Brands in the News

Six Brands to Watch in 2017

30 Dec 2016  

With the holiday season in full swing, it is time to start thinking about the year ahead. Here are six brands to watch.


Amazon is flying high, and the story is all about expansion and growth. The company is opening physical stores, getting into the shipping business and expanding private label options. It even recently delivered a package with a drone.

Revenues are growing quickly. The company topped $100 billion in revenue in 2015, and this year Amazon should reach $125 billion. The company is also making some money, which is a notable change. Don’t get too excited, though; Amazon isn’t making much, just $252 million in the last quarter. Still, a little profit is better than a loss.

Investors are optimistic. The company’s stock price is over $770 per share, giving Amazon a market cap of more than $360 billion. For comparison, Walmart’s market cap is just $231 billion, despite the fact that Walmart is more than five times the size of Amazon in terms of revenue and profit.

Will Amazon keep it together in 2017? Or will this be the year when investors start demanding some real profits and the company struggles to manage all the disparate initiatives?

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo took a dramatic fall in 2016. Once the darling of the financial services industry—celebrated for its ability to cross-sell products—the banking giant should appear on any list of 2016’s troubled brands. After it became apparent that some of that cross-selling success was due to employees opening up accounts that customers didn’t want or ask for, Wells Fargo began to struggle in 2016.

The question for Wells Fargo: will the brand be able to restore trust and regain momentum in 2017? The initial reaction is clear—no. The bank is seeing a significant decline in new accounts.

Perhaps, however, Wells Fargo will do better than anticipated. The brand has high awareness, a long history and a distinctive image.

This will be an interesting story to watch unfold.


It has been a difficult few years for P&G. The company is struggling to grow in a changing world while small, authentic brands are successfully innovating around them. Revenue for fiscal year 2016 was $65 billion, but five years earlier revenue was over $85 billion. Unsurprisingly, the company has churned through CEOs over the past several years.

During this decline, P&G has managed to reduce costs, maintaining profits even as revenue falls, but many of the company’s brands are losing relevance and share. Just look at the shaving category, where upstarts like Dollar Shave Club are innovating and P&G’s Gillette is floundering.

P&G is still one of the world’s great companies. The question is will the company be able to turn things around in 2017? The answer is important for both P&G and other big CPG firms.

Go Pro

Technology firm Go Pro has certainly had a difficult few years. The stock peaked at over $90 per share in 2014, and it currently trades at $9.

Go Pro is in desperate need of a brand repositioning. The company got started by focusing on the extreme sports community. The strategy worked initially. Here is a typical Go Pro video.

The problem, of course, is that most people don’t play extreme sports, so there isn’t much of a market. Buying a Go Pro to film my son’s choir concert seems a little unnecessary.

Go Pro’s is trying to reposition its brand and reach new audiences. Its new videos and social media outreach efforts feature families and musical events. Still, Go Pro remains a niche brand with limited appeal.

The question for 2017: will Go Pro manage to complete the repositioning? Rarely has it been more essential to a company’s survival.


Tesla remains a technology favorite People are excited about the company’s potential in the auto industry. Despite the lack of profit or any chance of profit over the next few years, its market cap is over $36 billion.

2017 will bring three uncertainties. The first is the launch of Tesla’s Model 3, scheduled for later in the year. This an important new product for Tesla; it is the company’s first reasonably priced vehicle. To gain scale and improve margins, Tesla needs that Model 3 to be a success. This isn’t certain, though. One big risk is that this moderately priced car might damage Tesla’s premium brand image.

The second uncertainty is SolarCity. Tesla merged with SolarCity in 2016. While there is logic to the move, it also creates a liability; it is another new and unproven business to manage.

Perhaps the biggest question mark concerns regulations and subsidies. Part of Tesla’s success has come from large government payments. If you buy a Tesla today, the government will pay something like $7,500. Will these subsidies continue? What happens if they don’t?


Emirates is the most astonishing story in the airline business. The Dubai-based carrier has become a global giant, flying the world’s largest fleet of A380s to destinations around the globe. The airline promises excellent service and communicates the proposition with impactful advertising. Here is a recent example.

Still, the Emirates story seems a bit too good to be true. Is the company really able to profitably manage its huge global network? The firm’s financials are somewhat opaque. Most airlines aren’t using the A380; Airbus just cut production again due to weak demand. Is Emirates really the only carrier that can make the A380 work?

Emirates might keep the magic going in 2017, but look for indications that all is not quite as perfect as it seems.


One brand is conspicuously absent from this list: Donald Trump. He is certainly a brand to watch next year, but he deserves an entire post.

Best wishes for a successful 2017 filled with authentic, meaningful and valuable brands.

3 Responses

  1. Ted Morris says:

    Interesting to see if these brands play out vis-a-vis the PIMS principles through to the end of 2017

  2. Bob Schieffer says:

    Another interesting brand to watch is COACH, which seems to be moving a luxury brand to the mass market. While the stock is down 38% over the last three years, it will be up 8% in 2016. But so is every other stock in 2016. Happy New Year! Bob

    • timcalkins says:

      Bob—I agree…2017 will be a key year for Coach. The repositioning effort continues. Hopefully it will start to pay off in terms of improved profits and brand health. Happy New Year!

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