Why do brands lose brand equity? How do you stop it from happening to your brand? One of the most effective ways is to learn from the mistakes of other brands and dissect where things may have gone wrong. A prior post looked at brands that recently experienced a dramatic rise in brand relevance. Here we examine the five brands that saw the sharpest decline on this year’s Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI).

The data in this year’s BRI came from 13,000 U.S. consumers to measure the strength of 228 brands from 25 categories across 16 dimensions. The goal of this post is to observe and learn from the brands that saw a major decline during the year in scores from Prophet’s four pillars of relevance: customer-obsessed, distinctly inspired, ruthlessly pragmatic and pervasively innovative. The research, conducted by Prophet, selects respondents that were active in the category and familiar with the brand. Therefore, unlike other brand surveys, the affinity toward the brand is represented rather than distribution scope and awareness levels.

Brands with Falling Equity

Disney is still one of the top 40 brands trailing only PIXAR, Spotify and Netflix in the 15-brand entertainment sector, but it did fall from the prior year. The streaming service was successful, but there were shortfalls in its handling of the overhyped “Mulan” movie release. And the management of the theme parks, such as the ill-advised opening of Disney World in the middle of the pandemic, became a problem. The closures sucked a lot of energy away from the brand.

YouTube fell to the middle of the entertainment brand group showing weakness on innovation. It’s aging offering and the insertion of advertising may be getting a bit familiar and even tired given that competitors were seen as more innovative. The YouTube long-form media vehicles were challenged by TikTok and others. YouTube might also have been tarnished by the controversy around its parent firm, Google, and the “censorship” of content.

Food Network, once the star of the entertainment brands, is now in the bottom half at No. 132 out of 244. One driver could be the declining popularity of cable and the rise of short-form food content on social media such as “Tasty by Buzzfeed” and “Food Insider,” not to mention popular streaming shows like “The Great British Bake-Off.” The effort to become relevant by focusing on popular culture, big celebrities and guilty-pleasure recipes might have alienated fans who enjoyed wholesome chefs like Rachael Ray cooking healthy food in their own kitchens.  Then there were mini scandals when the show personalities made inappropriate comments on air. That never helps.

Facebook followed a decline last year to sink to No. 228, the lowest of the seven-brand social media group that has Google at No. 17. This trend may have been first sparked by its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal during the 2016 election and the ongoing controversy with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Data suggests that it’s losing popularity with what was once its core audience (millennials/young adults) to new competition. In 2020, it was in the middle of a host of bad press events. Apple criticized Facebook for “disregarding user privacy.” The popular (top ten in September 2020) Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” shed light on how social networks use algorithms to keep people coming back. In December, a group of U.S. states announced an investigation of Facebook for antitrust violations. And the list goes on.

Lyft, ranked firmly in the bottom half at No. 152, had a sharp fall with the biggest image drop occurring in the “ruthlessly pragmatic” category. Its sharp decline can be attributed to the pandemic, with fewer customers in need of its services. Uber at No. 103 was less affected because of its success with the delivery service Uber Eats. There was also the ongoing pressure to treat their workers better, which may have negatively impacted its scores.

Learnings from the biggest declines in the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®

  • The pandemic affected some brands rather dramatically. A firm needs to be strategically agile as was the case with Uber Eats. And mistakes in operations can be magnified as Disney learned.
  • As we saw at YouTube, there is a need to maintain energy and relevance, but as in the Food Network example, it is risky to go off-brand to do so because you can alienate customers.
  • Politically sensitive comments, actions or policies are risky in this polarized age.

Want to learn more about the most relevant brands? Download the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® today.