Who or What Kills a Brand?

The brand debate in this months issue of Brandchannel.com, poses on the question, “Do people, or does time, kill our favorite brands?”

What happened with brands like PanAm, Atari, Netscape, and Cingular? Was it the people managing these brands that are responsible for their fate, or was the inescapable  force of time that did them in?

L.A. Gear LogoThis reminds me of L.A. Gear, the brand that made a quick rise to the top in the late 80’s, ultimately becoming the third largest athletic shoe manufacturer, behind Nike and Reebok. They then made an equally quick tailspin, filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the late 90’s.

Who was to blame for L.A. Gears’ demise? Time or People?

I say people. With such a short-lived success, it would be illogical to say that time lead to the brand’s death. This is especially true when you look at how long L.A. Gears’ former rivals have been in business. Nike was founded in 1972, 36 years ago. Reebok has been in business for over a century, founded in 1895.

A closer look at L.A. Gear’s history reveals a large number of brand management decisions that were ultimately the cause of the brands extinction.

Here are some highlights from the companies brand blunders:

Teaming with Michael Jackson

With their quick rise to the top, they too easily lost their focus when they paid pop singer Michael Jackson to be their spokesman. If though the company was known as the fashionable basketball shoe, this alliance alienated their core audience. More problems arose when the specially designed black, heavily buckled shoes were a tremendous flop.

Multiple Lawsuits

The companies copycat designs lead to them being slapped with a number of lawsuits filed by competitors Nike and Reebok. In one instance, they had to cut a licensing deal with Reebok in order to continue selling their core product offering.

Quality Problems

Concerns with product quality arose after the company sponsored the Marquette University basketball team with Catapult shoes, and one of the players tripped on the sole of his shoe as it peeled apart during a nationally televised game.


It’s your turn.

Do people, or does time, kill our favorite brands?