Is your brand on the extinction list?

As I ran through the airport the other day, I mused at how many familiar airlines have disappeared from the skies, yet their brands still manage conjure images of exotic, far away travel. 

Airlines have been particularly vulnerable to takeovers, mergers and bankruptcies because the airline business is such an expensive business in which to succeed.

But airlines aren’t the only businesses to succumb to extinction while their brands live on, conjuring different views and memories of the companies they once adorned.  Here are some that came to mind:


To me, Pan Am is the grand-daddy brand that immediately comes to mind – perhaps romanticized and revitalized a little by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, but it’s still the one that stands out. Others that have disappeared include Northwest (or Northwest Orient as it was), TWA, US Airways, Continental (although the tail logo now sits on United), Eastern, Canadian, WardAir, and for the Brits in the audience, BOAC, and British Caledonian


Originally Standard Oil, Amoco was founded in 1889 but merged with BP in the late 1990’s.  While the Amoco name disappeared, the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 severely tarnished BP’s reputation resulting in billions of dollars in fines

Saab Automobile

Cars are another business that often succumb to merger, acquisition and extinction – but Saab is the one that stands out for me. DeLorean, Saturn, Hummer, Oldsmobile – even Studebaker which has been gone almost 50 years – are all brands that have taken their place on the extinction list.


Remember Netscape Navigator? The dominant browser in the 90’s was sunk after Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows. AOL stopped development of Netscape in 2007.

Arthur Andersen

Formerly one of the big five accounting firms, the company surrendered its accounting licenses to the United States government following its auditing management of Enron. And while court cases later exonerated Andersen in that case, the damage was irreparable and the brand vanished.

Washington Mutual

With more than $300 billion under management, ‘WaMu‘ was the largest savings and loan bank in the United States until its collapse in 2008.  Washington Mutual Bank’s closure is still the largest bank failure in American financial history.

Lehman Brothers

2008 wasn’t a good year for banking in anywhere and the United States and Lehman Brothers were no exception.  The fourth largest investment bank in the United States also collapsed, with the remaining assets scooped up by Barclays.


The personal computing company founded in 1982, was once the biggest supplier of PC systems in the 1990s.  Compaq was acquired by HP in 2002 for a whopping $25 billion and the brand is now a subset of HP’s line of personal computers.


Once it came to light that Enron was being sustained by a massive accounting fraud, the Houston based company pulled the plug and filed for bankruptcy in 2001. If you ever thought brands don’t live on after the company dies – what does “Enron” say to you?!


After announcing it had found a massive gold deposit in Busang, Indonesia, the penny stock soared to almost $300.  Unfortunately the gold didn’t exist and Bre-X became the biggest mining scandal of all time.

Whether through changing market conditions, acquisition, merger, stupidity, greed or fraud, brands can (and do) disappear in the blink of an eye.

While I can’t speak to potential future greed or fraud collapses, my guess is there are more than a few brands on the endangered list for the years ahead that will likely succumb to changing market conditions.

What brands do you think will disappear in the years ahead?  And what steps are you taking to protect your brand from possible extinction?


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Alan Wilson

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