10 Big Brands That Stopped Being Cool

by Staff Writer

Let's face it: America's fickle. We change our minds about products as fast as we can tweet about them, so what's cool today may not be as alluring tomorrow. This makes life hard for marketing directors since brands can lose favor with the public if they don't predict trends correctly. Even the biggest brands are in danger of losing their cultural icon status if they don't keep up with the times. Here are 10 big brands, recent and old alike, that simply stopped being cool.

  1. MySpace

    In 2005, MySpace was immensely popular, especially among teens and up-and-coming bands, and the site had an incredible 124 million users. It completely transformed the way teens interacted with each other and was innovative in the features it offered. Where else could you post that photo you took of yourself in the bathroom mirror? But just a year later, it was beginning to lose members to the newest fad, Facebook. Now it's difficult to find anyone who still uses their MySpace or even remembers their password. Even Facebook, the king of social networking, is losing its cool status. It's still widely used, hitting 750 million users recently, but six million people deleted their accounts in just one month this year and many users admit they don't really like it. And when your parents start to join "MyFace, or whatever you kids do these days," you know the end is coming.

  2. Dr. Martens

    There was a period in the '90s when every kid in middle school and high school was clunking around in some variety of leather shoe from this British company. The punk group had the boots, the preppy kids had the sandals, and the good girls had the Mary Janes, all complete with the trademark yellow thread around the sole. Even though Doc Martens cost more than $100 (which basically means nothing to teenagers), somehow kids everywhere were convincing their parents to buy them a pair. As the glory of the '90s faded, though, and kids moved on to something new and probably just as ridiculous, Doc Martens found their way to the trash or buried in the closet. There have been rumors for years that Docs are making a fashion comeback, but so far only those outside of the mainstream will shell out the money for them.

  3. Nokia

    Nokia was a pretty prominent phone brand just a few years ago and the dominant one at the beginning of the mobile phone craze. That little gadget held everything you needed in a phone: your contacts, some cool ringtones, and the game Snake. The personalized phone covers you could buy at the local mall were just the icing on this technological cake. Nokia phones accounted for 40% of the market worldwide at one point, but as technology changed, Nokia didn't change fast enough. The company still sells a large number of phones each year, but they are the basic kind that Americans use between dropping their smartphones in the toilet and getting new ones. They might also make good starter phones for adolescents, but there's no guarantee they won't be ridiculed by their iPhone-toting friends.

  4. Blockbuster

    Slumber parties and sick days for kids used to mean a trip to the local Blockbuster to pick out a few movies. A husband could surprise his wife by taking her to the video store and letting her have her pick of chick flicks. Blockbuster was the only reasonable choice for most renters' needs because they had a bigger selection and more copies of popular movies than the small video stores in town. But then Netflix came along. People who previously thought they'd never be able to find a copy of Purple Rain to rent suddenly realized that their movie choices were almost endless. You don't even have to drive to the store for your rentals anymore since it comes right to your mailbox. The final nail in Blockbuster's coffin was the cheap and instant alternative, Redbox. Blockbuster isn't just uncool now; it's unprofitable. The company filed for bankruptcy last year.

  5. McDonald's

    McDonald's is probably one of the most successful brands in the world, with its glowing golden arches beckoning to the hungry on several continents. But the company lost its seat at the cool kids' table when Americans realized the food was making them fat. As obesity became a bigger issue in the U.S., all the chubby fingers pointed to McDonald's as one of the worst enablers. Lovable Ronald McDonald and Happy Meal toys had been enticing kids to gobble up lots of fried food, and the drive-thru called to busy moms. When the documentary SuperSize Me reached audiences, McDonald's reputation was undeniably damaged. The fast food chain continues to operate around the globe, but they are trying to fix their unhealthy image with yogurt parfaits and apple options in the Happy Meals. It's yet to be seen whether these efforts can put McDonald's back in Americans' good graces.

  6. Sears

    In the days before online shopping existed, the Sears Catalog provided an easy way for consumers to order merchandise and have it mailed to them. It was also used as toilet paper in outhouses, but that's obviously not the cool part of the brand. The catalog started for farmers and eventually was used by many women and helped put the Sears company on the map. Sears opened stores in malls across America and eventually became associated with something else: power tools. The new Sears image was cool in a manly, rugged sort of way. If a woman dragged her husband on a shopping trip, she'd at least humor him with a trip to Sears if he behaved. In recent years, however, the company has been losing money. It doesn't help that they bought Kmart, another struggling business, in 2005. Some business blogs are predicting that Sears won't make it to 2012, but even if they do, their days in the limelight are over.

  7. Playboy

    If there was a brand that defined the changes happening in the '50s and '60s, it was Playboy. With the recognizable bunny logo and cocktail waitresses with fuzzy tails and ears, the brand has lived on for almost 60 years. But what was once the venture of the young handsome bachelor, Hugh Hefner, has increasingly struggled as Hefner gets older and the idea of him hanging out with Playmates gets creepier. The crazy antics of a 25-year-old aren't nearly as awesome coming from an 85-year-old. They're just sad, and so is Playboy's future. Hefner's elderly image and declining magazine sales (since the Internet has taken over every print market) seem to point to the end of the American icon as we knew it. The new NBC show, The Playboy Club, may help the brand revisit its former glory, but it's unlikely that it will bring it into the 21st century.

  8. Ovaltine

    If you've seen the movie A Christmas Story, you know that Ovaltine was cool in the '30s and '40s, even if only because it sponsored the Little Orphan Annie radio show (and despite the fact that the decoder ring revealed a crummy commercial). Restaurants would use it in milkshakes and drinks, and kids would drink it at home in order to save up proofs of purchase to trade in for prizes. Though the product continues to be sold, it was overshadowed in the '80s and '90s by other chocolate drink mixes. It didn't cross onto the pop culture radar again until the terribly cheesy commercials appeared in the past 10 years with the tagline "More Ovaltine, Please!" The forced, unbelievable acting of those Ovaltine-drinking families definitely put Ovaltine in the not-cool category.

  9. Marlboro

    There's nothing cooler than a cigarette-smoking cowboy — until he gets lung cancer and dies. The Marlboro Man campaigns were used from 1954 until 1999, and the rugged image they brought to Marlboro cigarettes helped bolster sales of the tobacco product. Men across America wanted to be like that cowboy and made Marlboro the leading cigarette brand. But wanting to be tough like a ranch hand doesn't actually make you tough in the face of cancer. As the evidence mounted against the tobacco industry and showed its horrific effects on the human body, people began to view cigarettes in general as toxic. The Marlboro brand specifically lost loyal fans when it came out that three of the guys who had played the Marlboro Man were killed by lung cancer. Companies who kill off their own spokespeople will never be popular.

  10. MTV

    Anyone who knows that MTV used to stand for Music Television knows that MTV simply isn't cool anymore. At best, it's a guilty pleasure; at worst, it's the slow destruction of our society. MTV was originally a place where America's youth turned to discover the latest music, fashion, and pop icons, all through music videos. Today, MTV offers distractions from our own lives as we spy on the tough situations other people face. Rather than offering something to aspire to, such as being in a band like The Police or designing clothes for Madonna, viewers today are shown how not to behave through shows like Jersey Shore and 16 and Pregnant. While MTV may still have an audience, people aren't screaming that they want their MTV like they used to.


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