At Their Endgame: 7 Brands That Successfully Avenged Themselves

End Game

By Julia Koh & Syira Junaidi
May 2019
An endgame is when a game such as chess or bridge is at the final stages with a few pieces or cards left on the table. These days, people know it better as the final movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), in which the Avengers will face their purple, gauntlet-wearing, finger-snapping supervillain one last time and save the world.
Just like chess or an epic war over powerful jewellery, the world of business is also a game of wit and strategy. Today we look at 7 brands that were at the bottom of the rung but fought their way up. These brands picked themselves up and refused to quit even as they are about to perish. We’ll look into why they were declining and what made them recover back stronger.
These are the brands that avenged themselves at their endgame:

  1. Lego

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    For as long as we can remember, Lego was always cool. Parents were told that these plastic bricks were intelligent toys that encourage creativity in their children. Many did not know however, that Lego faced a decline in the 1990s. They were losing money to the point of near bankruptcy by 2004. The Danish brand was battling competition and counterfeit products that were hurting sales and brand reception.

    Soon however, Lego perked up and switched strategy. They focused on their core products, outsourced and relocated to cut costs, and strategically partnered with media franchises to get more brand awareness. And it worked!

    Sales caught up quickly after their Star Wars and Indiana Jones themed games. Lego also diversified their products and made video games and board games to keep up with changing play trends. And in 2014, Lego partnered with Warner Bros. to create the box office hit film The Lego Movie which became so successful it birthed its own film franchise. By being innovative and strategic, Lego bounced back after their decline and is now more popular than before.

  2. Yahoo!

    Photo Credit: Yahoo! Facebook

    A lot of us were first introduced to the internet through Yahoo!. It was the most popular website in the 1990s not just for internet searches, but also for emails, online news, instant messaging (remember Yahoo! Messenger?) and even shopping. But then Google came and crushed Yahoo! harder than when Thor’s Mjolnir was destroyed (cue MCU reference).

    As the new millennium began, Yahoo! continued to lose market share first to Google, then to Facebook, Whatsapp, and Huffington Post. Some say Yahoo!’s main mistakes were trying to do too much of everything and lacking focus. Others cited failure to adapt to mobile technology.

    But Yahoo! refused to throw in the towel and admit defeat amidst titan rivalries. They put up a fight by changing leadership and then partnering with Microsoft to operate their search engine and instant messaging. Since 2009, Yahoo! Search had been powered by Microsoft Bing.

    Although their glory days have passed, Yahoo! is still a top web domain for content, news and searches. Today, Yahoo! exists as a brand owned in part by Verizon and by Altaba Inc. They’re still around and alive thanks to strategic partnerships and mergers.

  3. Chevrolet

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    Once upon a time, Chevrolet was an ‘American Muscle’ household name that mingled with the likes of Pontiac, Chrysler, and Mustang. Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette were cultural icons that symbolised strength and style. But then the brand got hit by the economy and a series of oil crisis which greatly attacked their sales. With tough competition against Japanese car brands, Chevrolet began to decline as people sought for more economical cars that saved petrol.

    However, Chevrolet and brand owner General Motors decided that it’s time to move on from those good ol’ days and face the future. Chevrolet revised their strategy and adapted to customer demands and current technology. As a result, they started making energy-efficient and hybrid cars that use electricity. Their Chevrolet Bolt EV, the brand’s best electric car, went on to win the Car of The Year award in 2017.

  4. Burberry

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    Burberry had clothed celebrities and opinion leaders since their inception in the late 19th century. But in the early 2000s, the British brand was threatened by negative brand association and counterfeit products. Burberry was perceived as clothing worn by football hooligans, known as ‘the chavs’ in the UK. The brand association got so bad that anyone wearing the Burberry checkered scarf would be denied entry to a football match.

    Taking a stance, Burberry hunted down fake and imitation products. They even taking it as far as destroying unsold goods to prevent them from being stolen or worse, sold at lower prices. Though controversial, it did helped built back the Burberry’s brand name as a luxury-wear, not a rebel street-wear.

    After they secured Emma Watson as the official brand ambassador, Burberry finally got the right attention and changed people’s perception. They fought fiercely against the bad brand image to preserve their intended perception and prestige.

  5. Haier

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    Haier started as a state-owned enterprise that manufactured refrigerators in Qingdao, China. The brand was infamous for their defective products and poor quality. In the 1980s when the company was nearing bankruptcy, a new managing director was appointed who made a lot of changes to the company. At the same time, China had also started to open up to the world.

    With new foreign partnerships and better management, Haier finally started to clock in profits which began to multiply year after year. They expanded internationally in the 1990s and managed to acquire several companies along the way. Haier had also diversified their products to air conditioners, washing machines, and even laptops.

    By the end of 2010, Haier had become a powerful global brand. In 2017, Haier’s global refrigerator market share was 17%. In comparison, LG and Samsung were only 6-7%. One of their greatest success would probably be when Haier bought General Electric in 2016 for USD 5.4billion (MYR 22 billion).

  6. Air Asia

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    Like Haier, Air Asia started off as a company partially-owned by the state in 1993. It was doing terribly and in 2001, heavily indebted and facing bankruptcy, Air Asia was bought by Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun through their company Tune Air Sdn Bhd. And we all know how that went.

    Air Asia quickly turned around and started making profits, first on domestic flights, then international flights to Bangkok, Singapore, and Jakarta in 2003. After 10 years, Air Asia became a prestigious brand well-known all over Asia, with destinations reaching as far as Auckland, Honolulu, and Paris. And it also helps that the brand’s marketing is often on target too, with clever advertising and strategic promotions for their customers.

  7. Apple

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    Apple’s story is perhaps the greatest comeback story in business. At their endgame, Apple was losing market share to Microsoft in almost every category. People preferred Windows operating systems and Apple’s Mac OS was nowhere near competition. But when Steve Jobs took over in 1998, things started to change. As we know, he was responsible for many breakthroughs that made Apple what it is today.

    Through innovation and ingenious marketing, Apple transformed into a valuable brand. They were the first to commercially make and fiercely marketed smartphones with touchscreens. Today, even with emerging competition from Xiaomi and Huawei, Apple reigns as the top tech company with comfortable first places in many regions like the USA and the Middle East.

In Conclusion

If you notice, a lot of the strategies used by these 7 brands have a common theme; collaboration, management, and innovation. Lego and Yahoo! made deals with the right partners to boost sales and stay afloat. Both had also improved under new management.
Burberry partnered with Emma Watson to reach the right target audience. Haier, Air Asia and Apple were completely turned 360 degrees under new leadership. And Chevrolet and Apple innovated to be competitive and get the first-mover advantage.
At their endgame, these brands did not give up even when things look bad. A lot of them joined forces to reach a goal and survive, much like how the Avengers were formed to defeat a common enemy. We have a lot to learn from these stories, fictional and otherwise.
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