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Five Lessons to learn from Successful Brands That Failed

A simple answer to such a question is captured in Nelly’s song. ‘Why do all good things come to an end?’ There have been many brands and corporate giants that have made a huge presence in the marketing world. And disappeared like the dust in the wind. It’s crazy to think that a company that is doing so well could never go out of the league without a masterstroke. Here’s a list of a few brands that tasted failures and the reasons behind it. For most people these are lessons to pick up from and for others it’s an interesting read. Nevertheless, We are sure you would be surprised by how quickly you forget these brands that were so popular.

Brands That Come And Go

You would probably remember some of the most popular phone brands of the 20th century. Blackberry was one such brand which was the go-to smart phone during its time. The brand faced severe failure once Apple and Google notched up the game higher by better phones. They explored better ways to make phones bigger, faster and smarter with larger phone screens and better user interfaces to attract the crowd.

Blackberry, was a favorite amongst office goers, business men & women. It was the only smartphone during its time to be of its class. However it’s failure came because the brand spent too much time in advancing the security features of the phone. While the other tech giants banked on this opportunity to overtake the next generation of smartphones.

Lesson #1 – Evolve With The Present Times

Blackberry was the only phone of its kind that helped with consumer’s work on the go. Worried about a failure and playing defensive in the fast transforming world, Apple’s iPhone and other android phones invaded the market with new technologies.

Apple Keynote
From Apple’s keynote event. Image credit: Ben Miller via Flickr

While Blackberry was left in the shadows as Apple and other phone companies spent their time exploring next generation technologies. Companies like Nokia and Motorola went through a similar run of failure and lost the battle of the phone market. With the rise of digital technologies, and mobile software systems. The newer phones from Samsung and Apple took the market by surprise with it’s stunning software systems that catered to the present technologies and swept the market away from the Nokias, Blackberrys, and the Moto. Something to learn here is to think long term and not settle for what you already have made. Which is something that you’ll see common among most of the examples mentioned below.

Lesson #2 – Be Bold And Take Risks

Kodak, once the world’s biggest film companies that started in 1888, went through bankruptcy in 2012. You would wonder how could a company that stayed alive and kicking for over a century have such a disastrous end. Well, we will answer that question in just a bit. But, here are some interesting facts before that. Kodak was way ahead of its league when it introduced its first digital camera in 1975. However, the first digital camera that was made available to the public came about in the 1990s. You would be surprised to know that it wasn’t Kodak that introduced it though. Logitech and Apple came out with digital cameras that were available commercially for the public. 

Another interesting fact is that a photo sharing site called Ofoto introduced in 1999 was acquired by the film giant Kodak in 2001. It is believed that Ofoto could’ve been the predecessor of apps like Google Photos or Instagram.


However, the platform wasn’t used to its full potential and settled for its basic functions. Kodak had two huge opportunities to dominate the digital world. Yet it stayed under the wraps with a fear that the film business that had been running for nearly a century would come to an end. Sometimes it is better to take the risk and explore the next big thing than to be complacent and comfortable in whatever we do. If Kodak would’ve taken those big leaps, they would’ve probably been one of the biggest technological giants in today’s digital world. Sadly, today it is a company that is thriving to return to take its throne again and who knows? They might just come up on top with a bang. But then again, that’s possible only if they have an act up their sleeve for the current trends or a futuristic tech.

Lesson #3 – Adapt To Customer’s Needs And Innovate Products

General Motors popularly known as GM, was one of the biggest automobile parts manufacturers. Founded almost a century ago in 1908, it was the largest automobile manufacturer from 1932 through 2007. GM was very well known for manufacturing automobile parts and its network of suppliers & distributors. With a network of producing automobiles in more than 37 countries, they sold financial services as well. Known as a company of many firsts, it invented the ABS system that is a must in every car today. It was also brand/company the first to introduce hybrid cars. First Car manufacturer to include turn signals inside their cars.

From being a giant in the automobile industry, General Motors filed bankruptcy in 2009. The move came to reality because of the failure to innovate the products and explore technologies. Some say that the leadership played a major role in its failure as they were more concerned in making profits than to improve the products or envision newer technologies. GM’s assets and the famous branding  was later purchased by General Motors Company. From GM’s lesson we learn that leadership plays a key role in the functioning and envisioning of the brand. If a brand is not led to listen and innovate to meet the needs of the world, failure is just a step away.

Meanwhile, Tesla demonstrated an early innovation in electric cars segment.

Lesson #4 – Never Underestimate The Competition

Remember the times when TV, VCRs and DVD players were a major source of entertainment? Just before the turn of the digital storage system and cloud storage became a reality. CDs, DVD and VCRs were the hallmark of home cinemas. You could just walk into a video rental store and watch the latest movies at the comfort of your home. Blockbuster was one such video and games rental service which was popular in the US. Founded in the year 1985, it was one of the iconic brands in the space of video rental services with almost 85000 employees worldwide and 9094 stores. In 2000, a well known live streaming brand wanted to sell its firm for 50m USD and approached Blockbuster. The Blockbuster CEO turned down the offer calling it a small niche business. However, in a decade’s time, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy due to its inability to adapt to the digital world. Later Netflix, the company that made an offer to Blockbuster stood the test of time and pride itself of an evaluation of 8.8bn USD today.


Perhaps things would’ve been different for Blockbuster if they adapted to the digital world or saw a potential in Netflix’s products. Understanding the competitors, their products and advancing with the world is key to any successful business. Such has been the story of Blockbuster video rental services.

Lesson #5 – Leave A Story

We are sure you’ll remember Concorde. The supersonic plane that was during its time, the only commercially flying plane that covered long distances by half the time of a normal plane. This brand was a luxury in some sense and was set as a class apart. With enormous amounts of jet fuel it required to fly at great speeds, the aircraft was known to attract expats, businessmen and women. The British-French supersonic aircraft had to bid farewell to the aerospace for several reasons.

One of major setbacks was the crash in Paris in July 2000 which killed all 109 onboard, due to a runway accident. This incident thoroughly shook fear in people. The fear of flying increased and the number of passengers decreased. In addition, the 9/11 incident played a huge role in striking fear again. And as the number of passengers choosing to fly kept decreasing. The maintenance costs were at the same time increasing due to the ageing factor of the aircraft. The British-French aircrafts were pulled out of service in 2003. For Concorde, that one fatal accident gripped the hearts of many with fear. And adding to that the maintenance costs became a major impediment in its operation. Though there are talks to revive the supersonic aircraft, we are not sure if we’ll ever fly in the Concorde again. Yet, we know that it will always be known of the King of the Air.

Brands come and go, legacies remain!

There will always be instances of brands that will fail miserably and come back with a bang. And there will also be brands that will just shut shop in a flick even though they’ve been there for decades. However, as a wise saying goes – Nothing is permanent and not everything is temporary. Brands will come and go, the more important bit is to leave a legacy and serve diligently while you are in the league. Because at the end of the day, consumers remember brands that served them well instead of those that didn’t.

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