Apple orchestrated one in consumer electronics. Cadillac in cars. Al Gore in politics. And Tim Tebow in football. Now, Lincoln is trying to stage one of its own for its aging cars.
Everyone loves a comeback. But it's not as easy as it looks.
Strong brand recognition is crucial for a comeback. But that's only one element of a success story _ think of well-known brand names like Blockbuster and Borders that went bankrupt because they failed to adapt to changing consumer tastes and habits over the years. Achieving a comeback takes hard work, big ideas, precise timing and good luck.
"The brand name is a starting point, but you need to have a new story that people care about," says Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates. "Without that, it's `I've heard of that, but who cares?' Marketers that have come up with the right story can revitalize their brand."
Here are a few brands that tried _ successfully or unsuccessfully _ to make a comeback:
Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif., has had one of the most dramatic comebacks in the past 30 years. The company rose from near death by creating products that no one knew they needed.
Apple, which first revolutionized computing with the Apple II in 1977, went public in 1980 in one of the biggest initial public offering ever at the time. Annual sales hit $1 billion in 1982. By 1984, the company introduced the popular Macintosh computer.
But by 1993, Apple was operating at a loss as it struggled with competition from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 operating system, parts shortages and mistakes it made in predicting customer demand.
The company continued its decline until Steve Jobs, the co-founder who left Apple in 1985 after clashing with then-CEO John Sculley, returned in 1997. His return marked the beginning of Apple's turnaround and led to a string of blockbuster products _ namely, the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
The new gadgets made Apple one of the world's most profitable brands. In its most recent fiscal year that ended in September, net income rose 85 percent to $25.9 billion. Revenue jumped 66 percent to $108 billion.
Spicing up Old Spice
A few years ago, Old Spice was a 70-year-old brand that young people generally associated with their fathers _ that is, if they knew about it at all.
All that changed in 2008, when new competition in the men's spray and shower gel category caused Old Spice owner Procter & Gamble to revamp the brand. The aging Old Spice brand debuted hip products with names such as "Red Zone" and "High Endurance." It also rolled out trendy marketing targeting a younger audience than its traditional gray-haired men's after shave consumer.
A quirky "Smell Like a Man" ad campaign launched in 2010 and became a viral hit, sparking sales and brand recognition. One ad featured buff, towel-clad, former football player Isaiah Mustafa who urged women to "Look at your man, now back at me." The ad generated tens of millions of online views and a new catch-phrase: "I'm on a horse." Another campaign included 186 related videos in which Mustafa responded personally to online queries, including ones from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and actress Alyssa Milano.
The products and the campaign were successes: Old Spice body wash sales grew 27 percent in the six months after the campaign launched, making it the top seller in the category.
Bringing back Cadillac
Cadillac's turnaround has been much slower. Parent company General Motors Corp.'s efforts to remake the brand from a stodgy one that attracts old fogies to a hipper car company have evolved over the past decade or so.
The company first tried to shake off its old school image by rolling out the Cadillac CTS. It debuted the sedan in a Super Bowl ad that featured a Led Zepplin tune in 2002.
The company also has improved on its Escalade SUV, which it first rolled out in 1999. As a result, it has become wildly popular in the last six or seven years among luxury buyers, including a growing number of sports stars and hip hop artists. The behemoth SUV now stands as a symbol of luxury for Americans _ both young and old.
Because of the brand's efforts, the average age of a Cadillac driver has been dropping, slowly but surely. The average age was 60 five years ago. Now, it's in the high-50s, says Art Spinella, president of research firm CNW Research.
Sales are rising, too, albeit slowly. In 2011, Cadillac's total sales increased 3.7 percent.
These days, the brand is focusing on making fewer and better vehicles. At the North American International Auto Show this week in Detroit, Cadillac rolled out a much buzzed-about sporty Cadillac ATS that it hopes will help it break into the market for small luxury sports sedans now dominated by BMW's 3-Series. It also said in August that it will build a luxury version of its Chevrolet Volt hybrid called the Cadillac ELR.
Saving Liz Claiborne
Liz Claiborne, a storied brand that revolutionized women's work wear in the 1980s, so far has been unable to stay relevant in today's fashion world despite repeated attempts to comeback.
In 1976, Designer Liz Claiborne founded her eponymous label aimed at creating outfits for a growing number of women entering the work force. By 1985, Liz Claiborne Inc. was the first company founded by a woman to be listed in the Fortune 500. It continued to expand throughout the 1990s.
But in early 2000, the brand was losing steam. Sales slumped in the economic downturn and women began steering away from the brand's classic mix-and-match skirts, pants, top and blazer sportswear separates in favor of trendier clothes from chains like H&M and Zara.
Liz Claiborne attempted to refresh the label in 2008 by hiring popular designer Isaac Mizrahi as its creative director. But the timing was poor, and Liz Claiborne CEO William McComb later said the collection did not get the support it needed from department stores when it launched mid-recession.
In 2009, the company shifted its strategy for the brand again. It began selling various Liz Claiborne brands as an exclusive at J.C. Penney, with Mizrahi's Liz Claiborne New York line being sold exclusively on TV shopping channel QVC.
The different strategies confused shoppers, and sales continued to slump. Revenue for Liz Claiborne's partnered brands business, which includes the Liz Claiborne brand and several others, fell 4.2 percent, excluding changes in licensing agreements, in fiscal 2010, the latest such data available.
By October 2011, Liz Claiborne, which hasn't had an annual profit since 2006, said it would sell the brand outright. In January, the company said it would change its name to Fifth & Pacific.