Late last year, I sat down at my desk, fountain pen in hand, surrounded by a mountain of notes I’d assiduously compiled through the year, ready to recap the year in branding. As the sticky notes chaos receded and unified themes emerged, I realized that I needed to call upon the wisdom of a village of brand experts to weigh in and validate my thinking. I spent a month talking to some of the foremost experts at firms like Prophet, Lippincott, Siegel+Gale, VMLY&R’s BAV Group, Barkley, Interbrand, and Kantar (BrandZ), inviting them to contribute their assessments and data on brand performance in 2019. At the end of it, we had Forrester’s first annual brand review: the highlights and lowlights of 2019 and promising starts for 2020.
Three brands made the highlight reel: Disney, Mastercard, and Gucci. They are all stalwarts with nearly 250 years of history between them, yet they beat out shiny new rising stars in our list of top brands. These three brands’ success shares some common themes: a carefully nurtured core brand equity made relevant to today’s audiences; a refusal to sit still; cognizance of one’s shortcomings; and deployment of technology in support of customer-obsessed experience building.
Facebook, Gillette, and Kraft Heinz will not look back fondly on 2019. All three saw their public perception — and, in many cases, their market position and financial value — decline precipitously. Gillette and Kraft Heinz have lost touch with their customers. And, in what is one of my favorite quotes in the report from Interbrand’s CEO, “Facebook’s consumers have realized that they are the product.” Out of touch, uncaring, inauthentic, deaf to the customer — these are the traits that our lowlight brands share.
2020, Here We Come
This year should see several interesting brand stories unfold. On the other side of Kraft Heinz’s decline is the ascendancy of plant-based foods and the popularity of brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands such as Casper, Glossier, Everlane, and Allbirds will continue to endear themselves, although many will cease to be DTC in the truest sense (one of my favorites, Billie, just got picked up by P&G). And as you get ready for the next set of streaming players to come online, keep an eye on Quibi. It’s made for Millennials, made for mobile, and has the potential to redefine entertainment for future generations (Quibi keynoted at CES, and you can read my take on it in my op-ed in The Drum that recaps lessons from CES).
If you’re a Forrester client, I hope you’ll enjoy the full report, which you can find here. If you like what I have to say, this will let you know every time I publish a report.