Don’t let a bad rep grind you down.
Sometimes the sophomore slump can seem insurmountable — but for those determined to grow from their missteps, it’s never the end of the road. If you’ve started off (or ended up) on the wrong foot, take a page from the playbooks of these four brands that made massive comebacks after falling to near oblivion.
Converse started strong back in 1917, when basketball star (and the classic shoe’s namesake) Chuck Taylor was still in high school. Converse would go on to sell over 600 billion “Chuck Taylor All-Stars” in the century that followed.
For decades, the sports shoe brand seemed unstoppable, but by the 1970s, newcomers like Nike, Adidas, and Puma swooped in to take back a huge chunk of the market. By 1998, Converse’s market share had fallen to a mere 2.3%.
So in the early aughts, Converse took a new tack, refocusing their brand identity on individual expression. The brand celebrated musical icons like Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, and Billie Joe Armstrong in its 2008 campaign, honing in on the counter culture resurgence embraced by the millennial crowd. This new approach helped the brand achieve a 29% increase in year-over-year revenue.
In 2001, Pabst Blue Ribbon sales had dropped to fewer than a million barrels — “90 percent below its 1975 high.” Then, in 2009, the brand made a major turnaround, with sales jumping 20.3% in 2009 and continuing to rise year after year.
So how did PBR manage to turn things around so drastically? By appealing to the very people who would have been turned off by the cloying marketing campaigns of macro-breweries. PBR became a staple of no-frills drinking culture, and soon the beer itself had become a cultural symbol. For those with hipster aspirations, PBR became the accessory of choice, catapulting the brand to nearly cultish popularity.
While Levi’s is currently on track to reach $50 billion in sales by 2020, the apparel brand was actually on the brink of bankruptcy in the early 2000s. The recent turnaround can largely be attributed to President and CEO Chip Bergh, whose vision of a new target audience for the classic denim breathed new life into the brand. As he explains, “Our demographic globally averaged around 42 years of age. We were missing the younger consumer.”
The new Levi’s message emphasizes nostalgia, authenticity, and heritage, and their marketing is consistently focused on activism and the arts — positioning Levi’s as a conscientious, ethically-minded brand that appeals to millennial sensibilities.
Marvel first hit the scene with major comic book hits like Spiderman, X-Men, and the Avengers. But after the comic book craze started fizzling out and the brand came under new leadership, things took a turn for the worse — the company was spiraling towards bankruptcy by 1996.
So Marvel changed its tack with a major rebranding effort. Over the past two decades, they’ve refocused their product and adapted their classic comic books to film, making a significant comeback with blockbuster hits like Wonderwoman and Spiderman. Much of the brand’s success has been fueled by fierce loyalty from their existing fanbase, but branching out into film has exposed a whole new audience to the mesmerizing world of superheroes and villains.