Dying Brands

In 2019, as global economies slow and consumer tastes change, more notable brands will be buried in the retail grave yard.

From Sears, Campbell’s, Harley Davidson, J.C. Penny, K-Mart, Wheaties, Chef Boyardee, Hamburger Helper – to Ken-L-Ration and a whole line of canned and packaged dog foods that only Rin Tin Tin would eat and no dog lover would feed their Lassie today – across the retail spectrum, many once popular brands are going out of style, gone and long forgotten.

It’s a sign of the times that global trend forecaster Gerald Celente warned the “World of Brands” to prepare for in his bestselling book, Trends 2000, two decades ago. And in the Fall 1999 Trends Journal, Celente identified, “Red Flag Brands” as a troubling trend that would bring down once iconic brands that were blinded by the future.

In Trends 2000 Celente detailed how, for example, with just 1,000 retail “bread boutiques” nationwide selling home baked bread in 1995, the “Reign of Quantity” corporate giants who were eating up competitors and bottom line focused, would lose market share to “Reign of Quality” competitors.

Forecasting “History Before it Happens®” in his Fall 1999 Trends Journal Celente wrote:

“As the 20th century ends, many of the brand icons that identified with the times and emotions of that era, won’t have what it takes to make it across the millennial divide. Lacking vitality and weighed down by associations with mediocrity and marginal quality, the old brand names will be overtaken by the new challengers as well as by established competitors that have better positioned themselves to make the millennial leap.


With the millennial change comes changes in expectations. Even many of today’s biggest, most popular and powerful brands, seemingly ingrained in the American consciousness, will suffer from obsolescence and marketing plans that are out of step with the times. Indeed, these grand behemoths will be perceived as Red Flag Brands by the consumer – products, services and places to stay away from at any cost or any price point.

Regardless of attempts at reconfiguration, relabeling or product modification, these brand names and their aging logos, are warning signals that instill low expectations and even lower consumer interest.”


“For example, following in the footsteps of Woolworths, Sears is on the way to the retail graveyard. With its best years clearly behind it and no promise of regaining its former stature, the old-timer’s off-trend marketing schemes and product lines have created an atmosphere that resonates with dying generations, and alienates the new generation of big spenders.”

Now, twenty years later, Sears went bankrupt, and brands, such as Harley Davidson, whose sales are plunging, not because of tariffs as the mainstream media claims, but because the Baby Boomer bikers who loved the muscle motorcycles are getting too old to drive them, and like your father’s Oldsmobile, they don’t appeal to younger generations.

As Celente predicted, “Niche markets will increasingly infringe on the market territory of the majors.” He observed that many old “assembly line thinking” brands of yesterday “lost focus on how to develop new products that would expand their market reach” and were blinded by the culturally diverse emerging future:

“Their products, once looked up upon as standards of acceptable quality in a post-Depression, post-World War II era of new economic growth, do not meet the level of new millennium demands. Their products symbolize the dull and boring-mediocre, undistinguished styling, and a generally old fashioned feel without the pleasures of old-fashioned quality.

While their early success often came from appearing superior in their product category, these brands have now fallen victim to years of cost cutting formulas that cut too deeply into the integrity of their product. For them, such as Sears, that spend millions on promotions and cosmetic quick fixes – new advertising gimmicks and transparent makeovers won’t bring their geriatric brands back to life.”

As Celente had accurately forecast, in the new millennium the Dying Brands would “suffer from obsolete marketing plans that are out of touch with the times.”

And, unlike the 20th century when TV, radio and newspapers were the dominant advertising vehicles and major brands could clearly position their products to targeted audiences, those days are long gone.

They can’t corner a market with big advertising budgets that spent millions on full-page newspaper ads in major dailies that had five times the readership they have today or by saturating commercials on the three major TV networks whose audiences have rapidly declined and whose programming does not appeal to younger generations.

And in America, the median ages of viewers for the top 10 TV entertainment shows during the 2017–2018 television season was 54 years old. Therefore, in the new world order of multi-viewing options, where some 22 million cut their cable cords last year and younger generations are tuning into Netflix, Amazon Prime, Roku, Hulu, Apple TV, YouTube, Facebook, etc., it is increasingly difficult to brainwash consumers with mass market/saturation advertising that helped build and supported many of the dying brands.TJ


What’s left of the iconic brands that have not evolved and coasted on old successes and even older strategies, will find it increasingly difficult to survive.

New and old brands that create products and a marketing message that reflect uniqueness and relevance to specific audiences who are not satisfied by the product offerings of traditional brands will succeed.

And on the local mom-and-pop level, as more big branded products are eliminated from shelves because they don’t drive profits hard and fast enough, new opportunities emerge for savvy OnTrendpreneurs® who identify the underserved market gaps left by the big, dying brands.

These new branding trends will evolve marketing strategies that understand how their brands translate to the digital landscape and shape their message to stand apart from the bottom-line merger/acquisition culture so pervasive today.

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