Recently I’ve started off the new year by highlighting some Brands to Watch. These aren’t necessarily the best or worst brands, they are simply brands that I project will be heading into an interesting stretch.
As we begin 2024, it is time to look back at my 2023 Brands to Watch and see how I did.
Last Christmas was a complete disaster for Southwest, as the airline essentially shut down in the middle of the busy travel period. People were livid as Southwest struggled to fly planes and sort out baggage. Presents never arrived and people spent days sleeping in terminals across the country. While other carriers faced challenges due to the weather, Southwest’s struggles were unique.
I predicted that Southwest would move past the bad period and that people would largely forget about the terrible holiday season. This was correct; while Southwest hasn’t had a great financial year, in part due to the lingering costs of the holiday stumble, people are back to flying the airline with confidence.
I also predicted that the CEO would step down, taking the fall. This was not correct; Bob Jordan was and remains CEO. The Southwest team was apologetic and rolled out a series of changes to ensure the problems wouldn’t happen again.
I predicted that cruise-industry giant Carnival would bounce back. Cruising is great fun and an inexpensive vacation option.
This was a good prediction. Carnival is filling up ships and the stock is up from less than $8 at the start of the year to over $18 at the close.
I predicted that we would hear less about the metaverse and that Meta the company would focus on its existing businesses.
This was correct. We hear a lot about AI these days and very little about the metaverse. What is the metaverse? Most people have no idea.
A renewed focus on the existing businesses helped spark a massive boom in the stock. Meta is up from about $125 per share at the start of the year to over $350 at the close.
At the start of 2023, the collapse of FTX was top of mind and cryptocurrencies were out of favor. I predicted that Bitcoin would rebound as the leading brand in the crypto space.
This was a good call. Bitcoin began the year at just under $17,000 and finishes at over $42,000.
In 2022, Tyson made the bizarre decision to close its Chicago office and essentially fire all the people responsible for its most successful business, consumer products. I predicted that Tyson would have a rough year in 2023.
This was another good call. Tyson delivered one bad quarter after another in 2023. In a year when the stock market is up over 20%, Tyson fell from about $62 per share to $54. Tyson’s leadership team is clearly struggling.
I predicted that 2023 would be a good year for Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and he would emerge as a logical successor to Joe Biden.
In the end, 2023 wasn’t a perfect year for Pete, as he got caught in the Southwest meltdown. Still, he has done a solid job as Secretary of Transportation.
With Joe Biden running for reelection, Democratic candidates aren’t stepping forward. When the time comes, Buttigieg will be there. He is in a far better position than Kamala Harris and others.
The collapse of Ron DeSantis is another notable 2023 political story. My assessment is that his decision to play to the far right – rejecting choice, banning books, criticizing his alma mater and attacking the LGBTQ community – made him seem unfriendly and mean, and that is rarely a good image regardless of one’s political affiliation.
I made the risky move to predict how the stock market would do. I thought stocks would be up, but just a little: +4%, with the S&P 500 at 3,990.
I was right on the direction, but off on the amount. The S&P 500 closed at 4,770, up a remarkable +24%.
Best wishes for 2024!