Branding is a good quality for any business to have, but a recognizable brand does not always equal success. Many household brand names no longer exist, falling prey to bankruptcy or acquisition. 

When a brand ceases to exist, mismanagement coupled with industry pressure may be the culprit. Take for instance Blockbuster Video, which succumbed to excessive debt and Tower Records, which was hit by the creation of online music stores, like iTunes. Sometimes a well-performing brand simply needs a bit of a refresh, like Coke Zero. 

Pan Am

Pan Am was founded in 1927 and used to be the largest international air carrier in the United States. The company was known as an industry innovator and was the first airline to offer computerized reservation systems and jumbo jets.

In 1998, the business was negatively affected by the Lockerbie bombing. Pan Am Flight 103 exploded just 38 minutes after take off over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 747 people in the air and 11 more on the ground. Prior to that, there were problems. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Pan Am was never able to recover as a serviceable airline company. Soon after the war began, the airline imposed a ban on Iraqi passengers around the world due to the threat of terrorism. 

It has been over 20 years since the company has flown a plane, but its logo continues to be printed on purses and T-shirts. It was even the subject of a TV show on ABC, named Pan Am, starring Christina Ricci.

Tower Records

Tower Records pioneered the concept of the big-box music retail store. What started out as an off-shoot of a family drugstore in Sacramento, Calif., in 1960, Tower Records, at its peak, had about 200 stores in 15 countries. The company has one of the most iconic brands in the music industry, but it fell prey to bankruptcy as a result of excessive debt, music piracy and the inception of iTunes.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2004, but its brand legacy lives on as the inspiration for the movie "Empire Records." The movie was written by a former Tower Records employee.

Coke Zero

The popular sugar-free drink, which first hit supermarket shelves in 2005, was phased out in July 2017. The Coca-Cola company said it based its decision on research that indicated some consumers didn't realize Coke Zero contained no sugar or calories. So, the beverage-maker replaced it with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar the following month, in August 2017, to clear up any confusion on what the drink is (or isn't). Coca-Cola says it tweaked the recipe to resemble more closely the original soda drink. So what is it sweetened with? Aspartame and acesulfame K, of course. 

Circuit City

Circuit City was founded in 1949 and was once the number two electronics retailer behind Best Buy. However, while the world was increasing its expenditures on electronics, the company was facing financial troubles. Circuit City went bankrupt in 2008.

The company may be resurrected. New York businessman Ronny Shmoel bought the brand, trademarks and domain name and said in 2018 he would launch a company website with stores to follow. 


Borders was a big-box bookstore with locations throughout the U.S. and overseas. Unlike its competitors, the company was unable to find traction in the changing digital environment, and it filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Borders, which was created in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1971, closed all of its retail locations and sold off its customer loyalty list, comprising millions of names, to competitor Barnes & Noble for $13.9 million. Borders' locations have been purchased and repurposed by other large retailers.

Blockbuster Video

Blockbuster Video was founded in 1985 and was at one time the most recognizable brand in the video rental space. The company saddled itself with over $1 billion in debt and was unable to make the transition to digital. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and has been replaced by Netflix and other digital services. was one of the largest online pet supply companies and was also one of the most famous dot-com companies to fold during the 2000 tech crisis. The company went from initial public offering (IPO) to liquidation in less than 300 days.

The company was best known for its sock puppet mascot. Today, the URL redirects users to PetSmart's website.