Great Brand Comebacks

Success stories with a second act

Who doesn’t love a brand comeback story? There are dozens of great narratives around iconic brands that have at some point in their histories resurrected themselves from near extinction. They prove that a troubled brand can always have hope for a revival. Well, that is if its stewards have the smarts to listen to the marketplace, see where tastes and trends are heading, or return to what made the brand successful in the first place.

It’s tough for a great brand to stay great forever. Navigating the ever-accelerating changes in fashion, technologies, lifestyles, communications, etc. requires a lot of attention and willingness to change. Take your eye off the ball for just a short while and your brand could be in danger of taking its place next to Oldsmobile, Pan-Am, Blockbuster, Borders, etc.

The following are brief looks at widely known brands that at one point were headed toward oblivion but came back stronger than ever.


What? You mean Apple wasn’t always the universally worshipped, all-conquering brand that it is today? Surprisingly, that’s true. While the company rocketed to global fame with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 (gotta love the TV spot), it was embroiled in controversy soon afterward when Steve Jobs was forced out. Apple also began facing stiff competition from a little outfit called Microsoft that had a similar graphical OS.

For the next dozen years, Apple’s innovation withered, turning out forgettable and even terrible products (the Performa or Newton, anyone?) that had little connection to the elegant interfaces and design aesthetic that made Apple so beloved originally. Before Jobs was welcomed back in 1997, the Apple brand had become an afterthought, suffocating under the exploding popularity of Microsoft. However, under Jobs’ visionary direction once more, Apple became…Apple again.

While the company now lays claim to being the most valuable brand worldwide, all eyes are on CEO Tim Cook to see if he can sustain the love.


Occasionally a brand can be too smart for its own good.

In 2011, high-riding Netflix introduced a policy that forced customers to choose between DVD-only and streaming-only plans, or subscribe to both and pay substantially more each month. While nowadays we wonder why anyone would choose the DVD route, at the time the backlash to not including DVD rental in every plan was so great that nearly a million customers left Netflix in a single quarter. The public vilification of the company rivaled that of Coca Cola when it introduced New Coke, and Netflix’s stock value plummeted by almost 80% by year’s end. Netflix apologized soon afterward and reinstated its original subscription plans.

Netflix wasn’t able to return to the public’s good graces until 2013 when it introduced original, top-quality programming that included critically acclaimed series House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Combining great content with its convenient delivery model, Netflix quickly gained a significant point of differentiation from rivals Hulu and Amazon.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Arguably the most storied college football program of all time, Alabama was synonymous with suffocating defense and national championships under legendary coach Bear Bryant from the early 60s through the late 70s. After Bryant’s death in 1983, the university struggled for the better part of the next two decades to find a coach that could replicate, or simply come close, to Bryant’s winning record.

After suffering three losing seasons over a six-year period in the early 2000s and cycling through four head coaches over the same time, embattled athletic director Mal Moore knew his next coach had to be, literally, a game-changer. He saw that the program desperately needed to return to the hard-nosed, uncompromising values of Bryant. In 2007, he pulled out all of the stops to hire Nick Saban, former head coach of bitter rival LSU.

Saban instilled long-missing discipline and toughness to Alabama and developed a recruitment program unparalleled in attracting top high school prospects around the country. Since Saban’s arrival, the Crimson Tide has won four national championships, significantly expanded its fan base nationwide, and reclaimed its position as the preeminent name in college football.

More stories

For more accounts of renowned brands that have staged successful comebacks, check out this article. And if you’re looking to revive your own brand or establish one, here’s an ebook that can help you get started.