, it could be brought back like the U.K., where all the great railroad names returned after British Rail was broken up.

It would be interesting to explore bringing this company back in light of Obama’s infrastructure proposals. Finally a modern rail line for the states!


Scott Strickland says:

September 11, 2009 at 6:52 am

DeLorean Motor Company! Gotta love those “gull-wing” doors and the fact that the company only produced one model. Everything must be stainless steel with those doors though, that’s a prerequisite.


Brian says:

September 11, 2009 at 7:33 am

I think Pinkertons would be an interesting choice with plenty of history and romance to draw upon.

Other ideas: Schlitz, Flexible Flyer, Standard Oil

This sounds like a terrific project. I hope you’ll share whatever you come up with.


frank says:

September 11, 2009 at 7:49 am

Looking at the sidebar over there makes me think: what if you brought back Olivetti in the U.S. and manufactured well designed, mid-century modernist PC laptops in red plastic cases. Make like a niche market of laptops for high end design snobs that could sell in places like Design Within Reach. Maybe peripherals like keyboards, mice and monitors for desktops, etc.


Adam Butler says:

September 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

Polaroid. I wouldn’t say it’s totally dead as a brand (although it is a dead company now) because plenty of people still shoot Polaroid, but I think it’s kind of fizzled out into this sort of cult following, instead of stuck with the mainstream. If you’re looking for possibly a more artistic route to go for your project, maybe consider Polaroid. I can already forsee some cool new imagery, capitalizing on the instant printing feature that Polaroid is so famous for.


mg33 says:

September 11, 2009 at 10:19 am

I think Lomo would be an interesting brand to use. I’m not sure if they were ever huge as far as advertising and marketing, but there’s certainly an angle there for you to use with older, simple, analog technology vs. the prevalence of digital cameras these days. Or a “lomo was doing this long before Photoshop” kind of approach to color and vividness in photography.

As far as General Dynamics, I would’t go with that. Aeornautic brands like that don’t have the same fascination to the public like they once did when all that technology was brand new. Jets, the space program, etc. are all pretty commonplace in the public.

Finally, what about something like the US Forest Service, or National Parks? There’s a tremendous amount of awareness to introduce to people with something like that. I really don’t see much out there in terms of advertising parks and nature. Could lend to some really great imagery!


NAVIS says:

September 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

If you’re gonna stick with apparel I’d say do something like ZUBAZ. Remember those?

Or Hypercolor t-shirts. Bring those back and you’ll have every AA hipster flocking to you in seconds. Actually, you could probably market Zubaz towards hipsters too. It’s a win/win. :D

Ruldolph –

I LOVE CHILDREN’S PALACE. I remember going there all the time as a kid. The castle facade on the outside was amazing.


frank says:

September 11, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Oh I see what you mean now. Hypercolor as a brand. I thought you were joking about AA and didn’t know the disturbing truth!


Brad says:

September 11, 2009 at 6:13 pm

What about The North Face? It may not be dying in terms of business or popularity but it sure has lost a lot of credibility.


Cobra says:

September 11, 2009 at 11:54 pm

RC Cola, British Knights, Ocean Pacific (Op), Yugo, Rax and Intellivision are all brands that just needed a little help after the initial fad wore out.


Mbithi says:

September 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

I’m digging the idea of a No Fear or Bad Boy refresh. They desperately need it. And it would be really cool to see what you would do with the brands and their history.


Tim says:

September 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm

How about Univox? They made guitars, amps and effects pedals back in the 60s and 70s. Their most famous product was the SuperFuzz pedal that Pete Townshend used on the Live at Leeds album, but their most interesting equipment from an aesthetic perspective were their early 70’s amps and speaker cabinets. I have one (the 1010 model), as does Bradford Cox from Deerhunter and they do in fact sound really, really good.


Andrew Kurz says:

September 17, 2009 at 9:32 am

Don’t forget Enron! A lot of clothing companies have a bad boy attitude but I think it would be funny and interested to see a t-shirt company promote a rogue company.

The company could be like “Enron Skateboard company”, but you order a product and nothing ever comes… or it looks cool but is there substance behind it?

This project makes me wish I was back in art school.