"At one point, we were going to call ourselves 'The Re Company,'" says Mark Thomann. The CEO finally chose River West Brands, but Re was pretty good—not only a description of what he does (which is bring brands like Salon Selectives back to life), but as the essence of our economy. Recession, yes. But also Reboot. And Refresh.
In an economy with fewer ad dollars to go around—U.S. advertising fell 14% in 2009 and recovered only 5.4% last year—brand equity is at a premium. "Do you create a brand and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on brand awareness, or do you take a brand with a starting point and spend less?" Thomann says. And so, welcome back everyone—Muppets, Choc-Ola, even the East India Co.
Existing companies have taken the cue too: When sales flag, they reboot—new image, new message, even new products. But as the following two pages show, it's not as easy as just hitting the reset button.
Starbucks // After store closings and a menu refresh, year-to-year sales rose in 2010—after two down years.
Jennifer Lopez // After movies, twins, American Idol, and divorce, she's selling more albums.
Polaroid // A beloved brand is brought back from the dead, with Lady Gaga as creative director.
Mitt Romney // Unlike his 2008 run as a social conservative, his sleeves are rolled up and he's all economics.
Walmart // A new logo, ad campaign, and merchandise gave the company's image a sweet kick.
Duke Nukem // Duke Nukem 3D came out in 1996. Its sequel—Duke Nukem Forever—hit in June.
Holiday Inn // A new look at 3,000 hotels (finished in 2010) increased revenue per room by 5%.
Star Trek // The 2009 movie with younger actors earned 473% more than its predecessor, 2002's Nemesis.
Blip.tv // Following its reinvention as a web-video curator, the site's traffic practically tripled.
Old Spice // The stodgy brand was reborn with a new look, smell, and a sexy man on a horse.
Glidden Paint // A narrower color palette and improved paint quality boosted household penetration 26%.
Lincoln // / The old car got an image makeover to appeal to younger, wealthier customers.
Next in Reboot Nation: New, Fortified Brim Coffee Makes a Comeback
A version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.