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Todd Smith's 'The Spin Cycle' — The Brand Is King

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

In today’s connected society, branding is much more than a campaign. It’s greater than a slick logo and cool color scheme. It’s a way of life. It’s a promise. It’s awareness. It’s an identity. It’s a differentiator. It’s iconic. In a nod to its old West heritage, it’s a lasting impression seared into our collective minds. An effective brand cements your company or organization on the stage of public opinion.

Now — more than ever — in a world flooded with mixed messages online and off, establishing brand success is paramount to prosperity.

So, as we sail into the waters of 2014, let’s take a spin on the best brands ship of 2013.

Best Brands | 2013

Each year, AdWeek ranks the best-perceived brands in the world. Buoyed by strong sales of its e-readers and expansion of its free-shipping offering, Amazon topped the list of best brands of 2013 as measured by YouGov’s BrandIndex. Rounding out the top 5 were Ford, Subway, History Channel and Lowe’s. Last year was also the year of the bank as financial institutions continued to emerge from the mire of the recession and economic meltdown. In fact, four of the five best-improved brands were banks.

Amazon was the most popular brand of 2013 when it cashed in on strong holiday Kindle sales and Amazon Prime, its free shipping service. Falling out of the Top 10 this year were Target, which suffered an epic data breach and crisis communications headache in late December — the ripple waves of which are still crashing into the shores of public perception; and Google, which was dogged by privacy concerns related to NSA revelations. The rankings measure consumer perception of brands by asking customers if they’ve felt negative or positive about them, assigning a brand perception score. So, drum roll, please as we take a gander at the Top 10 best-perceived brands in the land!

1. Amazon

Online retailer Amazon overtook Ford as the most favored brand in America, making it the best-perceived retailer in the US. Amazon has remained coy about revealing hard sales figures, despite strong performance of its Kindle and Amazon prime products. The first weekend in December was the company’s strongest holiday sales period yet. Amazon revealed its Kindle Fire HD and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX were its top selling items during the holiday season. Amazon, which is the world’s biggest bookseller, also revealed in its sales figures that a quarter of its Kindle eBook sales in the US were from independent publishers. More than 36.8m items were ordered worldwide on Cyber Monday, which is a record-breaking 426 items per second, and millions of customers unwrapped Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets this holiday season.

2. Ford

Despite slipping to second place, Ford reigns as America’s best-selling vehicle brand in 2013, making it well placed to be a US Buzz leader. Annual sales increased 14 percent in the US on the previous year. Ford kept up its ‘And Is Better’ commercial series this year, with the October-launched ‘Nuts or Bolts’ spot advertising the 2014 Ford Fusion and the 2013 Ford Escape using the #fordand Twitter handle. Ford announced it would unveil a solar power car this year, at an electronics convention in Las Vegas. The Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept car will be able to travel 21 miles on a full charge, keeping the carmaker in the headlines for 2014.

3. Subway

Subway remains in third place from the mid-2013 rankings, having started the year with a health-focused promotion, ‘Fresh Fit Meals’ in a Super Bowl spot in January. The chain celebrated its 15th birthday this year, and has set off its summer campaign with an ‘Avocado Love’ commercial featuring two Subway customers going a little over-the-top in praising the ingredient. The sandwich chain continues to grow in the U.S., reaching a 40,000-outlet milestone in August. In September, Subway launched its ‘Project SUBWAY’ campaign, an annual dress design contest hosted by Project Runway stars Althea Harper and Raina Seitel, with a top prize being to display the dress at a Subway outlet in Manhattan and free Subway Footlongs for a year. Subway is currently offering $5 Footlong sandwiches for the month of January in its ‘JanuANY’ promotion.

4. History

History makes it to the top five after a year of big budget showings like Vikings and the Bible. Vikings was among the most popular cable series of the year, snagging more than 4 million viewers per episode. Now the channel has announced the second season will launch in February, with the promise that it will bring “Crises of faith, of power, of relationships. History’s Christmas viewing included The Curse of Oak Island, the story of two brothers from Michigan who attempt to find treasure buried on the island, and a two-part series of Bonnie and Clyde remade from the original 1960s movie. History also gained success with The Bible, a 10-part series debuting with more than 13 million views in March before wrapping up on Easter Sunday.

5. Lowe’s

In at fifth place, Lowe’s reported net earnings of nearly $500 million for the quarter ending Nov. 1, 2013 – a 26 percent increase on the same period the previous year. The home improvement store tapped into the social-media savvy audience by launching 12 6-second spots on its Twitter and Facebook pages featuring home improvement tips. It has stuck to its more traditional method of TV marketing to get do-it-yourselfers in store with a ‘Rituals’ commercial, comparing home improvement to being victorious on the sports field. During the holiday season, Lowe’s teamed up with designers including Design Mom, Little Green Notebook and Brit+Co to inspire customers into improving their homes over Christmas with a series of blogs and pictures. Lowe’s expects another strong performance for 2014, and is launching a number of YouTube spots on the theme: ‘Get a fresh start for the new year.’

Rounding out the Top 10:

6. YouTube

7. Walgreen’s

8. V8

9. Cheerios

10. Kindle

Other big brands in the rankings include Samsung, Netflix, Aleve, Olive Garden, Home Depot, iPad, iPhone, Apple (the three amigos of global branding), Google, M&Ms, Target, Geico, Tide, Dawn and John Deere.

Deep Bronze Golden Mic | Target

Talk about reputation repair. Target, whose reputation has taken a roller coaster ride into the depths of public opinion in the wake of a monstrous data breach, has scrambled the image makers into high gear to spank some sparkle back onto its sterling brand. Days after one of the largest retail data breaches in history – where up to 110 million customers had credit cards or debit cards stolen – the iconic brand shifted into crisis-management mode, taking out full-page ads in major newspapers to apologize to its customers, issuing reassurances to the public and addressing concerns head-on by promising customers they had zero liability in the fiasco. It also released an online guide for avoiding scams in which criminals may try to use the personal information potentially compromised in the attack. Target took it another step by offering free credit monitoring to all customers – not just those affected by the breach – in a brilliant stroke of good will. So as the brand climbs the mountain back to its perch as a top global brand, it is stoking the reputation repair engine to what it hopes is a forgiving public with a short-term memory.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.



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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.