Brands in the News

My 2018 Brands to Watch – A Look Back

31 Dec 2018  

Each year I highlight a few brands to watch, sometimes brands that I think are poised for great success and sometimes brands that seem to be in trouble. With the end of 2018 coming right up, it is time to look back and see how I did this year on my predictions.



I predicted that 2018 would be the end of Sears, the year that the company would shut down and liquidate. I didn’t get this one completely correct; as the year ends Sears is still in business. However, I think I can claim partial credit. Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018, closed many stores and, as the year ends, is hanging on by a thread.



My big question for Apple heading into 2018: could the firm maintain its momentum? At some point, wouldn’t the iPhone reach saturation?

I anticipated that yes, Apple would have another big year, driven by higher pricing. That has proven to be the case; Apple continues to push prices up on iPhones, and many people continue to buy them. This year, Apple became the first U.S. company to reach a valuation of $1 trillion. While Apple’s stock is falling as the year ends, 2018 goes down as a remarkable year.


Donald Trump

The most astonishing brand in the world remains Donald Trump. His comments and actions baffle Americans, allies and foes alike. My question for 2018: would Donald Trump mellow? As the year started, his brand was exceptionally polarizing. Simply dialing things back a bit would broaden his appeal without losing his base.

I anticipated Trump would not take this approach and that has certainly been the case. As 2018 ends, Trump continues to make comments and take actions that only heighten the polarizing nature of his brand.


General Mills

It is hard to think of a brand that has stumbled more than Yoplait. The brand, slow to respond to Chobani and other new yogurts, has lost share, revenue and profit over the past several years. My question for 2018: Would the brand successfully fight back?

I anticipated that Yoplait would continue to struggle in yogurt and this has proven to be the case. Despite launching new products, Mills is still having trouble dealing with competitive pressure. If you miss your window to defend your brand, it is hard to recover.



The NFL, one of the world’s strongest sports leagues, started 2018 in a difficult place, dogged by stories of domestic abuse and head injuries. The question for 2018: would viewers and advertisers back away? In particular, would the Super Bowl lose some of its remarkable power as a marketing venue?

I correctly anticipated that the Super Bowl would remain strong, attracting powerful brands willing to invest millions of dollars.

I didn’t anticipate that the NFL would rebound in quite such a fashion; viewership is up this year, a dramatic rebound, and all the more remarkable given the overall decline in television viewing. It was a great year for the NFL.


I will post my 2019 brands to watch in the next few days.

Happy New Year!


3 Responses

  1. Todd says:

    Thanks, Professor. Hope to hear your opinion about private brands at some point. I’m seeing retailers reduce their true product-development responsibilities and act more as category-managers. Speed and scale increase and multiple brands can be launched at the same time. I see it as “product-companies” acting more like “media-companies”. Hope you will have time to dive into the topic in 2019.

    • timcalkins says:

      Todd–A great issue to consider. There is no doubt that e commerce is changing the game for private label players. I’ll dig into it a bit and post if I come up with some interesting observations. Happy New Year!

  2. Jeff Ball says:

    Thanks Professor. Very enjoyable reading. Each one of my comments are IMO.

    Sears and JC Penny were the mall anchors in my small town growing up. They are brands that no longer enjoy a share of mind, share of wallet or share of voice. As Jeff Bezos reminded us earlier this year, there will come a time when Amazon will ‘go out of business.’

    No one straddles the tech, consumer products and consumer services set of offerings than Apple does. The fact that the incremental innovation of tech offerings (platforms) of iPhones, iPads and MacBooks is more difficult to deliver as their products become more robust and longer lasting, the technology of their tripod becomes more difficult to grow units. Healthcare and lifestyle offerings of products and services will be a growth engine for them for iWatches and iPhones over the next five years.

    Trump is polarizing, but I wonder who is willing to do battle against career politicians and those aligned with them like the media and higher ed. How else can taxpayers begin to get a positive ROI for tax $s invested from career politicians who created a $22T debt obligation for our children, make healthcare and higher education more expensive every year and have no problem spending on wasteful initiatives like billboards for Smokey the Bear in Indiana or in Illinois….in addition to a list of initiatives that are too numerous to mention.

    General Mills dilemma with Yoplait appears to be more about a new brand to compete in the Greek Yogurt category than trying to reposition Yoplait.

    The product on the field for the NFL is not increasing viewership, betting and fantasy ‘sports’ are the reasons. Injuries of their primary asset, the players is their biggest issues going forward. Very few players can play a 16 game regular season. The ‘flag controversy’ didn’t help their brand but player safety and well being is their Achilles heel.

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