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    The Incredible Success Stories Of Brands Born From Failure

    In the wide and wonderful world of marketing, many businesses seeking help from a brand design agency are looking for the change in aesthetic, focus and direction that puts them in the direction of success.

    In some cases, however, some of the most successful brands ever made were born from failure. Michael Jordon perhaps summed it up best “I failed over and over again and that is why I succeed.”

    Here are some of the most successful examples of incredible brands coming from abject failure.

    Traf-O-Data

    Traf-O-Data, founded in 1972, was an exceptionally early attempt to create automated digitised reports that processed the raw data from traffic counters (which at the time were primitive pneumatic devices) and potentially save a lot of time and money.

    To do this, Traf-O-Data, then a group of young students, asked an electrical engineering student to help them create a working microcomputer that they could in a partnership sell to local county and city highways departments.

    Unfortunately, their machine didn’t work, although they did manage to make some money through processing the tapes of data, and when Washington State provided traffic processing services for free the company was essentially over.

    However, the skills they learned in hardware and software design helped two of the three members, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, in developing their first successful piece of software for their new company, Micro-Soft.

    Apple

    A relatively unheralded example of a supremely successful brand being forged out of abject failure, Apple’s exceptional low points are often forgotten in history, with the period between Steve Jobs’ resignation in 1985 and his return in 1997 often left forgotten.

    Part of the issue is that Apple’s dominating philosophy repeatedly changed and confused customers. In the late 1980s, they were known for highly expensive computers designed for the education and publishing market, but in 1990 pivoted towards a three-tiered approach similar to Ford cars.

    This confused customers who did not understand that the Performa was the low-end model and the Quadra was the high end given the similarity between products.

    This, the success of IBM PC-compatibles with Windows 3.1, the infamously expensive Newton debacle and pivots into video game consoles, speakers, digital cameras, set-top boxes and portable CD players caused the company to be synonymous with metronomic failure.

    This would only change when Apple, weeks from going bankrupt, bought Steve Jobs’ NeXT company in 1996, and he radically pivoted the company towards computers that were stylish, minimalist and easy to use.

    They never looked back.

    Nintendo

    The company best known for Mario, the Game Boy and the Switch spent most of its considerable history not making computer games but instead began life as a playing card company in 1889.

    Originally set up to create ornate and beautiful flower-based cards used to play the game Hanafuda, Nintendo’s first pivot was to go cheaper, in part because their cards were so long-lasting that it led to low sales.

    They released their Tengu line before moving on to western-style playing cards, becoming the most successful card company in Japan in line with a deal with Walt Disney in 1959.

    However, the 1960s was when the bottom fell out of the card game market and Nintendo pivoted to nearly every other type of business, from instant rice, taxi services and even a chain of love hotels.

    Most of them failed dramatically but led to Nintendo creating a research and development division that in 1969 would employ the man that would help change their fortunes: Gunpei Yokoi. Initially employed as a maintenance man, he developed the Ultra Hand, Nintendo’s first successful product since their playing card days, and would lead to the pivot to video games in 1974 with the development of the Game & Watch, and would later mentor the creator of Donkey Kong, Shigeru Miyamoto.

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