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. Many iconic brands have gone bankrupt or been acquired by more successful companies.

When a brand ceases to exist, it's normally due to mismanagement coupled with industry pressure. These factors force a brand into a bankruptcy or an asset sale. If a brand performs well enough, it can be acquired and rebranded by a larger company, causing the brand to cease to exist.

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. After the Gulf War in 1991, Pan Am was never able to recover as a serviceable airline company. 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 starring Christina Ricci.

Tower Records

Tower Records pioneered the concept of the big-box music retail store. 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.


Polaroid, founded in 1937, was the pioneer and leader of instant cameras. Polaroid had huge success, but it was unable to foresee and react to the switch from film to digital. In fact, it was only in 2008 that the company switched its product portfolio to digital.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and was never able to turn its business around. It struggled to find ways to stay relevant, commissioning Lady Gaga as the creative director for a new line of cameras and creating a competing app to Instagram. Sadly, it was too little too late for Polaroid, and the brand no longer exists.

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 is now best known for its stores' facades. The storefronts are so unique that many of them are being converted into restaurants.


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 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 had 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 just over 250 days.

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

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