6 Smart Ways To Bring Back a Dead Brand Back To Life and Make It Successful

By Bill Acholla March 20, 2020

In this new era of marketing, even the dead can come back to life.

Brands that have long since lost their following can return to their former glory and compete neck and neck with larger, younger brands.

Ever heard of the term “sleeper hit“? In certain cases, brands don’t immediately take off.

It usually requires more than just luck and capital to give your competitors a run for their money.

A Tale of Two College Friends

Let me tell you a real-life tale of how two roommates from University of Virginia built a multimillion empire out of a fledgling social bookmarking site.

I’m sure everyone, one way or another, must have heard of or used Reddit – a popular social news and media aggregation website with more than 200 million registered users and approximately 500 million monthly visitors.

Alex Ohanian and Steve Huffman established Reddit back in 2005.

Propelled by his dream to make a “dent in the universe,” it took only three weeks to build then launch the site through the Y Combinator program.

The early face of Reddit was made up of Web links and texts (comments were later added to make the site more engaging).

You’d think that after launching a site, the two friends would finally get the happily ever after they deserve.

Unfortunately, life happens when you’re too focused on making your plans work.

Alex’s ex-girlfriend fell from a balcony in Germany and was in a coma for several months.

Later, he got a call from his father saying his mom had a seizure and doctors discovered she had terminal brain cancer.

The decision to sell the company did not come easy, but after 16 months of operating Reddit, an offer came and it was hard for Alex and Steve to refuse it.

To cut to the chase, they sold Reddit (a dead brand compared to other websites back then) to Conde Nast Publications in October 2006.

Alex Ohanian quit the company three years later and in 2011, Reddit ownership was transferred from Conde Nast to its parent company, Advance Publications.

Reddit became independent in 2012 and Alex rejoined Steve in leading the company to new heights.

The founders, who may have felt indebted for the resurrection of their website, consider Conde Nast as their half sibling once-removed.

Ways to Rebuild a Fallen Brand

Think of your brand as an empire. It rises and it falls, depending on who rules it, the ruling style, and whether there is enough public support.

Building an empire requires a series of strategic moves, as though you’re taking part in a political game.

You may have lost at one point, but if you play your cards right, you can always turn the tide in the next election.

If you want your brand to rise from the ashes, you must be willing to adopt deliberate, innovative, and audience-centered strategies.

Here are some ways to resuscitate brands that no longer exist:

1. Partner With a Well-Known Brand

Reddit founders got it right when they sold their site to Conde Nast and then later became its sibling company.

Reebok and Puma, both dying brands compared to Nike and Adidas, were brought back to life thanks to partnership with already established brands.

Reebok was sold to Adidas in 2006. The brands ceased to be competitors and teamed up to topple down one of their greatest rivals: Nike.

Though Nike still has the largest market share in the sports apparel industry, Reebok and Adidas managed to give it a good competition.

Puma, on one hand, collaborated with celebrities like Rihanna and Kylie Jenner – “Hollywood brands” with a large social media following.

This strategy has worked wonders for the dying brand, increasing its sales to 11 percent ($1.08 billion) in 2016.

Celebrities are brands in themselves and their presence alone could bring dead brands back to life.

Established companies try to level the playing field by buying as many dying brands as they can.

There are many dead brands for sale that, when repackaged, could reinforce existing brands.

It’s a “win-win situation” for well-known brands that want to eliminate competitors and dead brands that want a piece of the limelight big brands are already enjoying.

Image Source: Nighthelper.com

According to Dan Dufour, Brand Strategy Director of The Team UK, “honesty, transparency, and commitment” should be present for partnerships to work.

Moreover, partner brands must be able to communicate the right message and values to their target audience.

I asked Nina Stepanov the Head of Marketing at ViewPoint Government Solutions and here is what she told me:

I’m going to assume this is for a company that had a recognizable brand already but lost it with the times and as such has a sizeable list of subscribers and/or klout with other brands.

Partner with another relatively well-known brand that utilizes your existing intellectual property or what your company was known for being good at in a new or different way (obviously with them and their business involved).

Whether it be using your tech in a novel way or offering your product to a new market, find someone with whom you can partner and someone who can write a very compelling story about it across mediums.

Getting the message out is always going to be most important. This strategy puts you back on the radar and if it’s an entirely new industry, you’re diving head first into that industry with the help of an existing, trusted brand.

Entrepreneurs who want to take their business to the next level need to bring something tremendous to the table to justify why a well-known brand should work with them.

This according to Marsha Wright, CEO of the www.DigitalExposure.Network, who has built hundreds of collaborative relationships.

Strategic Alliances play a pivotal part of her business model, and has helped her become one of the most respected entrepreneurs and a celebrity influencer in her own right….

Marsha Wright has extensively covered how to find, attract and profit from Strategic Alliances in her bestselling book, The Secret Collaborative Economy: More Clients, More Exposure, More Profit, FASTER

2. Spark Some Inspiration from People Behind the Dead Brand

If you’re looking through a list of Fortune 500 companies that no longer exist, wondering if you could ever bring these brands back to life, chances are you just might. All you have to do is learn from the experiences of others.

For example, clothing brands that no longer exist such as Alphanumeric, Polo Sport, Nautica and Warner Bros. could take a leaf out of Reebok and Puma’s books.

These brands still have several loyal supporters, who are clamoring for their comeback.

Most of the people behind the super brands we see, hear, and patronize these days have been there and done that.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, admitted to making mistakes, which he said were necessary when you innovate.

Steve believed that the quicker you admit your mistakes, the sooner you’ll “get on with improving your other innovations.”

Apple was not an immediate success and it took some time before the public warmed up to the brand.

Innovation efforts eventually paid off after Apple II and Apple III computer models received critical acclaim.

Brian D. Evans Founder & CEO, Influencive.com argues that, he doesn’t think a brand is ever truly dead; it’s the people behind it that give up. The brand relies on people.

And if you look at any of the most successful brands in the world they all have a face behind them.

A brand is only as good as those people behind the brand.

If you want to revive a dead brand, first take a look at the people and their effort behind that brand.

That’s usually the first place to spark some inspiration to get it back on its feet.

3. Establish a Baseline With Your Marketing and Sales

So, you’ve decided to revive a fallen brand. Your first course of action is to take everything that could affect the success of your brand into consideration. This is what establishing a baseline is about.

Some of the things you should consider are the size of your clientele, your competitors’ marketing strategies, purchasing trends or sentiments, seasonal needs, your priority population groups, uncharted areas of marketing that could be used, overall cost of reviving a brand, sales target, and timeline for implementing your marketing strategies. You and your team must agree on the details and come up with a sound formula.

Ask results-oriented questions.

  • How long does it take to do whiteboard video marketing?

Image Source: Bottomlineanalytics.com

Establishing a baseline helps you gauge your marketing expenses and your plan’s success, says Eric Dezendorf, Customer Success Manager of Abakus.

In case of unexpected circumstances, you can avoid collateral damage. It’s also easier to explain and address “performance fluctuations” if the parameters are clear.

Chad Pollitt Partner and VP of Audience Native Advertising Institute takes a more direct approach.

The first thing Chad Pollitt does is to establish a baseline with his marketing and sales. One article a day, and an eBook and case study a quarter.

Then he would shore up his funnel using the 10/10/10 rule – 10% or more of his website visitors convert at the top of his funnel, 10% are qualified to do business with him, 10% of those get handed to outside sales by inside sales, outside sales converts 10% of those into opportunities. Twenty or so percent of the opportunities turn into new business.

As long as the content is good and the effort is honest, a dead brand can certainly comeback if it stays consistent. This type of marketing is a marathon and not a sprint.

4. Focus on Understanding Your Target Audience

A great part of a brand’s success can be attributed to its relationship with its target audience.

When it comes to customer rapport, only a handful of companies were able to do it well. Nike is a classic example of a brand that clearly understands what their audience wants.

Nowadays, when companies brainstorm for email or newsletter ideas, they place too much importance on intrigue and being catchy.

Clickbait headlines and titles may increase web traffic or phone inquiries, but they don’t do justice to your potential customers.

Understanding your target audience is doing what Nike has done over the last few years – sending empowering messages that create trust and loyalty.

Experts have evaluated the brand’s marketing strategy, claiming it’s not so much a strategy as it is about providing “real customer value.”

Rather than promote a product in a salesy way, Nike’s strategy appeals to people’s emotions – specifically the reasons why they are buy running shoes in the first place.

You’re automatically reminded of Nike whenever you hear the catchphrase “Just do it.” The brand delivers powerful messages that are responsive to the needs of its target audience.

According to Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré the SaaS Consultant & Customer Success Evangelist, Every great brand is a promise – a promise made to a target customer.

Nike promises their target customer will be swift, strong, and empowered. It’s there in the name, and in every message they publish.

McDonald’s offers a fun, family experience – fun is built into their very structure (ball rooms and jungle gyms) and into their products (who doesn’t love a Happy Meal?).

Those are powerful brands because they’ve identified their ideal customers and made them an irresistible promise.

If your brand has died, it’s probably falling down on either the promise, the target customer, or both.

I recommend taking a fresh look at the target customer for your product first.

Is your ideal customer for your product still the same person you thought they were?

Have they changed?

What are their most pressing needs and worst pain points?

What do they hope for and aspire to?

Don’t assume you know the answers to any of these questions – do the footwork. Identify ideal potential customers and interview them.

Get a sense of who they are, what they love, and their personalities.

Write down, verbatim, what they tell you.

All of this information will filter into your brand, marketing, and product development.

Then look at your promise, and see if your promise actually matches what they need – or if you need to come up with a new promise. Maybe even a new name.

You’ve heard of product-market fit. This step infuses that fit into every fiber of your company.

If you have the right fit, the right promise, and the right ideal customer identified – your branding just needs to reflect that.

Vinny LaBarbera founder of Imforza.com told me that he’s a strong believer in the idea that companies don’t make brands, their fans do.

With that in mind, to revitalize a dead brand a company needs to focus on truly understanding and appealing to their target audience.

For example, a brand could have a retro appeal that you might not want to lose while on the other hand a brand might need to completely shift their focus and message to cater to the changes in their audience’s interests, beliefs and thoughts.

Joel Klettke the founder of Businesscasualcopywriting.com reiterates that; consistency is critical in your messaging – start from a common goal, with a common audience, and build from there.

Don’t try to be all things to all people: know your audience and TALK to them. Find out why they hired you – or would hire you – and speak solely to that.

5. Leverage Your Audience Insights

Defunct brand names on the verge of a comeback can benefit greatly from audience insights. Most people build brands based on personal preferences.

We don’t realize is that what we want is not always what our audience wants.

To leverage your audience’s insights, you must do three things: listen to what your audience is saying, observe their behavior towards your brand, and ask them directly about their preferences.

Pay attention to customer feedback so that you can improve your brand and turn into something that gives your customers utmost value.

Starbucks rose above past setbacks and conquered the coffeehouse industry by finding out what customers want and improving their services based on these demands.

From loyalty programs to digital payment platforms to expanding customer experience with new roasting methods, the company exerts effort to make things easier for their customers.

One way to know how customers feel about your brand (particularly for start-ups and web-based businesses) is through email marketing.

In a blog post, AWeber advises: “Email doesn’t have to be intimidating. You just have to know how to do it right.”

You can also elicit more responses by attaching surveys to your emails.

Adding forums, help centers and contact forms to your website provides avenues where customers can air out their concerns.

Evan Dunn the director of expert services at Transform.co says that;

Leverage audience insights.

There is a ton of data out there from a variety of sources (Facebook audience data, for example, or PushSpring app data, or social listening data, or email demo/psycho data via a source like TowerData – there are many others as well).

We help brands analyze their products before they are in-market, and even sometimes their re-brands before they launch.

By familiarizing the team with current customer/consumer trends, brands can launch effectively so that they use the preliminary inertia to carry them forward and don’t lose it to sluggish corporate practices.

6. Rework Your Value Proposition

Why your brand did not take off before may have something to do with your value proposition.

Either you didn’t know what your competitive advantage was or you failed to give your clients sufficient reasons to do business with you.

A research published by Pershing asserts that 60 percent of investors think most financial advisors are the same because they make similar promises.

Investors cannot distinguish them from each other. For a successful brand revival, you must find your edge – an important quality that will set your brand apart from the rest.

Another way to improve your value proposition is to use simple words, particularly words that your target audience can relate to.

In a recent Pershing study, plain and emotional words were found to be more effective than jargon and highly formal words.

Kristan Wojnar from Third Quarter Advisers, LLC, said that ideally businesses should revisit their value proposition “on a yearly basis.” Doing so helps them assess whether they are still on the same page with their clients. Your value proposition should also keep up with new innovations and clients’ changing sentiments.

According to Emory Rowland the founder of Leverable.com; don’t look at financials. A decaying brand can still be earning revenue. Look at the message.

Go back to your value proposition. Rework it until you know it’s resonating with potential customers.

Now It’s Your Turn …

Take the first step to improve your brand. Many famous brands we’ve grown up with were once dead brands themselves.

However, they are where they are now because they learned from their errors, listened to their audience, and came up with something different.

During trying times, it’s best to remember the wise words of English business magnate Sir Richard Branson: Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination.

In other words, branding is a work in progress and there’s no such thing as instant success.

If you have a brand that did not work out or if a current project seems to be headed for disaster, giving up is the last thing you should do.

Rather than go against the wind, adjust your sails so your boat can float better.

There are many ways to bring a dead brand back to life, but settle for the one that works best.

Now it’s your time to actually put the above mentioned strategies into practice.

I hope the six strategies from this post will help you bring a dead brand back to life.

If you’ve any additional tips, suggestion or feedback, leave a quick comment below right now.


  1. Emmerey Rose says

    Definitely partnering with a known brand is a great strategy for that. And I think with the present day, because of digital age it is important to build an online reputation. So extensive social media promotion is a must too.

    Great post Bill!

  2. Michael Copywriting Leahy says

    There are no lack of dormant brands out there. Napster, Saab and CompuServe spring to mind. Successful renaissances include the VW Beetle and Mini cars. There are also so-so rejuvenated brands such as Polaroid that have kinda stayed alive, but only just.

    Don’t underestimate the work involved. And as is pointed out here: the initial research will provide many of the make-or-break insights.

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