Reflections on reputation: 6 brands to watch in 2020

By Ollie Druttman,

As a youngster growing up in London in the 90s, big brands were powerful, influential, and seemingly indestructible.

All pocket money was promptly deposited at HMV, which was literally the cornerstone of the Ealing high street. Disney represented Saturday morning cartoons and the contents of the video shelf at home. The Royal Family meant Wills and Harry getting soaked on the log flume at Thorpe Park with Diana.

Entering 2020, high street brands are being axed from the high street faster than you can say ‘Black Friday’. And the strength of reputation ‘Windsor’ is depleting quicker than Meghan Markle’s air miles allocation.

With that in mind, here are my six brands to watch in 2020.

1 John Lewis:

‘Retail is unforgiving, and no brand is owed a living,’ claimed one analyst, as Grande Dame of the high street John Lewis issued a profit warning amid the toughest time in its 155-year history. Pension schemes have been cut back, this year’s bonus looks set to be axed for the first time since 1953, and the retailer now faces a management exodus. New chairman Dame Sharon White, who has no retail experience, has a job to do in turning around the reputation of the once retail juggernaut. To what extent she’s able to prevent its fate going the way of Debenhams et al remains to be seen. Here’s hoping John Lewis never knowingly under-folds.

2 Brand ‘aviation’:

Okay – not strictly a brand, but the aviation sector as a whole has come under fire of late. Literally. Within the first fortnight of the new decade, a passenger jet was ‘mistakenly’ downed by a missile, a Boeing employee was revealed to have said the 737 Max ‘is designed by clowns’, and Sweden reported an unprecedented 4% drop in air travel as the flight-shaming movement started to take off. Oh, and British regional airline Flybe’s bailout has been slammed as a misuse of public funds. Not since 9/11 has commercial air travel’s reputation looked so turbulent. 2020 will see supply and demand for air travel soar like never before, but safety fears and environmental conscience will become increasingly powerful factors in customers choosing to fly or not. Fly Me To The Moon might be a more compelling option (see point 4).

3 Disney:

Disney’s powerplay into the world of streaming later this year looks set to transform the digital entertainment landscape and pose a Dumbo-sized challenge to Netflix. With franchises including Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney, it’s a compelling proposition from the House of Mouse. But with Amazon, Apple and the traditional players all competing for a slice of audience, it’s anything but a two-dwarf race. Disney + launches in the UK this year, and its investment in a streaming service could well be the modern making of the much-loved brand. And with Prince Harry allegedly touting Meghan to a Disney boss for voiceover work, we could see a stellar cast for future films.

4 Tesla and Space X:

Tesla has succeeded where others can only aspire in marrying environmental conscience with commercial success. Last year, the Tesla Model 3 was the third most purchased car in the UK and Tesla has just overtaken Ford to become the most valuable US car maker of all time. Yet the Tesla brand needs to be cautious that the man at its helm doesn’t become its Achilles’ heel. The volatile Elon Musk is plagued by controversy (which as we know is inextricably linked to share price). Last year Musk got into hot water for tweeting that he had the funding to take Tesla private (he did not). The Space X Space Tourism venture is well underway yet, as the final frontier in tourism, it remains the great unknown and carries significant risk. Musk is gambling not just his own reputation but that of Tesla’s on becoming the first Rocket Man. But for now, Tesla passing $500 a share ain’t bad. Watch this, space.

5 Heineken 0.0%:

Brands backed by Bond have always tended to do rather well (albeit if the Ford Mondeo thing was a bit baffling). So will the release of Heineken’s new ad featuring Daniel Craig supping a non-alcoholic brew mark the year non-alcoholic beers really take off? Yes, they’ve been around for ages but they’ve always tended to taste like garbage, drenching the NABLAB beer market in negative reputation for decades. Has Heineken finally got the formula right? Not just of the liquid but of the brand? The stars of healthy body, better taste and Daniel Craig may just align this year and elevate 0.0% into the mainstream, giving Heineken the return on investment they’ve been pursuing for some years now. Whether Heineken’s Marketing Director succeeds in re-badging Bond ‘Double 0.0%-7’ remains to be seen…

6 The Royal Family:

Family rifts not seen since King Edward VIII ran off with Wallis Simpson have defined the Royal Family in recent months. The media fans the flames of tension between the protagonists like the build up to a Connor McGregor vs Nate Diaz bout, and the Windsors’ brotherly bonds forged on the waves of Loggers Leap are starting to crack. Scrutiny of the Royal purse and departure from duty (by choice or by force) of key players will see a slimmed down cast in 2020 and a purposeful retreat from the media spotlight from the Royals as a whole. The start of a new, demure era for the most influential family in the world? Ma’am’s the word.

Ollie Druttman is Brand Reputation Director at creative brand comms agency, Launch.

Photo by Christian Gertenbach on Unsplash

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