Iconic brands that just vanished

Just over a decade ago, Sony Ericsson was one of the hottest cell phone makers in the world. Similarly, Cingular was one of the most popular wireless carriers. And Compaq, too, was one of the hottest PC brands. Now, these brands and several others have effectively ceased to exist.

These and other popular brands were household names in the United States as recently as a few years ago. But because of different events, such as the financial crisis, mergers and acquisitions, or poor management, these brands likely will be unfamiliar to the next generation of Americans. These are great brands that just vanished.

When brands vanish quickly, it is often a product of significant mismanagement coupled with industry pressures. This was clearly the case with companies such as Saab and Sony Ericsson. Saab, which was once a successful niche automaker in the United States, failed to maintain a successful brand into the 2000s. A series of failed deals and missed payments were the nails in the coffin.

Other brands, such as Compaq and Cingular, did not disappear because the brand was mismanaged by the original company. Instead, these relatively successful brands were acquired and then subsumed by the acquiring company. Compaq, which as recently as 2000 had 20% of the U.S. personal computer market, was purchased by Hewlett-Packard. Then, as a result of poor strategy by HP, the brand slowly disappeared. Last year, the company announced it would be removing its name from any Compaq products. The future of the brand is uncertain.

Other brands did not disappear because of weak market share but because of a single dramatic event. In the case of Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and Washington Mutual, that event was the financial crisis. These banks quickly turned from highly successful financial institutions into bankrupt or near-bankrupt companies purchased for a fraction of their former value.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed brands that were among the leaders in their industries at the beginning of 2000. To do this, we considered companies that were ranked among the most prominent in the world, based on brand valuation from groups like Interbrand, BrandZ and CoreBrand, as well as companies that were among the largest in the United States. To be considered, a brand needed to be either completely defunct now, or no longer sold in the U.S by its parent company.

These are the great brands that just vanished.

1. Compaq

(Leonid Mamchenkov/Flickr)

At the turn of the 21st century, Compaq accounted for roughly 20% of U.S. PC sales. In 2001, Interbrand rated Compaq’s brand as the 24th most valuable in the world. In September of that year, competitor Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) announced that it would purchase the company for $25 billion in stock. Both companies’ sales had been dropping, and the merger was their attempt to compete with International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM). However, management issues and the shrinking PC market led to the continuing decline of both brands. Last May, HP announced it would be phasing out the HP Compaq label, and that the Compaq brand would be used only for select low-end products. Currently, attempts to buy a Compaq device on the Compaq website result in a redirect to the HP website. There does not appear to be a place on the HP website to buy Compaq-branded merchandise. According to HP sales representatives, while retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) still may offer older Compaq laptops and PCs, HP no longer sells Compaq computers.

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