Brands that have had the biggest comeback

All businesses go through ups and downs – points of extreme success and failure. Many would be surprised that big brands that may have seemed to have an upward trajectory have in fact been close to bankruptcy. For this week’s Business Leader Top 12, we took a closer look at brands that have made the biggest comeback.

However, if you think there is a business comeback missing from our list, please send an email to editor@businessleader.co.uk and we will add it.

This list is in no particular order.

Tesla

The electronic vehicle company has suffered a few moments of nearly closing its doors. At one point, the company faced a lack of investment, but Elon Musk came in and restructured the company making it more conducive to growth.

In 2020, Musk tweeted that the company was close to filing for bankruptcy when it was trying to bring the Tesla Model 3 to market from 2017 to 2019.

Musk commented on the near bankruptcy, saying: “The Model 3 ramp was extreme stress & pain for a long time – from mid-2017 to mid-2019. Production & logistics hell.” Since the struggle, the company has gone on to become the most profitable car company on the planet and reported earnings of $17.7 billion (£14.6 billion) last year.

Netflix

Netflix started in 1998 as a DVD subscription service and has since grown into the world’s most famous film and tv series streaming platform. In 2011, the company decided to separate its DVD and online streaming service, naming the DVD service Qwikster. Netflix’s stocks plummeted and they lost 800,000 subscribers as a result of the move.

It was only when Netflix released its first original series House of Cards, which went on to become a major success, that it was saved. Since the success of the series, the platform has gone on to create a plethora of successful original shows and films.

Converse

Converse launched the All Star sneaker in 1917, which was the first mass-produced basketball trainer ever. The brand then signed basketball star Chuck Hollis Taylor to market the trainer, which is how it ended up achieving its iconic nickname, Chuck Taylor. Following the establishment of the NBA in 1946, Chuck Taylor became the most popular sneaker until the 1980s when competition from brands such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and Puma forced the company into financial difficulties.

In 2003, Nike bought the company for $305 million and focused on branding the sneaker in line with its Rock’n’roll roots. This led to Converse producing trainers in partnership with icons at the time such as Kurt Cobain and the Ramones, making the trainer fashion-focused and saving the brand altogether.

Airbnb

Airbnb was started in 2007 when its founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford the rent to their San Francisco apartment and decided to create a website advertising their home as a lodging space. They started to receive emails from people from across the world asking them when the site would be available globally.

However, as the world went into lockdown over the pandemic and the travel industry went to a standstill, Airbnb suffered. For example, in Europe bookings on the site fell by 80%. Reportedly, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault said to Brian Chesky: “This is going to be bigger than 9/11 and 2008 combined. This is your defining moment as a leader.”

Brian Chesky cut executive pay, borrowed money, and reduced marketing expenses – scaling the company back. This move worked to Airbnb’s advantage, making it more successful than the biggest hotels on the planet.

IBM

IBM was established in 1911 in New York. The technology corporation revolutionised computers in the 1980s and now operates in 171 companies across the globe. However, in the 1990s IBM faced losses of up to $8 billion as it fought to stay relevant amongst competitors emerging in the market at the time.

As a result, the company recruited a new CEO, Lou Gerstner, who invested in IBM’s software line and IT services – pulling the business out of its near bankruptcy. Today, IBM is a household name and achieved $57 billion in 2021.

Apple

Apple is arguably the most famous electronics company on the planet, which is why it is so hard to believe that the company’s success hasn’t been an upward trajectory. The company almost suffered bankruptcy in 1985 when it let go of its founder Steve Jobs. In 1985, Time Magazine even called the electronics giant “a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future.”

Microsoft provided the company with a $150 million investment as it was worried it would be viewed as a monopoly if it didn’t have any competition. The Apple-Microsoft deal was revealed at the ’97 Macworld Expo where an updated Mac version of Microsoft Office was unveiled. When Jobs returned to the company in 1997, he moved the company away from its focus on computers and added items such as iMac, iPod and iPhone to its range, marking the company’s resurrection.

Starbucks

Founded in Seattle in 1971, Starbucks has become the most famous coffee shop brand in the world. In the new century, the brand was expanding quickly but the 2008 financial crash caused the company to enter a period of financial strain. This led to the company closing over 900 shops worldwide and making large portions of its workforce redundant.

The brand’s comeback was signified by its partnership with famous agency BBDO and the advertising campaign ‘Coffee value and value’, which brought coffee as the company’s defining product to the forefront. As a result, the company achieved a $16 billion revenue.

Disney

When it comes to children’s entertainment and animation, Disney has been a market leader for generations. Established in 1923 by Walt and Roy Disney, the media company went on to initially produce cartoons, before producing children’s classics such as Lion King.

Despite this, the phenomenal success of Lion King was short-lived, and despite releasing films such as Hercules and Fantasia, the production company’s success was declining rapidly. It was only when Disney acquired Pixar in 2006 and went on to create cult films such as Monster’s Inc and Finding Nemo that Disney became even more iconic.

LEGO

In the 90s, LEGO decided to expand its brand to include more unique pieces and action figures. The new pieces had little resemblance to the classic Lego blocks and a few years later the company was valued to have lost $300 million. It was only when Jorgen Vig Knudstorp took over as CEO in 2004 and decided that the existing model wasn’t working.

Knudstorp decided that the company’s target audience, children, wanted to build LEGO rather than have pre-built action figures. The decision to backtrack on this idea was accelerated when Blattner Bruner was commissioned to create LEGO’s ‘Imagine’ campaign – this has been referenced as significant in the brand’s comeback.

Nintendo

Nintendo was founded in 1889 in Kyoto, Japan. At this point, the Japanese company only produced handmade playing cards. In 1966, the company started manufacturing video games and became famous for iconic hits such as Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong. The company achieved success after the creation of the Game Boy.

However, once Sony released its own gaming console, PlayStation, Nintendo’s future seemed unclear, and sales began to drop. In response, Nintendo created the GameCube, but it only managed 22 million sales against the best-selling console of all time, the PlayStation. In 2006, Nintendo made a comeback when it launched the Nintendo Wii, which overtook Play Station 3 and Xbox 360 – regaining its iconic space in the video game market.

Lacoste

Founded in 1933, the French fashion brand was founded by tennis professional Rene Lacoste, who was nicknamed ‘The Crocodile’ by fans for his ferocity. Lacoste clothing was worn across North America, but as brands fought to stay relevant and cheap for consumers, it became associated with white-collar workers as opposed to its original middle-class consumer.

Restructuring of the brand began in 1992 when it was relaunched to only being sold in high-profile shops across America. In 2002, Lacoste hired Robert Siegal as its new CEO. The former Levi Strauss director revolutionised the brand’s design and pricing strategy, causing sales to increase by 70%.

AIG

Insurance company AIG suffered tremendously as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. It suffered so greatly, that it needed financial support and was virtually owned by the government for $85 billion. However, AIG bought back its shares of the company for $22.7 billion in 2012 and reclaimed its position as a prominent seller of annuities in the US.

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