Some brands had a great year, including Ford, Old Spice and Apple. Other brands — well, not so much. But there are plenty of reasons that some of those brands that had a lousy 2010 shouldn't look forward to 2011. Brandchannel looks at ten down-on-their-luck brands that should be optimistic in the new year:
1. BP: The "small people" don't seem to have forgotten what happened on BP's watch in the Gulf of Mexico this year. But the big people seem to be forgetting quite well. At the time of writing, BP's stock was up to nearly $44 a share, considerably more than its near low of just $27 six months ago. At this rate, BP's brand will have made a full recovery by the end of 2011.
2. American Apparel: Like a dope fiend, a brand has to hit rock bottom before it can begin to turn itself around. American Apparel's flirtations with bankruptcy may have scared its stockholders straight. Some investment analysts are even quietly saying that American Apparel has nowhere to go but up. The retailer has celebrated by releasing extra raunchy ads (warning: somewhat NSFW).
3. Gap: When it rains it pours. After a logo rebrand that went horribly, horribly wrong, Gap's feel-good holiday campaign was overshadowed by an embarrassing mistake in product sourcing. But the iconic apparel retailer's problems this year were almost entirely cosmetic and do not speak to the core of the brand. Indeed, one of the reasons so many were so upset with Gap's new logo was that Gap still has many brand champions. At the time of writing, Gap Inc. stock has climbed for dismal August lows to 2007 levels. Plus, welcome to Italy!
4. Target: After it was revealed this summer that it had donated heavily to a political interest group backing a very anti-gay rights candidate for governor, protests formed at Target's headquarters and a boycott. Target, once considered a major friend to the gay rights movement, lost all of its credibility. But to date, the Minnesota-based retailer's sales do not appear to have suffered. So while the brand's image may have benefitted from the appearance of gay-friendliness, it appears the bottom line did not in a signifigant way.
5. Goldman Sachs: After a 2009 financial crisis that brought a lot of unwanted attention to Goldman Sachs, the firm went into 2010 looking for some image rehab. Alas, it did not come to be. One of the damage control steps undertaken by the firm was to ban employee cursing. By September, Goldman Sachs was proactively trying to polish its turd, unleashing an ad campaign that cast the firm as an agent of "progress." The future of the Goldman brand? Who cares as long as the investment giant continues making money, which is the only brand it really ever had.
6. Brett Favre: With a consecutive start streak ending at 297, the football legend assured himself a place in the NFL Hall of Fame as well as a respectable on-field legacy. Off-field, however, Favre's image tarnished. Smelling blood in the water, and the end of Favre's career looming, sports writers who had long begrudged Favre his image let loose on the quarterback. A two-year-old scandal involving inappropriate text messages came to dominate the headlines on Favre. Son, everything was up for criticism. The start streak commemorative $500 footballs Favre started selling hours after being benched was just one more thing to pile on. In the end though, the Vikings' much ballyhooed season that Favre helped drive into a ditch was what did him in. While Favre isn't able to look forward to playing football in 2011, on the bright side, he doesn't have to worry about playing football in 2011.
7. LeBron James: While Tiger Woods quietly rehabilitated his image, another athlete spent 2010 taking his brand in a very different direction. In a mega-hyped event that can best be described as a "media clusterf**k, LeBron turned his back on Cleveland and fled to Miami. King James' reputation went from reliable hometown hero to NBA heel. Worse yet, LeBron subsequently took a Nike campaign down with him (above). But James' Heat team leads its division and after a rocky start appears on the path to be, as expected, an NBA Championship contender. Everyone loves a champion, and a ring sure goes a long way to drowning out critics.
8. Four Loko: The embattled carbonated alcohol brand and its parent Phusion Products, should may not be on this list. By some measure, the Four Loko brand had a bad year. Its name was attached to numerous youth health emergencies, and consequently, it has been banned in a handful of states, with a few more states consider similar bans. "Four Loko made me do it" has even become a defense plea of criminals. But all the controversy put Four Loko on the map, making it more popular than ever. Unlike Smirnoff's "Bros Icing Bros" debacle this year, Four Loko's brand rose immeasurably from its association with stupidity. Sure, the new high profile brings pesky headlines like "Teen Killed by Car Drank Four Loko," but the brand's new notoriety led to many leveraging Four Loko's infamy to in turn promote themselves, and in turn make Four Loko a cultural icon. Taverns held Four Loko open bars. One five-star chef introduced a Four Loko dish. Like U2 tickets, Four Loko has even come to demand premium, after-market pricing on Craigslist. So while some announce the "fall" of the brand, Four Loko has made a few market sacrifices to become the zeitgeist's most meaningful cultural item and assure its brand a place in booze iconography.
9. Toyota: For some time it appeared Toyota might come out of its massive safety recall with little damage to the brand, all things considered. Huge incentives pushed sales up 40% in March. But the damage was done. Now, at the end of the year, a JD Power study finds that 19% of new-vehicle shoppers say they avoid Toyota because of the “bad reputation of the manufacture." That is serious, lasting brand damage. The silver lining for Toyota in 2011? It's not 2010.
10. Blockbuster: In July, Blockbuster's CEO looked at reality and said, ""Blockbuster can restore consumer relevance because we do carry new releases, and in fact our recent agreement give us the privilege of day-and-date content across our channel, which we believe is a strong competitive advantage." Less than two months later, it was determined that Blockbuster's best competitive advantage was to declare bankruptcy. A further blow came in December as the brand's DVD kiosks were slapped with the same 28-day new release waiting period with which Netflix and Red Box have also been afflicted. Now, we hear that Blockbuster will close 182 stores by April. The upside? In 2010, competitor Hollywood Video declared Chapter 7, liquidating all assets and ceasing business operations.