We are ending the decade with the most polarizing list of brand winners and losers of any year since this column started ten years ago. 2019 was truly a year of brand highs and lows.
It was a year when newer brands such as AllBirds, Bombas and MeUndies entered our lexicon as must-have DTC basic brands, while storied brands such as IBM, Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 gave us every reason for us to never speak of them again. We watched Popeyes become relevant again, as did Burger King for an Impossible reason. We saw TikTok become what Vine or Snap never could, while Peloton did the same to Equinox. We watched Tesla’s reputation get shattered, albeit for a brief on-stage stunt, and Netflix finally show vulnerability with the onslaught of alternative streaming choices launched in 2019 (see Q3 results). And, we saw brand stalwarts such as Spotify, Amazon, Apple, Chick-fil-A and Lego continue to do what they do…surprise, delight, inspire and deliver.
In addition, we saw names we didn’t really know a year ago—Lizzo, Bille Eilish and Mayor Pete—forever change our entertainment and political landscapes, while Greta Thunberg sailed into our lives to single-handedly try and save the world…at 16 years old. Patagonia, REI, Ben & Jerry’s, the Guardian and NPR still bled their respective purposes, while many are questioning whether the NBA and the Houston Astros lost theirs. Fun brands like Red Hot Cheetos, the Jonas Brothers, Mustang, Frozen and the Avengers showed their staying power, while storied brands such as Kodak, Xerox, Gillette and Champion continued on with their improbable comebacks.
As always, it is hard to pick the absolute winners and losers of the year, but my Prophet colleagues have weighed in and, while all of the brands above got votes, the following ten set the bar on both the high and low ends of the brand relevance spectrum.