Zombie Brands: Woolworth’s, Mister Donut, Other Iconic Brands Prosper Outside U.S.

In this day and age, when something dies it just comes back as a zombie (we imagine anyway). That’s exactly what once prosperous American brands are doing across the world. Names like Pan Am, Woolworth’s and Mister Donut easily evoke thoughts of nostalgia for Americans, but in other parts of the world the brands are alive and well.

Zombie brands tend to find new homes in emerging markets, and often with new products or services, Bloomberg reports.

Japan offers a climate full of previously prosperous American brands. Mister Donut, the one-time competitor of Dunkin’ Donuts, has grown into a restaurant enterprise with more than 1,100 locations in the country. Additionally, entrepreneurs have acquired the rights to open more stores, bringing today’s total to more than 10,000 stores worldwide. But only one remains in the U.S.

While Pan American World Airways hasn’t flown in more than 20 years, the brand lives on in clothing lines, luggage and a fleeting television series.

In other countries brands can even overcome their less than desirable exit from the American markets. Chi-Chi’s, a Mexican restaurant, couldn’t overcome bankruptcy and a hepatitis A outbreak in the states. But the chain still operates in Belgium, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates.

Sometimes a brand can survive completely independent of its original purpose, Bloomberg notes.

For instance, the largest five-and-dime store in the U.S. during the 20th century, Woolworth’s, eventually fizzled with consumers. While F.W. Woolworth Co. now only operates Foot Locker Inc. in the U.S., the name lives on in an unrelated brand in Australia. The name is used as Woolworths Ltd., a brand of supermarkets. The company operates 872 stores throughout the country.

Even if a brand dies in the United States, that doesn’t mean it won’t return one day. Last month, a group of investors filed paperwork to once again begin service with Eastern Air Lines. The airline hasn’t flown since the 1990s, but investors are hopeful they will once again take to the skies. The group agreed to keep the original name after marketing tests showed it had strong name recognition.

Mister Donut, Pan Am and Friendster Found Alive and Well [Bloomberg]

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  1. FusioptimaSX says:

    See, I KNEW Chi-Chi’s was a restaurant! I had always attributed it to me confusing the salsa brand for a Chili’s establishment due to incorrect childhood memories. I never bothered to ever look it up! Now I know the truth!