Check out the newest blog post of Timothy T Brock!
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Finnish tech company Nokia became a technology powerhouse after they released the hottest cell phone in the market. Yet before long, Nokia will be no more; in order to focus on their Lumia phone line, Microsoft has announced that they’ll be phasing out the Nokia brand that they recently purchased. With a simple name switch, a 147 year-old company, one of the first names in mobile phones, will be no more. However, Nokia isn’t the only well-known company to go away. I recently came across an article discussing some of the well-known brands that have faded out over the years.
Back in 1927, Pan Am was founded in Key West to carry mail between the US and Cuba. Augmented by an increased interest in air travel after World War II, the company grew to serve as the US’ unofficial airline. Yet following a golden age in the 1960s and 70s, the reign of Pan Am came to an end, due to such factors as the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and a jump in fuel prices caused by the Gulf War. In January 1991, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy, closing shop in the end of the year.
In 2000, Reed Hastings (better known as the founder of Netflix) approached Blockbuster with a partnership proposal. At the time, Blockbuster was at the top of the video rental market, so they turned down Hastings’ offer without much thought. Yet shortly afterward, Blockbuster’s business began to falter, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2010. Netflix, on the other hand, thrived. Internet-based services such as Netflix have since continued to grow their business until one such service, Dish Network Corp, acquired Blockbuster in 2011 and closed the last of their retail stores in the US by early 2014.
In 1910, the company Amoco was formed following the Standard Oil Company’s acquisition of the American Oil Company. Amoco went on to revolutionize the gas station in America, introducing such concepts as the metered gas pump, the drive-through gas station and the tanker trucks used to refill them. They were soon a mainstay of American life, and their stations could be found across the country. Yet back in 1998, Amoco announced that it was merging with BP in one of the largest takeovers of a US company by a foreign corporation. While Amoco was originally meant to stay open in the US, BP ultimately changed their mind and announced that all Amoco stations would be rebranded as BP.
In the late 1990s, Enron cultivated a reputation as an innovative energy and commodities company, causing a massive stir in both industries. They carved out whole new categories for commodities, including Internet bandwidth and weather futures, and made huge amounts of money where nobody ever had before. Yet this all came to an end when it was discovered that Enron had been hiding losses and huge debts in a vast array of shell corporations and phony partnerships. Enron declared bankruptcy in 2001, and an ensuing investigation revealed a massive fraud.
After its founding in 1897, Oldsmobile quickly became an American icon, selling 35 million units were sold. Two of its models, the Cutlass and Cutlass Supreme, became some of the most recognizable cars coming out of Michigan. Oldsmobile sold over 1 million vehicles every year during the 1980s, but its sales began to take a nosedive in the following decade. By the time their centennial came around, it was clear that Oldsmobile couldn’t wouldn’t be able to compete with smaller and more fuel-efficient cars from competitors such as Hyundai, Toyota and Honda. In 2000, GM announced that they would be phasing out the Oldsmobile brand, with the last Oldsmobile rolling off the assembly line in April 2004.
When Frank Woolworth first opened the Great 5 Cents store in Utica, NY in 1879, it completely changed the way that people shopped; his stores sold everything, from groceries to hardware to books, under one roof, paving the way for a future of other such stores (the most famous of which is Wal-Mart). For much of the 117 years that it was in business, Woolworth’s dominated the discount market, pioneering retail marketing practices that are still in effect today. Yet business started to decline in the 1980s and in 1987, the Woolworth Corporation announced that it was closing the last 400 of its shops.
Back in 1971, brothers Tom and Louis Borders founded Borders bookstore in 1971, and their business began to grow dramatically as they built more and more locations. In 1992, the brothers sold the chain to Kmart, who spun off the brand, along with another of their book brands, Waldenbooks, and the company began to expand throughout the 1990s and 2000s. However, the store ultimately failed to compete with technological advances in e-readers and the rise of digital music and online retailers such as Amazon. The company’s original store in Ann Arbor closed shop in 2011, and the company declared bankruptcy. In the aftermath of their bankruptcy, Barnes & Noble acquired the brand’s trademarks and customer list, so that web searches for Borders are now directed to the Barnes & Noble website.
Postum Cereal Company was originally founded in 1896, after they started to move beyond cereal, they changed their name in 1929 changed to General Foods. General Foods steadily grew over the decades, acquiring such products as Kool-Aid, Tang, Jell-O, Bird’s Eye Frozen Foods, the Burger Chef restaurant chain and Oscar Mayer. But in 1985, the tables were turned when General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris. After acquiring Kraft three years later, the two food companies merged and spun off in 2007 as Kraft General Foods.