A few winners:
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The CB radio craze from decades ago proved that people were so anxious to communicate with other people that they would talk to just about anybody. Then cell phones allowed us to talk with whomever we wanted at almost anytime. Now with social networking, we can communicate with dozens, even hundreds of friends at once. Without a doubt, Facebook has become one of the hottest brands on the planet. It’s at the center of a cultural phenomenon, generating huge amounts of interaction with its brand. It’s a smart phone app, a management headache in the office, and is rapidly becoming a monstrous marketing channel of its own. Twitter and LinkedIn are not far behind. Never mind that little sticking point about lack of revenue. There seems to be no doubt that these three brands will make money for their owners in a big way.
Ford has a better idea. In the middle of begging for cash in Washington, Ford came to its senses and effectively said “we don’t need no stinkin’ bailout” and flew coach class back to Detroit to take advantage of their relative strengths in the domestic auto business. They were the only American brand that was able to sell their cars more on their merits and less on rebates and promotions. With the stigma of bailout and bankruptcy tainting everything that GM or Chrysler was doing, Ford surged ahead with market share (up 1.2%) and profits. Now they are well positioned to be the leading American car brand of the future.
Apple-iPod, iPhone, and Mac computers. Apple, Inc. knew what they were doing when they dropped “Computer” from their name in 2007. They saw how computer technology was spreading into other devices and have consistently led innovation in the mp3 and mobile phone arenas as well. With stock analysts predicting a difficult year for premium priced products like Apple’s, the company surprised them all with strong sales led by the rapid growth of the iPhone line. In addition, ads for Mac computers continued to hammer away at mighty Microsoft and its crippled sub-brand, the Vista operating system. By the end of the year Windows 7 (note the return to a far more trusted name for the OS) was rushed in to replace its ill-conceived predecessor, which became even more fodder for Mac as they skillfully transitioned mistrust of Vista to doubts about Windows 7.
A few losers:
Gatorade: about the only thing that went well for Gatorade this year was to discontinue their Tiger Woods product just before the famous golfer’s PR melt down. Other than that, they got little else right. After changing the name to “G,” sales tanked (down 18% in the first six months of the year) which the CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, explained away in an earnings conference call by saying that most of the brand’s losses had come from casual Gatorade drinkers, those that were buying it simply for the taste. Those users, she said, “didn’t really have a right to exist in the Gatorade world.” Hard to explain how that didn’t get more attention in the blogosphere. And all this time I thought that buying a bottle of the stuff was all I needed to exist in the Gatorade world. Turns out you have to be approved. Who knew?
General Motors: Perhaps the most amazing statistic of the year: GM is down 1.8% in market share this year. That doesn’t sound bad at all, until you factor in the overall drop in the total market. GM is in the midst of a desperate attempt to save its core brands. Hummer was sold, Saturn, Saab and Pontiac shut down. They have responded with improved warranties and claims of energy efficiency. Gosh, if only they hadn’t gutted their brand by making inferior products for 20 years.
Crocs: A couple of years ago, plastic shoes with the Crocs brand were a raging success. Today sales are half what they were just a year ago. The company is on financial life support. Their rapid rise as a brand appears to also be lesson in how fragile trying to be hip and cool can be. One day you suddenly are. The next you just aren’t. Turns out we only liked Crocs. We didn’t like-like them.
Vista: Was there anyone sorry to see this product disappear? Anyone at all?
Circuit City: Once a perennial Wall Street darling. Now an online shell of its old self.
Saturn: Every Saturn owner I ever met seemed to have exceptional loyalty to the brand. Now GM says it was never profitable. I guess Saturn wasn’t such a different kind of GM car after all.
Have a Happy Brand New Year!