Making Old Brands New

American Demographics, 19:1 (December), 53-58 (1997)

13 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2016

Date Written: January 1, 1997


Burma Shave, Brylcreem, Pepsodent, Ovaltine, William’s Lectric Shave, RC Cola, Barbasol, Hi Karate cologne, Black Jack Gum. At one point, these brands all enjoyed wide name recognition and impressive market shares. Many have now faded and become “ghosts” of their once former selves. Their numbers are legion -- in 1993, Nabisco reported 29 ghost brands; Shering-Plough 17; and Smith-Kline 14.

While some of these brands are dying because of shifting consumer needs, heavy competition, or lost awareness, others are suffering from marketing malpractice. Many well-trained brand managers believe that brands -- like people -- follow predictable, irreversible life cycles: They grow, they mature, they decline, and they die. As a result, when sales fall, the euthanistic response is to cut back on marketing activities and reallocate funds to new brands. Without any further investment of time, thought, or money, this brand’s sales will continue to drop, thereby strengthening the original prognosis and justifying even fewer resources. While some brands have been nurtured back to health at this point (see Figure 1), many die a lingering death as a heavily discounted or as a regionalized brand.

Lately, however, the $75-100 million cost of launching a new brand is redirecting interest toward the less costly option of revitalizing old brands. Nevertheless, while some brands are worthy of revitalization, others should be divested or milked with benign neglect. This raises two key questions: (1) Which brands can be revitalized? and (2) How should they be revitalized?

Keywords: branding, brand revitalization, efficiency, brand management

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian, Making Old Brands New (January 1, 1997). American Demographics, 19:1 (December), 53-58 (1997), Available at SSRN:

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

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