Watch Your Step—Nobody is Safe

2 min read • Aug 21, 2013 • Ty Kiisel

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 8.27.12 AMIt’s not just small business that sometimes struggles to stay alive. Only about half of the small businesses that started 10 years ago are still around today, but even iconic brands struggle and sometimes even just disappear. “Just over a decade ago, Sony Ericsson was one of the hottest cell phone makers in the world,” according to 24/7 Wall Street. “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.”

There are lots of reasons why a household name might suddenly vanish—some of the brands on this list I don’t even think I noticed when they disappeared. “When brands vanish quickly, it is often a product of significant mismanagement coupled with industry pressures,” they continue. “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.”

Check out seven icons you are likely familiar with, that the next generation will never know:

  1. Lehman Brothers: One of the most respected financial firms on Wall Street bit the dust in the aftermath of the mortgage loan crisis.
  2. Cingular: In 2007 they were worth over $9.2 billion. A number of mergers, including a merger with AT&T, obscured the brand and caused its disappearance.
  3. Wachovia: In 2006 they were the 54th most valuable brand according to BrandZ. As another casualty of the mortgage loan crisis, what was once the 4th largest bank (based on their assets) is now just a memory—and probably won’t even be a memory for very long.
  4. Saab: In 2008 Saab sold almost 22,000 cars in the US. That number dropped to less than 9,000 the following years. The GM-owned European automaker, in 2006 was the 65th most valuable brand according to Corebrand—it now appears that another new Saab will never be sold in the U.S.
  5. Sony Ericsson: The first widely available color phone, this joint venture between Sony and Swedish telecom Ericsson, just couldn’t compete with the Apple or Android smart phones.
  6. Washington Mutual: America’s largest bank casualty of the financial crisis, WaMu was purchased by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
  7. Compaq: At the turn of the 21st Century, Compaq accounted for roughly 20% of PC sales in the U.S. Purchased by Hewlett-Packard in 2001 to boost their own sales and compete with IBM, except for some older models that might still be available in Wal-Mart, HP doesn’t sell the brand any longer.

As little as five or ten years ago, these were some of the most recognizable brands in the country. Some of the brands were mismanaged, some suffered from a singular catastrophic event (the mortgage loan crisis), and others were mismanaged after mergers. Sometimes all it takes is a misstep—and it even happens to companies you’d think were safe and insulated from such things.

Watch your step—nobody is safe.


Ty Kiisel

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.