Famous consumer brands that no longer exist
Starting a business is fun. It’s the American dream. It’s why more than 400,000 small businesses were added to America’s 30 million existing small businesses in 2019, according to the SBA. Owning and operating a successful business also requires hard work and determination, which is why an estimated 20% of small businesses fail in their first year.
Business failures can’t always be blamed on new technologies taking over or consumer tastes changing. There are real, concrete reasons for the majority of them. Some of the biggest reasons for big and small business failure include a lack of short- and long-term planning, poor leadership, no brand differentiation, poor management (financial and personnel-wise), poor customer service, and a lack of focus.
Every big business began as a small one, with one store, a first customer, and that often elusive first sale. Businesses that succeed share common threads: the product or service being offered fulfills a need, the business owner genuinely enjoys the business, and the company hires those who understand the ins and outs of finance.
Even when companies have laid the groundwork for success, put their financials in place, and gathered the best staff, things don’t always work out as planned. Such is the case with the 50 brands Stacker compiled here. In our search, we consulted with sources such as TheStreet, Eat This, Not That!, and Good Housekeeping, along with dozens of consumer brand throwback lists to uncover which familiar brands from the past are now gone.
Sometimes it’s a merger that closes a business, as happens with many airlines. Other times, a business model becomes obsolete, like Fotomat or Blockbuster. And for some, bad business decisions unfortunately lead to a company’s downfall.
Whether you want to reminisce about your favorite Bugle Boy jeans or you're curious about what happened to Jell-O Pudding Pops, read on to explore Stacker’s list of famous consumer brands that no longer exist.
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General Motors introduced Pontiac in 1926 as a sister brand to Chevrolet. The line produced performance vehicles such as the Fiero, Sunfire, and Solstice. Despite numerous attempts to save Pontiac, in 2009, GM discontinued the brand due to a lack of profits.
Founded in 1971, bookstore chain Borders was forced to file bankruptcy and close all remaining stores by the end of 2011. The company, like many, did not pivot to online sales as fast as its competitors; between 2001 and 2008, it had even linked to Amazon instead of establishing its own online business.
There was no formal statement from Mars, Inc. regarding why the deliciously popular breakfast candy bar Kudos disappeared from retail shelves. However, some speculate that healthier snack bars moved in and left little room for a candy bar disguising itself as a nutritious snack.
When Orbitz debuted in 1997, it was promoted as a “texturally enhanced alternative beverage.” Apparently, the world wasn’t ready for Orbitz’ gelatinous blobs floating around inside what some called a liquid reminiscent of cough syrup. The beverage was discontinued within a year.
Once the largest international airline in the U.S., Pan Am shuttered after 60 years commanding the skies. Three major turning points lead to Pan Am’s demise: the company invested half a billion dollars on 747s right before an oil embargo raised the price of oil 400%; it purchased National Airlines in order to fly domestically, resulting in a loss of $18.9 million; and in December 1989, it was the target of a terrorist attack that killed over 260 people. Two years later, in 1991, the company filed for bankruptcy.
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Zune, Microsoft’s version of the iPod, seemed destined to fail before it even took off, according to company sources. It was a matter of entering the market too late—consumers weren’t all that interested in portable music anymore, and Zune failed to capture the market that was left.
Founded in 1993, Netscape Navigator was the dominant web browser of the 1990s. At one point, the company had over 5,000 employees maintaining its application. However, Netscape was no match for Microsoft, which released Internet Explorer shortly after Netscape. By 1998, the company was acquired by AOL, and the browser was shut down in 2008.
Worlds of Wonder
Teddy Ruxpin was the shining star of Worlds of Wonder (WoW, for short). The company, composed mostly of former Atari employees, also introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System and Lazer Tag, the latter of which may have partly led to the company’s failure. Eight months after a 19-year old pointed a Lazer Tag gun at a police officer and was fatally shot, the company filed for bankruptcy.
After a failed deal with Penske Automotive Group, General Motors made the decision to cease operations at Saturn. The vehicle line, which began in 1985 and included mostly small to mid-size vehicles, was reportedly never profitable.
In an odd marketing campaign, Fruit Corners Fruit Bars touted the slogan, “Made from real fruit so your taste buds shout, look so ugly they’re gonna knock you out!” Apparently, the fruit bars were, indeed, too ugly. Once Fruit Roll-Ups were released, Fruit Bars disappeared.
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