Seven Most Underestimated American Brand Names

PalmoliveToday, we explore brand names that are still around, but ignored or underutilized by their owners. In some ways having an underestimated brand is good, as too much of exploiting a brand makes it vulnerable to overexposure. Nevertheless, there is a vast difference between overexposure and prudent exposure. We are instead for prudent exposure; we like for brands to live.

The brands below are great; legendary. But they all could be far more. Somehow, they are less than what they could be. Attached are

  1. Palmolive: This was once the greatest soap brand ever; it had an air of luxury. Find a bar at a Dollar Tree today, and you would think it was worthless. It is not sold at a premium price. But the reality is that Palmolive has a wonderful smell, and its spinoff products give it an air of invincibility.
    How it could be great again:
    A focus on marketing the core product, the soap bar, as a premium product. That doesn’t mean you just need to jack up the prices. That means, perhaps, a Palmolive retail boutique at malls, focusing on the core smell and identity of the Palmolive brand. Colgate seems to be interested in Palmolive’s liquid dishwashing soap brand, but the soap bar is nowhere on the website. By the way, Colgate also ignores its underestimated brand Cashmere Bouquet.
  2. Greyhound: This brand is PBS newsman Jim Lehrer’s favorite brand, apparently. But have you recently taken a Greyhound bus? The reality is that most of us don’t take the bus. And that is too bad, because it is always an adventure. However, very often the bus is as expensive as Southwest, so why bother?
    How it could be great again:
    Some attempt to aggressively market the bus to folks other than the folks who have no other options.
  3. Life Savers. We don’t understand why these are sold in bags and in only a few places do we see them as tubes. The bags are annoying, and create waste with all of the individual packages.
    How it could be great again:
    A renewed focus on the different tubes of Life Savers, as well as focus on rebuilding manufacturing in the U.S., with a factory and a companion Life Savers factory tour.
  4. Union Pacific: This is the greatest American railroad brand. Ever.
    How it could be great again: They are in a good financial position, and have a fantastic brand. So what’s not to like? They have appeal as a passenger brand as well as a cargo brand, and do not take advantage of it. I realize that to railroad people, this is CRAZY TALK, as passenger means “losses” and “legal risk.” Well, frankly the whole idea of a railroad is designed around legal risk. What could be any less dangerous or capital intensive? But the “passenger” idea could be realized with deals with Amtrak or other cruise lines. Union Pacific built the west, and Americans love it.
  5. Bell System. We got an AT&T yellow pages with a set of Bell System logos inside. The page said something about how AT&T was the successor to Bell. We agree! But why is the Bell always hidden? The Bell is one of America’s greatest logos, and the successor Baby Bells that have the right to use it OUGHT to use it. Bell System is as iconic as Blue Cross; many companies can use it, and the ones that can ought to.
    How it could be great again: Use the Bell System logo on trucks, everything.
  6. Westinghouse: Yes, this brand is still around, and it appears on video screens and light bulbs and all manner of consumer products. The website is very well done, and shows all of this. It’s just that somehow Westinghouse no longer has the position of the innovator. It used to be the Apple Computer of America, the home of great innovations and inventors and ideas. It still can be that, but it seems only a licensing play. Granted, Westinghouse SHOULD be a licensing play, but as it regains market share with licensing, it should continue to grow back into being a technology leader. One confusing idea; the power generation company of Westinghouse is part of Toshiba, and sells nuclear plants. Westinghouse is a powerful brand, but many Americans have forgotten about it.
    How it could be great again: Investing in technology, innovation and new design leadership. I also miss Group W radio, but that’s another story.
  7. Econo-Travel and Ramada Inn: I like both of these brands, even though I would never stay in these hotels. Of course, there are some Econo Lodges that might be nice to stay in; ditto with Ramada. But I have no confidence in the overall brand for giving me a positive experience. I would venture to say that many Americans feel the same way I do.
    How it could be great again:
    Cleanliness and godliness. This means that hotels need to be scrubbed clean and refitted with simple furniture and linens that are timeless. Nothing fancy, just spotless and immaculately clean, with fresh paint and no dings. And Econo Lodge needs to get back to its Econo Travel roots, starting by restoring their initial location in the Military Circle area of Norfolk Virginia.

What other brands do you think are underestimated?


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.


  1. I just want to buy some of the palmolive soap in the green package that the bar is green. Can you tell me how?

  2. What about P&G’s Ivory Liquid? They focus more on Dawn than Ivory Liquid or Joy (is it still around?).

    Safeguard Soap “Give your body the best with Safeguard. It’s better than all the rest…”

    Dial Bar Soap (“Aren’t you glad you use Dial. Don’t you wish everybody did?” Seems to me soap companies are so busy selling body washes & liquid hand soaps that they forget the bar soaps that made them famous in the first place.

    Ivory Soap “It Floats”. But P&G never markets it, either. Not sexy enough, I guess but today when everybody wants organic & fresh, etc. seems like Ivory ought to be marketed agressively because it is 99 44/100% pure. But what do I know?

  3. I posted too quickly: undestimated brand, in fact nearly invisible, Howard Johnson’s – I miss the restaurants, clams and great color scheme.

  4. Garland…I haven’t thought about Group W radio in far too long…thanks! As always, interesting thoughts, observations and suggestions.

  5. I think Pepsodent has potential to be a great brand again. Just look at what a little reinvention did for brands like Buick and Schlitz.

  6. Kimberly Clark is a great brand. Agreed. While Kleenex is nice, the parent companies connected to a brand are important. And thanks MZ for your comments about Union Pacific. I mean, what is more RISKY than having lots of “Stand By Me” bridges all around the country, as well as grade crossings! Now each grade crossing is more of a risk than a licensing agreement. These companies need to loosen up and license!!!

  7. How about Kimberly-Clark? (Kleenex, Scott, etc.)

  8. Funny, recently we approached Union Pacific to license their brand for a consumer product. A client wanted to pay good money to launch an all American product under their brand.

    They declined without even hearing the offer, because “it is risky”.

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