5 Iconic brands that reinvented themselves and became big

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Some successful companies have understood the need to revitalise themselves for sustaining in the long run.

Crash in stock prices, dwindling revenues, bankruptcy have never prevented them from making revolutionary changes to keep up with competition, market changes, technology and customer interest.

These highly successful brands have reinvented themselves in the market to restore their market stronghold, and through their rebranding efforts, they have successfully maintained their longevity in the market.

Here are 5 top brands that have returned from the dead and have made it big in the real world.


Starbucks was a little-known bean roasting company until Howard Schultz, the Director of Marketing, went to Milan to attend a trade show. The show was unremarkable, but on his walks to and from the show, Shultz discovered, “the theatre, romance, art and magic of experiencing espresso.” Shultz returned to the US and bought the Starbucks brand from the founders to recreate the experience of Milano coffeehouses.

With this focus on experience, Schultz grew Starbucks from one location to 0ver 3,500. Schultz took a hiatus in 2000, with high hopes for the continued growth and expansion of the coffee company. In the next eight years, a much different story played out.

Shultz’s successors cared little for the experience and expanded to thousands of cities and locales that couldn’t support the community atmosphere so vital to the chain’s success. Then the recession hit, and without the art and experience consumers refused to pay $4 for a cup of coffee.

Shultz felt like, “a former captain who could sense his ship slowly sinking,” and returned as CEO in 2008. He temporarily closed thousands of stores to re-train the employees and recreate the atmosphere.

Shultz checked his ego at the door and reworked or replaced many of the strategies that he had implemented from the beginning. And Starbucks revived. Schultz’s transformation of the company shows how humility and a fresh perspective are frequently more valuable than expertise and vision.


Apple hadn’t quite “died out,” but was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1997.

That’s when something completely unexpected happened. Steve Jobs got Bill Gates (yes, the CEO of a rival company) to invest $150 million into Apple Inc.

“Bill, thank you. The world’s a better place,” said Jobs to Gates after the agreement. Apple got resuscitated. And the rest, my friends, is history.”


It’s hard to believe now, with every year ushering out a new crop of Spandex-clad super-humans to the big screen, but just a couple decades ago, Marvel was seriously floundering.

The comic industry was, essentially, a bubble. Collectors bought up titles, thinking that they could be sold for a profit later on. Companies then courted these collectors by investing in vibrant and eye-catching printing techniques—such as fancy foil embossing— for their covers. By the 1980s, comic collecting caught the interest of mainstream consumers who started collecting to cash in on the trend.

To capitalise on public interest, Marvel raised its prices and its production, ultimately sacrificing quality for quantity. As a result, Marvel’s audience lost interest in its overwrought and overpriced writings, and collectors abandoned ship.

The bubble burst. Many comic stores had to close up shop, and Marvel spiralled into debt.

In the mid-90s, Marvel resorted to selling the movie rights for many of its characters to different studios in an attempt to free up cash.

This caused complications when Marvel eventually moved into the film business and needed to buy back the rights to its characters. To this day, Marvel still doesn’t own the film rights to all its characters, and this is the reason why some Marvel heroes have yet to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, it was a necessary move to save the company from bankruptcy, and 21st Century Fox’s success with the Blade, X-Men, and Spiderman movies ultimately spurred Marvel to go into the movie business for itself.

Marvel bet on its success in 2005 when it reached a deal with banking giant, Merill Lynch. The arrangement was risky. Merill Lynch promised Marvel $525 million over seven years, a total budget which could be spread across ten movies. In case the movies flopped, and Marvel couldn’t pay back. It’s debt, Merill Lynch would be able to seize the rights to Marvel’s biggest heroes, such as Thor and Captain America.

Nevertheless, Marvel pushed forward and bought back the film rights to some of its classic characters, including Black Widow, the Hulk, and the character who kicked off the Avengers franchise, Iron Man.

The first Iron Man movie grossed $585 million worldwide and set Marvel studios on its path to success. They focused on building up their brand to appeal to a wide audience, starting with individual heroes and teasing future appearances and plotlines. This move showed remarkable foresight and helped to ensure that Marvel would have an enduring brand that would last beyond a single movie. Not bad for the studio that, in 1986, gave us the infamously horrible Howard the Duck. Talk about humble beginnings.

So, What Can We Learn from Marvel’s Success?

On a more personal note, Marvel’s strategy for reviving their brand resonate with ideas that I preach to my clients every day. Re-purposing content to new media is a great strategy that I use all the time in marketing different brands (including my own).

Marvel successfully adapted their comics to the big screen by gauging which heroes and stories attracted the largest comic audience and transforming the content to produce broader appeal for mainstream movie-goers.

The same works on a smaller scale for any business that wants to grow its content strategy. Write a blog post, and pull some critical quotes for Twitter. Create an infographic to display your post’s main points on Instagram.

So, if you’re working on improving your content strategy, take a page from Marvel’s playbook, start working smarter, not harder.


During the early years of Federal Express Corp., the company was denied a business loan to pay the bills. During this time, its founder Fred Smith took a flight to Las Vegas, gambled with the last $5,000 and won $27,000 at blackjack. This money kept the business for another week and now Fed-Ex is a multinational company with 400000 employees and $ 60 Billion in revenue.

In the book “Changing How the World Does Business: FedEx’s Incredible Journey to Success – The Inside Story.” Founding executive Roger Frock described the episode as below:

“I asked Fred where the funds had come from, and he responded, ‘The meeting with the General Dynamics board was a bust, and I knew we needed money for Monday, so I took a plane to Las Vegas and won $27,000.’ I said, ‘You mean you took our last $5,000– how could you do that?’ He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘What difference does it make? Without the funds for the fuel companies, we couldn’t have flown anyway.’ Fred’s luck held again. It was not much, but it came at a critical time and kept us in business for another week.”

Polaroid Corporation

The Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt in 2001, and its assets sold off. Then a new Polaroid company was formed but that declared bankruptcy in 2008. A lot of people felt that the rise of digital photography would do to Polaroid what it did to Kodak*. However, as per Wikipedia the largest shareholder of a company called the Impossible Project which was formed to make Polaroid-compatible film acquired the brand and intellectual property of Polaroid, and was renamed Polaroid Originals in September 2017. Polaroid “Originals” cameras are available today still.


Drake’s Cakes, best known for snack cakes such as Ring Dings, Yodels and Devil Dogs has been around since 1896. Their marketplace was primarily in the NE US states, and I loved and enjoyed their products growing up. In 2012, Hostess Brands Inc. (formerly Interstate Bakeries Corporation) which now owned Drake’s filed for bankruptcy. McKee foods bought the brand in 2013 and reintroduced most of the great products except for the coffee cake for some reason.

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