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2014: The Year in Review in Branding – Top 13 Branding Moments of the Year

2014 was a landmark year in terms of social media propelling stories to the forefront. Some brands sizzled and some brands fizzled. Here’s how they stack up.

Top 8 Brands that Fizzled:

  1. Uber – Uber earns the distinction of being both a brilliant brander and a flamed out failure this year. Its egregious error was evident yesterday during the #SydneyHostage drama whereby its rates were 4x higher than normal citing sheer demand and supply. But then it tweeted that it wasn’t its fault, “it was merely the algorithm!” Only after thousands of irate tweets, Uber returned to its glory status with offering rides for free and refunds to the hundreds who were overcharged. Lesson: Let humans – not algorithms rule

  2. Greenpeace – In an effort to highlight the world’s environmental problems, Greenpeace created a maelstrom of its own. More than 20 activists trampled over the historical Nazca lines in Peru to erect an aerial message reading “Time for Change! The Future Is Renewable.” Sadly enough, the green group’s footprints may have permanently destroyed this United Nations World Heritage Site. Lesson: Practice what You Teach

  3. Sony – Of course it’s not Sony’s fault that they were hacked, BUT it does need to own up to the issue and to stakeholders. After company computers were hacked on Monday, November 24, the company held its first town hall meeting yesterday – 4 weeks later! The movie studio has offered free credit reporting, but current and former employees have taken to social media with an outcry that they don’t know how to sign up for the benefit. Monday also marked the day it hired big-wig attorney David Boies demanding that the media stop publishing the information. However, he seems to forget that the media did not leak the information; they are simply recirculated data that’s already released. Of course, this legal exercise seems to reek of damage control as embarrassing emails circulate. Lesson: you can’t put the genie back in the bottle!

  4. Ubisoft – If you’re not a gamer, the quick backstory is that the company is the maker of the Assassin’s Creed highly successful series first introduced in 2007. Year after year of stellar sales lead the company to quickly introduce the 2014 release of Unity. The problem? There are errors, technical issues, connection problems and frame errors. Patch 4 is now finally released. Raving fans in this case turned into angry rants all over the web. Lesson: Quality often trumps speed.

  5. U2 – The legendary band’s 13th album entitled Songs of Innocence got a rousing reception at the Apple iPhone 6 launch. When CEO Tim Cook pre-installed it on user’s iPhones, the unanimous verdict was that Apple was guilty! “Don’t put your stuff on my phone” was the common complaint. Lesson: There’s a difference between a FREE gift and a forced entry; let your audience choose to receive your gift.

  6. Bill Cosby – With supermodel Beverly Johnson adding to the chorus of complaints against the comedian, it’s looking as if the Cosby brand is up in flames. He has resigned as a trustee from his alma mater, Temple University, his projects with Netflix and NBC are cancelled, his comedy act is on hiatus, and even TV Land pulled reruns of The Cosby Show. And, yet Mr. Huxtable remains relatively quiet except for an odd request from the black media: remain neutral. Let me be clear: this is not a black issue; it’s a societal issue! His wife and lawyer are continually blaming the victim without offering any evidence to the contrary. Lesson: Silence is NOT Golden

  7. Rene Zellweger – Who you ask? That’s right, the actress who is no longer recognizable as Bridget Jones or even Roxie Hart, made a red carpet appearance and left reporters stunned. Admitting to only rest and relaxation, it’s clear that something has happened to her face. It’s not the issue of Botox or not, it’s the issue of morphing into somebody else. Lesson: Your visual brand builds loyalty, recognition, and sales

  8. Gwyneth Paltrow – Already courting a cadre of official “Gwyneth haters”, the actress fueled the flames with her “conscious uncoupling” from husband Chris Martin. It sparked conversation and a host of late-night jokes as well. Even complaining about her tough life and comparing it to war didn’t earn her any respect: “It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing.” Lesson: Celebrities get no sympathy when it comes to their tough life; simply smile and take a bow.

5 Brands That sizzled

  1. Taylor Swift – This marketing maven was everywhere promoting her new album…and even dissed Spotify in the process! Sales from 1989 totaled $1.3 million in just its first week! From The Voice to Jimmy Fallon to celebrating her 25th birthday on Saturday with Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake, and Selena Gomez, Taylor was ablaze with ruthless self-promotion. Lesson: Shaking it off and shaking it everywhere works!

  2. The ALS Association – Its Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral sensation making us pull out our cameras, wallets, and towels to mop up all of the great moments captured. Over $21.7 million committed to this great cause. Lesson: you never know what will catch fire on social media, but be ready to harness the PR moment.

  3. Ellen DeGeneres – Even while pulling a publicity stunt for Samsung, her selfie at the Oscars got retweeted 3.3 million times! With a star-studded snap of Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and Angelina Jolie, these  A-listers shine. Lesson: Celebrities still sell

  4. Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki – This betrothed couple split after wedding invitations were mailed, but rather than hurt their business careers, it set them on fire! Just months after the uncoupling, Rory won the US Open and the PGA Championship. Caroline, fitter than ever, finished the NY Marathon with a stunning 3:30 time, even though she’s a former number 1 tennis player! This great Dane finished the year at the impressive #8 ranking, but more importantly, looks happier than ever. Lesson: Your love life and business life are inextricably combined

  5. Gillian Flynn – This author adapted her own bestselling book into the monster hit at the box office taking in almost $165 million and earning a Golden Globe nomination for Rosamund Pike. Even better, the book has been on the bestseller list for over one full year now and even her backlist (previously published books) is selling well on kindle too. Lesson: Authors aren’t just writing a book, they are building a branding empire

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
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