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Gone but not forgotten: How brand resurrection activism revives dead brands

Publicatiedatum: 04 | 12 | 2023
Deze blog is een van de twee winnaars van de SWOCC x BrandCom blogwedstrijd 2023 (1e editie) in samenwerking met het master keuzevak Brand Communication aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam.


Have you ever loved a brand so much that it would feel like a piece of you had been lost if it were to disappear from the market? I still remember when Urban Decay announced they were discontinuing the Naked Palette and my teenage self was left very distressed that I could never wear those sparkly eyeshadows again. Unfortunately for me, the palette never made a comeback. However, some brand fans have been luckier. After consumers begged Taco Bell for the return of Mexican Pizza, the beloved dish has now been added to the menu again. That is the power of consumer voice.

Brands may decide to delete certain brands from their portfolio for reasons such as poor fit with company image or lack of profit. However, those decisions may cause some dissatisfaction among loyal consumers of the brand and even lead to consumer retaliation against the firm. There are over 70 petitions to bring back beloved product brands at and social media networks are popular channels through which consumers try to plea with firms. This phenomenon is known as brand resurrection activism, which aims to bring back a discontinued brand.


  • What factors drive social media brand resurrection activism?
  • How can brand managers respond to such movements?


To understand the drivers of participation in online brand resurrection movements, three researchers conducted an online survey. They surveyed 499 members of the Surge Movement, a Facebook brand community which was successful in bringing back Coca-Cola’s citrus soda SURGE through brand resurrection activism. Participants were asked questions about their love for the brand, how they felt about the news of its discontinuation and their participation in the Surge Movement.


The results show that psychological reactance is positively associated with online activism for brand resurrection. When brands are discontinued, it poses a threat to the freedom of the consumer as they can no longer buy and consume product. Consequently, consumers feel a sense of loss of a brand they love and likely associate with past fond memories (nostalgic brand love), thus activating their psychological reactance, which in turn results in activism efforts to bring it back (brand resurrection movement). Social media and its features have the power to not only exacerbate these initiatives, but also pressure brands to comply to public demands.


For brand managers, the challenge lies in navigating these turbulent waters. Brand discontinuations are no easy decision. One wrong move and brand love may turn into public backlash. Therefore, in the face of brand resurrection activism, managers can make one out of three decisions:

  • relaunch a brand temporarily,
  • resurrect a brand permanently,
  • or offer better alternatives

Either way, every decision has financial and strategic consequences. A relaunch can appease an angry fan base and boost sales, or it can result in increased costs for the firm. An alternative strategy could be to present brand fan communities with similar product brands. For example, Häagen Dazs came up with alternatives to the beloved Baileys ice cream flavor after consumers were upset over the news of its discontinuation.


Understanding what brands mean to consumers can help managers make strategic decisions regarding their brand portfolio. Brand resurrection has the potential to promote nostalgic brand love which can be a more powerful force than brand love. Brands may disappear from the shelves, but they can live on the hearts of consumers, whose collective voice can bring them back. After all, brands can be gone and not forgotten.


This blog is based on the following research:

Almazyad, F., Shah, P., & Loiacono, E. T. (2023). Social media activism for resurrecting deleted brands: the role of consumers’ psychological reactance. Journal of Brand Management, 30, 367–380. 00307-4


Margarida Salvado is a Corporate Communication Master’s student at University of Amsterdam. Her interests include public relations, marketing and advertising.

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