Reviving a Brand: Eight Tips from Hawaii Five-O

HONOLULU – Bringing back something as iconic as Hawaii Five-O is a major challenge. There is enormous love for the old, so you don’t want to change it up too much. But you don’t want to mimic the old too closely, which would desecrate the original, and obviate the reason for doing the redux in the first place.

The show will return this fall on CBS, its original home, on September 20.  The show ran on CBS from 1968 to 1980; after the show was canceled Magnum P.I. took its place. It ran on various nights, including Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

It looks so far like CBS has it right, and could easily have a hit on its hands. Apparently foreign sales of the show have been through the roof. Nevertheless, numerous TV show redos have missed the point. A Bionic Woman was plain awful, and 90210 just didn’t get it.

Looking at how CBS approached the theme song, we realized it has lessons applicable to all older brand names that need a bit of spicing up.

Eight tips from the masters at the Columbia Broadcasting System:

  1. Give the public what it wants. Many times companies think they know better, they are going to one-up things. This was the case with Burberry, that great brand was tarted up and ruined. However, with the show, Executive Producer Peter Lenkov said he listened to people who wanted a faithful version of the theme song, and then the rest would fall into place. Says Lenkov in the video: “The first thing people say– don’t mess up the theme song.”
  2. Remember what worked: Composer Brian Taylor says in the video: “You have to do the theme with a true vintage cool vibe. If you move too far away from the original you are losing why it is so iconic.”
  3. Change it up a bit: Says Lenkov: “You don’t want to mess with something that is great, something that works, something that people are looking forward to. So We are staying very close to the original but it is a little more aggressive, a little bigger.”
  4. Don’t be cheap: When they got the band together, they aimed for the best, and got many of the original musicians. If you are going to take the trouble to remake something great,  you better be prepared to invest. Now,
  5. Do Unhip Things To Be Faithful: Apparently, the new McGarrett will also drive a Mercury Grand Marquis, just as Steve did originally. Sadly, the Mercury brand has been discontinued by Ford, just months before it gets a hip revival from a CBS show. Perhaps Mercury can be revived at a later time, too?
  6. Call it rebooting. Remake has a bad connotation. CBS is calling it a “reboot.” That sounds better.
  7. Cliches can go both ways: The show website has a poll on whether to say “Book em Danno” once as a tribute, or lots. We vote for somewhere in between. The new social media is a great place to let consumers have their say about brands. But the key is that the companies need to listen.
  8. Have a Blessing: The show production started with a traditional Hawaiian ceremony. Kono said it had a “sense of history and tradition to it.”

Follow the Tweets of the show at


  • 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 think the Hawaii-Five-O brand is a classic brand that CBS is attempting to revive. I do agree with the 8 tips, but remember when revitalizing a brand, the most important aspect to consider is what consumers want and try not to tailor so much to the audience who appreciated the brand before but to the audience that exists in today’s generation that will appreciate the brand.

    Keep the old theme as a tribute to the classic, keep the Mercury Grand Marquis as a way to help revitalize the Mercury brand, increase the intensity of the action sequences using the technology we have today, and provide for current type of story lines. I do like the opportunity for customers to discuss of what they would like to see, that CBS can older viewers and the new viewers hooked on a brand they want to see, not on a brand they are forced to see.

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