Welcome to 2022! Every year I highlight a few brands to watch, brands that are heading into a particularly interesting year. This year I have five selections.
Rarely has there been a more interesting time for the Olympics. The big question: can the Olympics separate the event from the host country?
The Olympic brand remains strong, with high global awareness and positive associations. The idea of celebrating athletic achievement unites the world, and the Olympic brand strengthens with each athlete’s struggle and success.
China is a very different story. Every day, the brand of China becomes more polarizing as the country cracks down on dissent, tracks its citizens and sends ethnic groups to work camps. China’s drive to eliminate democracy in Hong Kong has received global attention.
This will play out most clearly with sponsors. How will these brands support the Olympics without supporting (or criticizing) China? Can brands saluting freedom and democracy look away from China’s policies? I anticipate advertisers will work very hard to honor the athletes without commenting at all on the host country.
A pandemic darling, Peloton has taken an astonishing fall. The stock price peaked at over $160 per share and now is trading at $37, down a stunning 77%.
The brand seems to be in disarray. In the fall, Peloton stated that it didn’t need additional capital, and a few days later announced that it needed more money. The company agreed to a Sex and the City product placement but didn’t ask about the scenario. Then the brand scrambled to create a response ad, only to pull the spot days later.
Everything suggests things are not well at Peloton. Can the brand settle down and stay focused on the core proposition? Or will Peloton flail, pursuing crazy dreams of continued exponential growth? At what point will the rock star instructors start to leave? When the stock was soaring, there was a compelling reason for them to stick around. As growth slows and the stock languishes, moving on starts to seem more interesting.
I suspect Peloton will rebound, but only if the brand keeps the focus on the core proposition: remarkable fitness programs.
Very few people thought White Claw would be the next big thing in the world of alcoholic beverages. In hindsight, it seems obvious, of course. That is how things so often go.
But what happens now in this space? Will White Claw maintain its strong position? Or will competitors steal share?
The world of beverages is quickly crashing together. There used to be a clear line between water/soda and bear/wine/spirits. Coke and Pepsi produced soft drinks. Diageo and AB InBev made alcoholic beverage. Hard seltzer crashed right into that line and destroyed it. So now we have a wild mix of products coming out. Pepsi is crossing the line with hard Mountain Dew, and AB InBev is launching Bud Light hard soda.
I suspect this frenzy of new products and innovation will benefit the big players. Scale matters. Look for difficult times for White Claw and a rebound for the big players like AB InBev this year.
I find it hard to believe that Donald Trump is once again a brand to watch, but he is. Out of office, cut off from social media, largely confined to his Florida compound, Trump remains the most important figure in the Republican party and one of the most significant political players in the country.
The big question: will Trump run in 2024? If his health holds up, I suspect he will. Trump has a loyal, enthusiastic base of supporters. He has managed to retain control of the Republican party and forced dozens of smart people to conclude that their optimal move is to support the election fraud story. He has a vast email list (over 50 million) and the ability to raise huge funds (perhaps $100 million in 2021).
Look for Trump to proclaim victory in November as the Republicans gain the edge in both houses and use that to start a new campaign for the presidency.
The electronic vehicle market continues to grow. Tesla has been a shining brand success story and remains a stock market favorite. A more questionable brand is Rivian, the start-up company making electric trucks.
The big question in electric vehicles is when will the big players finally regain the momentum: GM, Ford, Toyota, VW?
There is no question the big brands are coming. Under CEO Mary Barra, GM is pivoting the entire company to electric. Ford is launching some hot new electric vehicles.
Tesla seems to have reached critical mass. What happens to Rivian?
I suspect 2022 is the year that the big brands will dominate. Expect Rivian to struggle and potentially be acquired (perhaps by Ford?) as its stock slumps.
Best wishes for a healthy and dynamic 2022!