Facebook—Two years ago, Facebook had just launched a messy IPO and watched as its stock price debuted at $38 a share and quickly fell below $20. Analysts had serious doubts about the brand’s ability to generate continued revenue growth, particularly in the mobile arena, where their revenue strategy was unclear. But, now, the brand that has generated a trillion likes for baby photos and new shoes has a stock price north of $75, a robust mobile advertising revenue stream, and is purchasing a variety of apps and services that are growing its offerings and revenue potential. Like it or not, Facebook is growing into one of the world’s most valuable brands, now 29th on the Interbrand most valuable global brands list. I wonder if Facebook posted that to their Facebook page?
Audi—In a crowded field of luxury sports sedans, Audi has elbowed its way to relevance in the US, and is the leader in sales in Europe and China, selling more cars this year than it ever has and delivering a head-turning profit of $6 billion. While Audi is still a distant third to BMW and Mercedes in this country, with only about half the number of cars sold, globally they have passed Mercedes and are almost even with The Ultimate Driving Machine. Through July, Audi has sold 1.01 million units world wide (BMW leads with 1.03 in the luxury sedan category), but only 98,965 units in the US. But, get this, they’ve sold three times that number in China (316,945). How do you say “Truth in Engineering” in Mandarin?
McDonalds—Mickey D’s has consistently been a tremendously resilient brand, able to weather recessions and deliver sales growth year after year. They have been masters at adapting to the tastes of their market and providing value-priced alternatives like 99-cent menus and McCafé coffee options that have their competition squabbling over second place. But, the last year has been difficult for the Golden Arches with four straight quarters of declining same-store sales and a huge drop in profits. Management has announced that they plan to respond with a simplified menu and more regionalization of their offerings to match local tastes. The largest restaurant chain in the world may be down, but they surely are not out.
Sprint—Do you remember the TV spots featuring the “Frobinsons,” the eclectic family of Sprint users with a hamster as the father voiced by Andrew Dice Clay and a daughter who only spoke French and had animated birds flitting around her head? It was wildly creative, but its limited appeal did little to build their sales or support the similarly named “Framily” group pricing plan. ””Sprint’s brand doesn’t really stand for anything in the market today,” said Jan Dawson, a technology analyst with Jackdaw Research in an August 20 “Advertising Age” article. “Individual campaigns such as the Framily plan are somewhat successful, but they don’t really do anything to build the broader Sprint brand.” Sprint eliminated the offering in August amid a management shake-up and is on to its next promotion. The fate of the Frobinsons has not been announced, however.
United States Post Office—I’ve said it before, and I still believe that the Post Office is actually one of the most underrated brands in the nation. But, for all the value they provide, including free home delivery and coast-to-coast service for less than 50 cents, they just can’t seem to get out of their own way. Losses continue to mount ($4 billion and counting this year) and rates continue to rise. And, unfortunately, service may continue to diminish, such as eliminating Saturday delivery. Their biggest problem, however, is a paradigm shift. The Post Office exists to deliver two things: messages and packages. Almost any message can be converted to a digital format now, which eliminates the need for much of their service. And when it comes to packages, FedEx and UPS are tough competitors with strong brands of their own. I still can’t imagine sending Christmas cards by FedEx, although I suppose I could just use JibJab for free.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.