This will be a critical year for many brands. Here are six that I will be watching with particular interest in 2014.
There is intense focus on the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the event a top priority and invested billions in constructing the facilities. One important goal is to enhance Russia’s brand.
It is not at all clear how things will go. People around the world are denouncing Russia’s anti-gay legislation and its approach to human-rights. Terrorist attacks are a significant concern.
Will Sochi build the Putin and Russia brands? Or will it be a branding disaster?
Tesla is one of the most exciting brands in the world today. The new automaker is generating incredible buzz and attracting thousands of buyers, many of whom rave about the cars. The stock soared in 2013 to $150 per share.
There are concerns, however. Some people are worried about safety after a series of battery fires. There is also a more basic question: is Tesla a reasonable vehicle for the masses? Or is it just a toy for the affluent?
In 2014 we will learn much more about the potential of Tesla to change the automotive world.
Korean-giant Samsung has become a leader in the technology world and a key challenger to Apple.
The company has enormous scale and technical capabilities. Last year Samsung did a tremendous job building its brand and ran some terrific advertising.
Can Samsung continue its momentum? Or will it struggle and face shrinking margins with undifferentiated products?
Can JC Penney recover?
Under CEO Ron Johnson, JC Penney launched a bold effort to reinvent its brand, cutting discounts and updating its product assortment. The plan was a disaster.
The JC Penney board tossed out Johnson in April, 2013 and brought Mike Ullman back to be CEO. Under Ullman, JC Penney is returning to discounts and its more traditional product mix.
Things are getting better at JC Penney. In 2014 we will learn whether the improvement is enough to save the company.
Sears is struggling. This is not a surprise. It also isn’t new; Sears has declined for years.
The question for 2014: just how long can Sears continue along? Will the brand just gradually fade away, like a setting sun? Or will the brand finally collapse in 2014?
-Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups
There is nothing like a good competitive battle. In 2014, we will see a massive fight play out in the peanut butter cup category.
The established player is Hershey, which owns Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups. The new entrant is Nestle which is launching Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups.
This will be a huge fight. Nestle is spending aggressively on its new product with a launch that includes a spot on the 2014 Super Bowl. Hershey is likely to mount a ferocious defensive effort and do everything it can to limit Nestle’s gains.
This will be a very entertaining battle to watch.
Best wishes for a productive and healthy 2014.