Skip to comments.America’s Nine Most Damaged Brands
Posted on 04/12/2013 8:08:25 PM PDT by SeekAndFindBrand reputations are among the most prized assets major corporations have. A look at relevant surveys shows that brand valuations are often so high that they compare to the market values of the public companies that own them. But brands can fall as fast and as hard as they have climbed.
While a reputation can take years to build, it can be battered or ruined in a very short time. This certainly happened to J.P. Morgan after it reported a $6.2 billion trading loss in its London office. It happened to Hyundai after it overstated the gas mileage for many of its cars. In each case, customers began to worry. Many even became suspicious not only about the company’s ability to manage its business, but also about its candor with the public.
Click here to see America’s most damaged brands
Reputations do not exist in a vacuum. The value of BlackBerry was undercut not only by its own mistakes and product missteps, but also by the comparative success of Apple’s iPhone and an army of Google Android-based devices led by the popular Samsung Galaxy line. Similarly, Apple’s own reputation has been eroded by, among other things, the wild success of the Galaxy SIII and anticipation of the upcoming Galaxy S4. They are the only two smartphones considered iPhone rivals, based on both features and unit sales.
Ethical lapses can also be a major cause of a brands collapse. The damage to Hyundais brand was the result of a breach of trust between the company and the public — which was drawn to its products in the first place because of high quality and fuel efficiency. The moment it was revealed that MPG data given out by Hyundai was inflated, the automaker could do little more than damage control. The same can be said for J.P. Morgan. One trader violated rules and regulations, as a result of which the bank lost billions of dollars. The government then blamed the loss on weak risk management.
Occasionally, a brand will be battered by the flawed design of its products. Over the years, that has certainly been an issue for car companies. Recalls have undermined the value of more than one auto nameplate. Boeing has been undone by a similar problem. Not only was its Dreamliner years late, it also had a faulty battery that caused all the planes to be pulled out of service worldwide.
Among the most common causes for brand value erosion and drop in public respect is the absolute failure of a companys core strategy. BlackBerry is an example. Time after time it created products that led the global smartphone industry. But it never managed to move its reputation from being a successful manufacturer of smartphones for business to one for consumers.
To identify the most damaged brands, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed large, publicly traded companies that offer products or services in the United States. These companies had to be among the largest brands in the world, as measured by Corebrand, or command an especially large amount of media attention in their industry. Companies that made our list severely damaged their brand in one of two ways: by aggressively promoting a product or a business strategy and failing badly, or being involved in a corporate or personal scandal.
These are Americas nine most damaged brands.
1. Martha Stewart
Leave aside Stewarts five months in prison for lying about her sale of ImClone stock. Disregard her unbelievably high compensation as nonexecutive chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (NYSE: MSO) — even as the companys revenue has consistently dropped, and its shares have plummeted more than 60% during the past five years, while the S&P 500 has jumped 20%.
The domestic diva and her namesake company have landed on the front pages again, this time in a legal battle between Macys Inc. (NYSE: M) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) about which retailer has the rights to sell Stewart-labeled products. Omnimedia cut a deal with J.C. Penney in late 2011, giving the retailer the right to sell Stewart-branded goods in its store. At the same time, J.C. Penney also bought 16.6% of Stewarts company for $38.5 million. Macys promptly sued, claiming that its exclusive rights to the Stewart product line, set in 2006, had been violated. The latest public blunder has further damaged a brand that began a downward trend years ago.
Steve Jobs built Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) into a seemingly unassailable juggernaut — and the worlds most valuable public company. The reputation was carefully crafted for more than a decade by Jobs, who created entirely new product categories, and then dominated them with devices such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Apples single most public disaster was its decision to dump rival Google Inc.s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Maps system and replace it with its own product. Following a huge wave of negative press, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a public letter apologizing for the mess and, at one point, even suggested users rely on Google Maps instead.
At the heart of Apples brand decline is the simple fact that it has lost reputation as the prime innovator in the industries it once led. A year ago, no one could have imagined that a product like the Samsung Galaxy SIII would compete with the iPhone 5, or that the Galaxy S4 would be viewed as better than the iPhone. Apple lost its position as one of the worlds top brands in a remarkably short time. It has not launched a revolutionary product in more than two years. For most companies, the launch of such a device once a decade would be sufficient. For Apple, it is nothing short of a failure.
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The South Korean vehicle maker and its stablemate Kia have been among the fastest growing car and light truck brands in America over the past decade. Hyundais share of the U.S. market grew from about 2% in 2001 to more than 4% in 2011. During that period, Hyundai and Kia offered what Japanese companies had for decades — high-quality vehicles at affordable prices. They burnished their images with a 100,000-mile warranty package dubbed Hyundai Assurance. However, in November 2012, the EPA charged the companies with inflated MPG claims, and they lowered the stated MPG ratings on many of their vehicles.
USA Today described Hyundais reaction as shocking. It said, Hyundai, in a burst of hubris, deals with the issue by portraying itself as a consumer champion on its home page — even though the reduction resulted from an Environmental Protection Agency investigation. More recently, Hyundai and Kia said they would recall approximately 1.9 million cars in the United States to fix a potentially faulty brake light switch, Yahoo! News reported.
The huge aerospace company has turned years of delays in the launch of its 787 Dreamliner into a nightmare for carriers. And passengers have become concerned whether the plane will be safe once it returns to service.
Major production delays began in 2007. The first passengers did not step aboard a 787 until an October 26, 2011, flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong — three and a half years later than initially planned. However, the events after that flight make the delays seem insignificant by comparison. Incidents of burning lithium-ion batteries caused the entire 787 fleet to be grounded. Despite further battery tests by Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and regulators, the FAA has yet to allow the plane to go back into service. Ultimately, the 787 will be recertified, but the brand will be badly damaged for a very long time, at least in the eyes of the flying public. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, Boeing Co. is now battling on two fronts: fixing the source of the problem and regaining the trust of the flying public.
5. J.C. Penney
The deterioration of one of Americas oldest retailers has been going on for some time. In the five years before Ron Johnsons appointment in late 2011, the J.C. Penney share price dropped 60% under CEO Myron Mike Ullman. Johnson embarked on an expensive turnaround plan, which included a new logo, advertising and the end of deep discounts, coupons and sales events once popular with customers. None of this appears to have worked. Total sales fell 24.8% last year to $13 billion, while same-store sales fell 25.2%. Internet sales, absolutely critical to retailers as e-commerce emerges as a primary source of revenue, dropped 33% during the year. The day after Johnsons dismissal, share prices hit a 12-year low.
Firing Johnson this week was the clearest repudiation of his turnaround strategy and the only sane decision by the board. According to recent reports, same-store sales dropped 10% in the quarter that just ended, likely contributing to his dismissal. Reinstating the former CEO responsible for the companys previous woes defies explanation.
6. Best Buy
If the stock market is any indication of the success of electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY), it is worth remembering that its shares traded just below $49 nearly three years ago. Even after rallying since the start of the year, shares currently trade under $26. Best Buy has been its own worst enemy.
CEO Brian Dunn, who was charged with the companys turnaround, was fired in May 2012 for a relationship with a female employee. Founder and chairman Richard Schulze left under a dark cloud shortly thereafter when it was discovered he knew of the affair and did not tell the rest of the board. Then, last August, Schulze offered to take Best Buy private. Recently, he dropped the deal and rejoined the board. Even Schulze could not make the case that the company was healthy enough to be taken over, which raises the question of whether he believes the company he started has a dim future.
One of Best Buys problems is that it has become the showroom for Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). This was on display when it announced the financials for the quarter that ended on March 3, 2012. The company said that it had lost $1.7 billion, compared to a profit of $651 million the year before, and would close 50 stores. Best Buy also said that the critical marker of same-store sales had fallen, and that it expected the slide to continue.
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Shortly after launching in November 2008, Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) began to revolutionize the coupon business. The company sent retail offers online to customers, which it targeted based on where they lived and worked, as well as their stated interests. Merchants and customers adopted the new model at a blazing pace, at least early on. Revenue increased from $3.3 million in the second quarter of 2009 to $644.7 million in the first quarter of 2011, the company reported.
When Groupon went public in November 2011, its trouble with the SEC about overstating revenue already had begun. Another SEC investigation caused the company to restate fourth-quarter 2011 revenue and drove down the share price 10%. In addition to accounting scandals, Groupon is having trouble fending off competition from peers LivingSocial, Amazon and brick-and-mortar retailers who do not want to be flanked by online coupon competition. After three years of hyper-expansion, Groupon forecasts 2013 revenue growth at a tepid 0% to 9%.
Earlier this year, Groupon co-founder and CEO Andrew Mason was fired. Rejecting Googles $6 billion dollar offer (the company is now worth $4 billion), issues with the SEC and zero growth did not sit well with his board and co-founders after all.
Research In Motion renamed itself after its most famous product — the BlackBerry — earlier this year. New management has said that the BlackBerry Z10 and the redesigned operating system, which was delayed three times, are critical to turning around the business. But the product, which the company is betting on, is of only limited interest to the public. The BlackBerry brand already has been pressed to near extinction by competitors, including the Apple iPhone and Google Android OS smartphones, led by Samsung products. Apples iPhone had about half of BlackBerrys (NASDAQ: BBRY) market share in 2008, and Google Android was in its infancy. By the end of 2011, BlackBerry had less than 9% market share, Apple had almost 24%, and Android OS phones dominated with more than 50%.
In the history of smartphones, the 2013 launch of the BlackBerry Z10 may be only a footnote. The release was late, and most reviews have been mixed, at best. Early sales of the new device have been modest, and certainly not enough to dent the market share of Apple, which sold 47.8 million iPhones in its most recently released quarter. The Z10 was hardly the start of the downfall of the BlackBerry brand, but it may be the final chapter.
9. J.P. Morgan
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) was for years considered the best-run bank in America, and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, the top banker. Dimon steered it through the financial crisis of 2008 in a way its competitors could not match. Unfortunately, J.P. Morgan is one more brand that was tarnished almost overnight.
A single trader in J.P. Morgans London office lost the bank $6.2 billion, and there are concerns the write-off process is not over. Dimon erred by saying the incident was isolated and based on management stupidity. The federal government did not accept that, and neither did investors.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve made harsh assessments of the banks risk management in January. Both agencies found unsafe or unsound practices and violations of law or regulation.” The criticism did not end there. In March, the Office of the Comptroller downgraded J.P. Morgans management rating. The reputation of the bank, almost entirely intertwined with Dimon, suffered one last blow. Investors have pushed to strip Dimon of his role as chairman, which has caused speculation that an incident that began in London could eventually cost him his job as CEO.
Might take a few years but it will end up being the most damaged brand.
Best Buy is a “damaged brand”, in my opinion.
11. Montgomery Ward
13. American Motors
Groupon absolutely SUCKS. Don’t ever - EVER use them if you are a business owner. Rookie mistake by our new marketing guy. What a flippin’ headache! NOTHING in it for us - everything in it for Groupon...and they SUCK at it!
Again - Groupon SUCKS!
14. Spector Records
15. Philles Records
16. Brunswick Records
17. Cameo-Parkway Records
18. Tamla Records
What about Schlitz?
What did she ever do to you?
Can I ask why?
Who would imagine that three years ago?
I don’t see how they can put Apple in with some of these. They may no longer be the juggernaut they once were, but they still rule the tablet market. They have made mistakes, but even in the phone market, it’s still Apple vs. all the companies selling Android phones.
I would put Microsoft in the damaged brands well ahead of Apple. Windows 8 is driving people away.
3. Mitt Romney
4. Karl Rove
5. Reince Prebius
6. John Boehner
7. John McCain
8. Anything Bush
9. Marco Rubio
10. Pat Toomey
Those were some easy ones, off the top of my head.
14. Gemco (lousy stuff)
15. Service Merchndise (wait in 3 lines to get your stuff)
16. Comp USA (horrible return policy)
It’s still early, but at some point we need a decision whether the GOP needs to be dumped.
So far, it seems to this poster they’re heading the wrong direction.
I was in NYC frequently for catalog photoshoots back when she was really hitting it big, and we crossed paths several times. I can say that the televised persona is/was manufactured, because that softspoken, thoughtful person with excellent taste was not in evidence at all. The reality was rather grating, aggressive and needlessly rude. Even New Yorkers thought so, if that tells you anything. That might help anyone who has cognitive dissonance over the public face and the private behavior.
Why? How did she offend you?
I tolerated my Crackberry phone but absolutely despise my new (company issued) Win8 phone. I’d trade back in a heartbeat.
The “All Baraq, All the Time” media used to love stories about Soetoro’s Blackberry. A few years later Blackberrys are a damaged brand.
The most damaged brand in America is “the Office of the President of the United States”.
I don't care for Martha, but her incarceration was wrong.
Her crime was talking to investigators without a lawyer.
Pull Apple insert GM.
It's my read that she was so very arrogant that she pissed off the wrong people.
Classic case of "what goes around." She got what she deserved morally, not legally, as you pointed out.
Cosmic justice for Ms. Martha. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving maven.
She was dimissive. Mere mortals were beneath her notice.
I was not surprised that she ended up in the pokey. She ticked off the wrong people once too often.
I wish her well, though, because I think she paid her price. Time for her to move one.
There is a population of crack berries out there and maybe RIM listened to them too much. They had a great product that met a lot of businesses and government needs, but they lost sight. But more importantly I think they were cursed with being first to innovate.
There is a pattern in technology that dooms innovators in the long run. The prime example is Xerox PARC where the first GUI was invented. Apple and Microsoft OSs both stole from Xerox and are still in the market. Another example is Viscalc and Lotus. Microsoft has this nack of waiting for innovators the do all the hard work. Of course Microsoft came,up with Excel as an original idea.
But back to BlackBerry, they invested hundreds of millions in a NOC that is no longer needed today for secure communications. BlackBerry marketing perhaps thinks that is still a selling point, but any technical guy can achieve the same level of security for tens of thousands of dollars less using off the shelf technology that did not exist when RIM got its start.
BlackBerry has lost its way, just like the Republican Party.
That is what I always heard about her too.
Blackberry is from a Canadian company.
I'd rather see cosmic justice for Al Gore and all the other global warming crooks, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Good idea. Gore has/had too many friends to protect him. It's still hard for me to believe how many Americans LOVED him. Yuck.
Gore doesn't even have Martha's talent.
Some of the rudest, most arrogant and condescending people I know are also from Connecticut.
Not a New England WASP, she just played one on TV.
I subscribed to her magazine when she was in prison as a show of support; I also thought the incarceration was wack. But when she publicly bashed Dubya after she got out, I took great pleasure in cancelling my subscription.
I’d agree on Hyundai. Nice car - until you have a problem with it. Maybe more of an issue with the ethics (or lack thereof) of the local dealership. Had an engine problem with one. They hemmed and hawed and fiddled with it off and on six or eight times over the span of months. Finally soaked in that they were stringing it along because the warranty was about to expire. Wasn’t until I threatened to take it to an independent mechanic for diagnosis, and when it showed something obvious and covered under warranty was wrong I’d sue them...viola, next day they had a part on order and it was fixed by the weekend. ($2K plus worth of parts and labor warranty work on it) We sold it within a week. Hyundai may be a good deal or not, but when the only dealership in town is a crook, no thank you.
Substitute Microsoft for Apple and GM for Hyundai and you have a pretty good list.
Well people would say this forgetting that just two years into Ullmans taking his position the 2008 Financial Crisis hit all retailers hard. Penney's was one of the few who held their own throughout that time...and this under Ullman’s leadership. Since he kept Penney's stable during the 2008 Finacial Crash, while others were floundering, it made perfect sense to bring him back.
Furthermore He had introduced Sephora and other brands at a reasonable rate while customers adjusted. So the plans for Penney's to increase and change their lines had already begun Under Ullman, before Johnson entered the picture.
The major stockholders and board members decided to bring Johnson in to move things along at a faster pace and with “fresh” blood to execute the plans...because he had turned around Apples Retail Stores it was believed he would do so equally as well with Penney's....it was downhill from the start...
Ullman has been less than a week at the Helm and though it will take more than a week, his work is already bringing stability to the employees and the customers.
The stocks always shake at every turn, and the “talking heads” like news pundits take the stage. There is still time to recover the losses, and the customers are already coming back.
n + 1: Neil Armstrong
n + 2: Chris Christie
Yep, I agree. I've heard BB referred to as "Amazon's showroom", meaning people look at the stuff there, but buy online for less.
Whoops, if I had read the article, I’d have noticed it too mentioned “Amazon’s showroom”
*slinks off to the corner, red-faced*
She was not a senior company executive of Imclone. She did not sell her company’s stock. She received a call from her broker that the CEO of Imclone was selling his stock and so she sold her Imclone based on the broker’s advice. Bet that’s not the first time something like that has happened with lots of other people.
She was not convicted of insider trading. She was convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of a government agency proceeding.
I didn’t care for her show, or her demeanor, but I think she got the book thrown at her because she ticked off the wrong people.
She should never have said a word without consulting an attorney, and she should have been smart enough to know that. Maybe she had a superiority complex and felt she could do it herself.
I have no tears for her. There’s more important stuff to be concerned about.
‘Groupon absolutely SUCKS. Dont ever - EVER use them if you are a business owner....’
WELL FROM THE BUYERS SIDE OF THINGS....i can report that i
used groupon twice ...got 3 25 dollar haircuts for 3o bucks..
and a year of the Sunday issue of the local newspaper for 10 bucks thats less than nineteen cents a copy DELIVERED..so i guess some offers work and some don’t..
“n + 1: Neil Armstrong”
Yes, I suppose dying did hurt his brand.
That Hyundai-EPA stuff was a one day story that did nothing t hurt their brand. I’ll bet 99% of folks are completely unaware of it. I’m guessing the author has an axe to grind there.
Hyundai posted their best ever sales year in 2012 so I’m not sure how damaged the brand could be really.
They never reacted to the iPhone. I guess they thought they had the business segment sewn up. When they realized what was happening, it was too late.
Me either. But Jobs' passing has changed everything. The stock price is steadily decreasing.
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