10 December 2010

Heroes & Villains 2010

Who were the superstar brands that solved war, famine and disease and who caused untold pain, misery and suffering? Ok, so no brand was quite that extreme, but which brands did good and bad in 2010; who were the Heroes and who were the Villains?


Two of the Brand Heroes featured here are British brands (by heritage, not necessarily current ownership). There’s clearly a powerful trend emerging that continues to see luxury British brands being reinvented for a new generation and a new world order.
2010 was no exception.

Heroes are brands that have stood out; brands that understand what they stand for in the market and create products and services that are both differentiating and relevant.


A couple of years ago, if you mentioned Burberry to most British consumers, chav culture with characters such as Little Britain’s miscreant, Vicky Pollard, would probably be the first thought to spring to mind.

How things have changed. The classic British luxury fashion brand is back on true form thanks to increased investment in all things digital and huge demand from high growth markets, most notably China.

But, it’s not just in luxury-loving Asia where Burberry has excelled. In Europe and the US, Burberry has seen plenty of brand-building activity, a lot of which has been in digital. A new online shopping interface, high profile campaigns with Emma Watson, The Art of The Trench, as well as the creation of their own branded content, including Burberry Acoustic, a platform to showcase up and coming talent from the music industry.

In fact, I’ve worked closely with London-based band Patch William over last few months, who were fortunate to be invited to shoot their own Burberry Acoustic video and to also have their track, Skinny White Boy, featured on the official Burberry London Fashion Week soundtrack. For me, this is a first hand example of how Burberry is engaging with its audience and attracting a new generation to the brand.

It’s clearly a strategy that has paid off for Burberry with revenue up 18% this year and 3 million Facebook fans, the highest of any luxury brand.

@Burberry on Twitter


The Norfolk-based sports car manufacturer has seen something of a rebirth this year. Like so many British car brands, Lotus has had a rather tempestuous journey, but with secured investment from Malaysia there’s a future ahead for this brand.

This was cemented in 2010 with four exciting new concept cars revealed, all of which are likely to go into production.
The models show a dramatic new direction for the firm, building on its racing heritage but reinventing the Lotus range.

"There's a fine balance between acknowledging the greatness of the past whilst at the same time rapidly leaping forward to the future”

Dany Bahar, Lotus CEO

Whilst Lotus also featured in this year’s Cool Brands list alongside other British sports car brand Aston Martin, there’s something about the Lotus brand that’s a bit more accessible, especially where price is concerned. This coupled with extensive investment in engineering and technology with a striking and bold new design direction, makes Lotus look very promising indeed.

@LotusCars on Twitter


The toning footwear brand that promises consumers to get a workout while you walk has had an exceptional year. Whilst some consumers might have found the original FitFlop designs rather large and cumbersome, word quickly spread of the health benefits of FitFlop.

In 2010, FitFlop expanded its range of footwear as the brand matures with new styles for women, men and kids. Most notable is the MukLuk, an Ugg-style boot which The Times Style team described as “hot” and selling out.

Given that Wellthy’ is becoming an important trend and consideration, brands like FitFlop are well poised to take advantage of the new aspirationally-healthy consumer and grow in popularity and broaden its appeal.

@FitFlop on Twitter

Image courtesy Heavenlyy on Flickr



And now for the bad stuff. Brands don’t get it right all the time, but with these Villains, it’s not just what went wrong, it’s how they handled their crisis and went about putting things right that told the biggest story.


You couldn’t compile a list of Brand Villains without featuring BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. An accident that causes thousands of gallons of oil to pump out into the ocean, destroying habitats and injuring wildlife is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing being slow to respond and take responsibility.

BP’s poor public relations quickly made the brand Public Enemy No. 1 in the United States, with fictitious BP Global PR Twitter account attracting more followers than BP’s official Twitter feed. It is BP's response, rather than its actions, that will make Deepwater Horizon go down in history as the world’s biggest PR fail to date.

@BPGlobalPR on Twitter

British Airways

Strikes, strikes and you guessed it, more strikes.
With BA staff and Chief Exec Willy Walsh embroiled in a bitter and very public feud over pay, passengers were left caught in the middle wondering whether they'd be able to take off or even get home. Whether people agreed with Walsh or the striking BA staff, the one thing they did agree on is that the competitor airlines weren’t striking. The strikes cost BA £98 million.


At the beginning of 2010, Toyota found itself unstuck, or rather its brake pedals stuck. Toyota issued a worldwide recall of millions of cars following a spate of accidents in the US, believed to be caused by accelerator pedals getting stuck under floor mats.

Whether or not the politicians on Capitol Hill tried to make an example of this Japanese brand in a bid to boost poor sales of domestic US brands is neither here nor there. The fact is, some vehicles did have faults and Toyota did try to cover it up.

Toyota’s high profile campaign to make things right was open, honest and got issues fixed on thousands of cars. Brands don’t always get it right, but it’s how they handle mistakes that says the most. Toyota probably isn’t so much a villain, but has definitely blotted its copy paper.

Image courtesy Lets Bike It on Flickr

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