Several forgotten brands with long-ago legacies are positioning themselves for a comeback in 2011. Tapping into deep brand equity and consumers’ desire to reconnect with traditional American values, several brands are launching ad campaigns that combine nostalgia with the brands’ updated image. The following 10 brands are worth watching next year.

Planters Peanuts

Planters Peanuts, owned by Kraft Foods, hopes to revitalize the brand with a makeover of its mascot Mr. Peanut. In animated commercials and online videos, the formerly two-dimensional peanut character is now living and talking with the voice of popular actor Robert Downey Jr. He even has a sidekick, named Benson. The forgotten brand founded in the early 1900s is building a younger audience with a new Facebook page and Twitter buzz, and gaining attention of traditional media outlets like the New Yorker.


The deeply American brand from General Motors already has people talking. San Francisco ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners–called “the agency of the decade” by AdWeek–began working with Chevrolet a few months ago. GM also bought a spot in the 2011 Super Bowl, and marketers expect a Chevrolet commercial to be featured. “They are a comeback brand, but time will tell if they are going to come all the way back,” says Michal Ann Strahilevitz, marketing professor at Golden Gate University.

Infusium 23

Miriam Quart, president of ad agency Madison Avenue Consortium, runs Infusium 23’s new campaign. She says “the cult hair brand” hopes to innovate in 2011 and reconnect with its audience through nostalgia and by bringing them back to basics. “Remember when your mom used Infusium 23?” asks Quart, who hopes to remind consumers. A new owner, significant marketing investment, new packaging and two new ad campaigns are helping bring this 86-year-old brand back to life.

Little Debbie

This nostalgic snack cakes and sweets brand launched a grassroots campaign this year to remind consumers of the joy of eating Little Debbie, named after the founder’s granddaughter. The Million Smile Mission is a bus tour moving across the country that offers samples and collects pictures of fans to feature in an online mosaic of the brand’s logo. Plus, frequent sweepstakes and a digital outreach on Facebook and Twitter are helping revive the iconic brand and introduce it to younger generations.

Pert Plus

According to marketer Quart, whose agency runs this campaign, hair care line Pert Plus had not been advertised in five years. Now owner Idelle Labs reportedly will invest $10 million to $15 million in advertising for Pert Plus and its deodorant line. Playing off the insecurity caused by the economic downturn, the new ads focus on the family and basic essentials. Quart also hopes to tap into the new savings mentality by emphasizing its 2-in-1 products.


The brand known for its comfortable “Dad” recliners is attempting to create nostalgia and revamp its image to appeal to women. Brooke Shields stars in a new ad campaign launched last fall. In one of the spots she talks about remembering La-Z-Boy from her childhood. The TV and print ads also focus on the modern design and variety of products that, with Shields as its spokesperson, likely target female shoppers.


Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins says that, because Levi’s is such an established jeans brand in a category that moves so quickly, marketers must be especially clever to keep up. The Go Forth campaign smartly gets back to its core reputation: true American blue jeans. The ads feature hardworking men and women, likely more poignant now for young people graduating into a troubled economy. Distribution to Walmart stores also supports the everyman image.


The new Idelle Lab’s campaign focuses on the reliability and effectiveness of the product, with taglines “Be superprotected, be 100% Sure,” and an image of a superhero. Sure hadn’t been advertised in the last decade, says marketer Quart, who hopes the new campaign will resonate with consumers like former campaign “Raise your hand if you’re sure.”

Quaker Oats

This 133-year-old hot-cereal brand, owned by PepsiCo, attempts to revive its staid image with a new “amazing mornings” campaign that launched Sept. 1. With new products and a focus on healthy living, the brand is positioning itself as an educator that aims to teach Americans the importance of a healthy, hearty breakfast. The company enrolled celebrity fitness expert Bob Harper as the campaign’s spokesman, who offers tips and videos on Quaker’s Facebook page.

Jimmy Dean

The sausage brand owned by Sara Lee recently rolled out a major campaign for new line Jimmy D’s that targets moms. In comic-book-inspired ads, superheroes challenge moms to fight back against “morning villains,” or the danger of starting the day without a good breakfast. The Jimmy D line also launched a micro-site with games, comic strips and the zany new commercials.