8 Brands That Came Back From the Dead

By Paul Michael on 14 March 2016 0 comments

Some people call them "zombie brands." Others simply say they are brands that "bounced back." But whatever you call them, you cannot write off any brand these days. What was once dead in the water can come back in the most impressive way, thanks to new investors or even online petitions.

Most recently, Circuit City announced a new line of stores and a new website. But who else has made that jump? Here are eight brands that were either dead or dying and suddenly found a new pulse.

1. Twinkies

The little snack cake with the creamy filling has been part of American pop culture since its introduction in 1930. Made by Hostess, the cakes appeared in movies ranging from Die Hard to Ghostbusters ("That's a big Twinkie") and most recently appeared in the excellent Zombieland.

But despite a cheap price tag, massive brand recognition, and let's face it, the tastiness of the sugary treat, it was hit hard by the healthy-eating craze. Twinkies were little time bombs waiting to clog your arteries and make you fat. Or at least, that's what the anti-junk food brigade was saying. Twinkies sales dropped 20% in 2011, and by the beginning of 2012, Hostess filed for bankruptcy. Twinkies were off the store shelves by the end of November that year, to great public outcry. In March 2013, they were acquired for $410 million and production on Twinkies was ramped up. And on July 15, 2013, after roughly seven months away, Twinkies returned to grocery stores everywhere. Now, they have a shelf life of 45 days, compared to the original 26 days. It makes you wonder… what do they put in them?

2. Old Spice

For the longest time, Old Spice was associated with that dude surfing the waves, while an attractive blonde lady patiently waited for him. It was cheesy, and it stayed stuck in the past. Old Spice was a joke. It was your dad's, or even your grandfather's, cheap after shave. You bought it for people as a goof, and it had about as much street cred as Payless sneakers.

Then, in February 2010, Old Spice introduced "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like." Almost overnight, Old Spice became the talk of the water coolers. Everyone thought the ad was cool. It was followed by more bizarreness, including crazy ads featuring Terry Crews. This, along with a complete overhaul of the packaging, and a new range of scents brought Old Spice back from the dead. It's a hit with the younger audience, and it is no longer an embarrassment to purchase. Right now, OId Spice is the top selling men's body wash on the market.

3. CBS

Once a powerhouse of broadcasting, CBS fell into a deep funk in the late '80s and early '90s. This was a network that was pushing out TV for older and more traditional audiences, including titles like Murder, She Wrote, Falcon Crest, Diagnosis: Murder, Dallas, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, and Major Dad. This was not a lineup that young people were interested in, and it showed.

In the mid–'90s, CBS was dead last in the network ratings, and something had to change. Les Moonves was brought on to CBS from Warner Bros. TV — where he had greenlit Friends — and immediately started programming for a much younger crowd. Some of the shows that came out of this shake-up include the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) series, Survivor (a massive hit for CBS), NCIS, Without a Trace, and Cold Case. It has regained its place in pop culture relevance, and continues to dominate the ratings game with shows like The Big Bang Theory and 2 Broke Girls.

4. Marvel

With movies like The Avengers, Iron Man, X-Men and more, it's hard to believe that Marvel was ever in trouble. But back in 1996, Marvel actually filed for bankruptcy. Marvel had not yet committed to making its own movies featuring its iconic heroes, but instead licensed several of the characters (Spider-Man the most notable) to other studios.

Marvel execs realized that their hottest properties were not the comic books, but the stars of them. And so Marvel Studios was born, and with it, a fantastic strategy; make a bunch of hero movies that will lead to The Avengers. Iron Man was a huge success, and other titles like Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Incredible Hulk weaved the stories together beautifully. Now, with some of the most successful movies ever made, massive merchandising, and more big movies in the works, Marvel has become one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.

5. Kodak

The rise of digital photography must have been a nightmare for the people working at Kodak. Known primarily as the supplier of film for cameras, they were quickly becoming obsolete. Once film cameras bit the dust for everyone except a few dedicated professionals, Kodak was destined for the grave. And in 2012, after years of struggling and amassing large debts, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Clearly, a major restructuring and focus was needed. Over the next few years, Kodak did just that, becoming a tech company focused on "imaging for business." Recently, Kodak debuted its Super 8 camera at CES, winning several awards, and has ignited new interest from younger people who want to get into filmmaking — with actual film. Don't be surprised if you see Kodak really take off in new and different directions over the next few years.

6. Lego

It's fair to say Lego never really died, but it was definitely put on the back burner for a long time. Lego was simple; a box of building bricks that you could make things with. The idea was always the same — Lego was as much fun as your imagination could handle. However, there was a problem. Video games were becoming the biggest draw for kids and adults alike, and the physical Lego sets were just not selling very well. In fact, by 2003 Lego sales had dropped over 35% in the U.S. alone. Something had to be done.

In 2004, the CEO of Lego instigated a massive shift in focus. Seeing the popularity of video games, Lego got in on licensing deals with enormous franchises like Star Wars and Toy Story. It also started making cartoons, and crossover between film/TV and physical play sets caught on in a big way. Now, Lego is everywhere. From Marvel Super Heroes games on the XBOX One and PS4, to The Lego Movie, hundreds of franchised game sets, clothing, and so much more, Lego is a powerhouse brand.

7. Sharper Image

As you wandered through the mall on a lazy weekend, Sharper Image was a store you could rely on for a break from the norm. Filled with gadgets and gizmos that you never knew existed, or wanted, Sharper Image was like a toy store for adults. Everything from back massagers and heated shaving cream dispensers were on offer, for a price.

As it turns out, that price was too much for most of us to swallow. The sluggish economy meant that the life-enhancing products at Sharper Image were off the shopping list. By 2008, following years of declining sales, all Sharper Image locations were closed after the company filed for bankruptcy. Now, while there are no plans in the works to bring back Sharper Image stores, the products and the brand have been revived online. After being bought first by the Camelot Venture Group, and then Iconix Brand Group, Sharper Image has a presence online. You can go to their site and buy all those handy, dandy products as gifts. Or even, for yourself!

8. The Muppets

Let's face it. With the exception of a few highlights (notably The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island), Jim Henson's greatest creations had their heyday in the '70s. The Muppet Show was huge. It was a primetime show, featuring some of the biggest stars of TV, film, and music. But that ended in 1981, and after a few big movies, the Muppets franchise suffered a huge loss with the untimely death of Jim Henson in 1990. A TV show emerged in 1996 called Muppets Tonight, introducing new characters but not really capturing the essence of the original show. It was weak, and short-lived.

The Muppets spent many years floundering, and were acquired by Disney in 2004. But their big revival came in 2008, with the hit movie The Muppets breathing new life back into the beloved characters. Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the movie took a lot of jabs at the history of the Muppets, and was firmly tongue-in-cheek. Audiences loved it. Another movie followed, Muppets Most Wanted, featuring Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey. And the new TV series, The Muppets, aired in September of 2015 to rave reviews. The Muppets were definitely on the canvas for a while, but they got back up in style, and are now relevant to new audiences everywhere.

Any other zombie brands we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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