A Study in Contrasts: Companies That Go the Distance, and Those That Don’t…

Whatever happened to…

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a number of iconic brands simply disappear without a great deal of fanfare. On the other hand, we’ve seen the meteoric rise of new players that quickly captured the hearts, minds—and wallets—of consumers. But will they be able to sustain their gains? Only time will tell.

Here we take a look at some of the “losers,” and some of the “winners” and try to determine what it is that keeps a brand strong.

The Disappearing Acts

According to the search results, several well-known brands have faded into obscurity over the past decade, including Pontiac, Borders, Saturn, Circuit City, and F.W. Woolworth.

What led to the demise of these once-prominent brands? A few common themes emerge:

Failure to Adapt to Changing Consumer Preferences:

Many of these brands were unable to keep up with the evolving needs and desires of their target audiences. For example, Fotomat’s drive-through film development services became obsolete as one-hour photo labs and digital photography gained popularity.

Similarly, Borders’ brick-and-mortar bookstore model struggled to compete with the convenience and selection of online retailers like Amazon.

Lack of Innovation and Differentiation:

Some of these brands failed to innovate and offer unique value propositions that set them apart from the competition. Pontiac, for instance, was unable to carve out a distinct identity within the crowded automotive market, leading to its eventual discontinuation by General Motors.

Poor Business Decisions and Management:

In some cases, the downfall of these brands can be attributed to poor strategic decisions and ineffective leadership. WOW Air’s purchase of widebody aircraft it couldn’t afford, for instance, along with its seasonal and unprofitable business model, ultimately led to the airline’s demise in 2019.

Failure to Adapt to Technological Disruption:

This is certainly one to pay heed to these days! The rise of new technologies and digital alternatives often prove to be the undoing of these traditional brands. Blockbuster’s inability to adapt to the streaming revolution, and Fotomat’s struggle to keep up with the advent of one-hour photo labs, are prime examples of how technological change can swiftly render once-dominant business models obsolete.


But, in contrast to these “lost” brands, other brands remain strong, demonstrating the ability to shift course to combat new competition or to meet new consumer demands, and cutting through the communications clutter and really resonating with consumer audiences.

The Triumphant Survivors

In contrast to the brands that have disappeared, there are numerous examples of companies that have not only survived but thrived in the past decade. Some notable success stories include:

  • Amazon has continued to expand its reach, diversifying into cloud computing, logistics, and even brick-and-mortar retail with the acquisition of Whole Foods.
  • Apple has maintained its position as a market leader, consistently innovating and introducing new products that captivate consumers, such as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
  • Netflix, the streaming service has transformed the entertainment industry, disrupting traditional cable and satellite TV providers, and expanding its global footprint, certainly took Blockbuster by surprise. It will be interesting to see how well Netflix is able to fend off its own threats from disruptive innovators.
  • Spotify, a music streaming platform has become the dominant player in the industry, offering a seamless user experience and a vast library of content.
  • Airbnb, a vacation rental platform, has revolutionized the hospitality industry, providing travelers with unique and cost-effective accommodation options.

What sets these successful brands apart? A few key factors emerge:

Adaptability and Responsiveness to Change

Thriving brands have demonstrated the ability to pivot and adapt to shifting consumer preferences and technological advancements. They have been proactive in identifying and addressing emerging trends, rather than clinging to outdated business models.

Innovation and Differentiation

Successful brands have consistently invested in research and development, introducing new products, services, and features that set them apart from the competition. They have been able to identify and fulfill unmet needs in the market.

Customer-Centric Approach

These brands have placed a strong emphasis on understanding and catering to the evolving needs and desires of their target audiences. They have prioritized customer experience, responsiveness, and loyalty.

Effective Leadership and Strategic Decision-Making

Successful brands have been guided by visionary leaders who have made well-informed, strategic decisions that have positioned their companies for long-term growth and sustainability.

Embracing Technological Disruption

Rather than resisting technological change, thriving brands have actively embraced and leveraged new technologies to enhance their offerings, improve operational efficiency, and better serve their customers.


Adaptability, innovation, customer-centricity, strategic foresight—all critical attributes that businesses of all types and sizes must have to remain viable and competitive. And don’t be fooled into thinking that only “big tech” companies can stand the test of time. The products and services provided by some of the world’s oldest companies are actually quite varied. Consider:

  • Kongo Gumi, a construction company in Japan that was established in 578.
  • Sean’s Bar, an Irish bar founded in 900.
  • The Shirley Plantation in Virginia, formed in 1613.
  • Mount Gary Rum in Barbados, founded in 1703.

In the ever-changing landscape of brands and consumer preferences, these and other longstanding companies have found ways to prosper over decades—even centuries. While some iconic names have faded into obscurity, the success stories of brands that have thrived serve as a testament to the power of staying ahead of the curve and continuously delivering value to their customers.

What does the future of your company look like? What steps could you take to stretch its staying power?


About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results at reasonable rates.

In addition to content creation we specialize in helping B2B clients raise awareness and drive website traffic through a strong LinkedIn and Twitter presence.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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