Brands in the News

Looking Back on 2015’s Brands to Watch

23 Dec 2015  

Last year, I identified five brands to watch in 2015. With the year winding down, this seems like a reasonable time to check in on them. I’ll post a list of brands to watch in 2016 on January 1.


Lufthansa began 2015 facing some significant competitive challenges. The company needed to respond to the growth of both discount carriers (Ryan Air and Easy Jet) and premium players (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar).

How did the year turn out?

It couldn’t have been much worse; this was a terrible year for Lufthansa. The carrier encountered a series of strikes, which repeatedly shut down operations. Some unions have agreed to new contracts but others haven’t, and so the labor unrest may continue. The crash of Germanwings flight 9525 was tragic and raised questions about management practices.


Apple headed into 2015 with incredible momentum. The question: could the brand keep things going?

Apple pulled it off. The company continues to deliver remarkable financial results, with huge growth in China.

The story isn’t perfect, however. The main concern is that most of the growth in 2015 came from the iPhone. Questions surround some of the company’s recent innovations, such as Apple Watch and Apple Pay. This explains why the stock has slumped, falling from over $130 a share in July to about $107 today.


At the start of 2015, McDonalds was trying to deal with multiple problems: tough competition, negative quality perceptions, and slumping sales.

What a difference a year makes.

Today, McDonalds is thriving. Sales are growing. The stock price is up. People feel better about the company. It is an incredible turn-around story.

The improvement is due to several factors:

-A focus on simplicity and quality.

-Better marketing, including a very strong Super Bowl spot.

-All day breakfast.

Steve Easterbrook became CEO in March, and he is off to a great start. I’m delighted that I didn’t sell my shares.


General Motors is trying desperately to turn around the Cadillac brand. The plan includes new leadership, new models and new marketing.

There are apparently some encouraging signs, but 2015 was not a break-out year for the brand.

We learned one thing this year: fixing Cadillac won’t be quick or easy.

The Republican Party

At the start of 2015, I noted that the Republican Party had to identify a compelling positioning and settle on a strong leader.

So far the Republicans seem to be embracing the idea of excluding people, whether that is Syrian refugees or illegal aliens from Mexico.

I don’t know if this message will be enough to carry the election. I find it personally disappointing. It would be so much better to focus on an inspirational, broadly relevant platform about opportunity and growth and building strong families.


Here’s hoping you enjoy a holiday season focused on welcoming friends and family, not closing the door on strangers.

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