A follow up to the Top Brand Chumps™ of 2013, let’s take a look at the top Brand Champions™ of 2013. I define a Brand Champion as anyone within your company who promotes the brand, the integrity, value and just what your brand stands for. A Brand Champion is an individual that is motivated to lead the charge within a company or an organization, whether they are the owner, an executive, a manager or even a self motivated employee looking to make a name for themselves and craft and proactively shape their own destiny.
1) Twitter/Dick Costolo – It was a big year for Twitter and CEO Dick Costolo in 2013 to say the least. Most notably, Twitter’s IPO launch was a major change and step forward for the social networking company where its share price has performed drastically well and continues to trade above its initial list price. Twitter’s “real-time” conversation feel has propelled this social media behemoth as one of the most popular forms of communication today from current news to celebrities tweeting about their day. Noticeably, Twitter managed to gain ground in the media and live TV aspect of the world when the blackout occurred during Super Bowl XLVII and companies like Oreo, for example, tweeted a picture during the outage saying, “You can still dunk in the dark”, with a simple photo of an Oreo cookie illuminated in light surrounded by darkness. Companies took advantage of the new marketing and branding simplicity to help build further awareness and popularity from a different and unique outlet. Furthermore, Twitter released the ever growing and admired 6-second video sharing app, Vine, which became the fourth most downloaded app of 2013. Overall, Twitter did an extraordinary job boosting and owning its brand and rightfully so, becoming a 2013 Brand Champion.
2) Make-A-Wish/BatKid – If there was any brand in 2013 that did itself “justice”, no pun intended, it was the Make-A-Wish Foundation and their rendition of BatKid saving Gotham City (AKA San Francisco) from all types of crime. Miles Scott, a 5 year old kindergartner and cancer survivor currently in remission from leukemia, was granted his wish to be BatKid for a day. Batkid was called into service by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr where BatKid, alongside his hero Batman, rode in the “Batmobile” from one crime scene to the next. From saving a damsel in distress to capturing The Riddler as he was robbing a bank, BatKid was there to save the day with over 10,000 people cheering him on and praising him for bravery. The story created such a stir leading up to the event that there were even people coming from all over California and even out of state. The Make-A-Wish foundation helped put its brand back in the limelight, creating even more of a support for helping children like Miles make his “wish” come true. This particular wish was so popular and was trending so quickly with the #SFBatKid, that it brought a large amount of traffic to wish.org, temporarily crashing the server. Furthermore, a clothing company even donated $10,000 to Miles’ family and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stated that November 15th would be “Batkid Day” forever. When it was all said and done, the crowd applauded BatKid, the mayor awarded him the key to the city, and even President Obama sent him a congratulatory video Tweet. The Make-A-Wish foundation has always been a prominent and well known brand, but this “wish” in particular helped rejuvenate the brand, wrapping up their year as a Brand Champion of 2103.
3) Yahoo!/Marissa Mayer – When you are ranked 8th in Fortune magazine’s list of America’s most powerful businesswomen of 2013, you obviously are championing your brand. Yahoo! President and CEO Marissa Mayer rejuvenated the Yahoo brand in 2013, making the company relevant once again. While some of her policy changes with the company were criticized and she was ridiculed at times for her decisions, they eventually were the key to Yahoo’s successes in 2013. One of her most unpopular personnel policy changes was requiring those home-working employees to convert to “in-house” roles, but it essentially set a new tone for the company, creating a more unified group to help build the brand back up. On top of this, she helped Yahoo! double its stock price in the 14 months since she was appointed as well as acquiring social networking site Tumblr for $1.1 billion. At the age of 38 years old, Marissa Mayer has certainly turned things around for Yahoo! and found herself on the map as a 2013 Brand Champion.
4) Veronica Mars/Rob Thomas – Veronica Mars was a popular TV show that aired for 3 seasons, 2004-2007. In 2007, the show was cancelled by The CW’s President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff. Although she was impressed with the show’s ratings, she had said that the show “would not be coming back” for another season. Fans were outraged! After the final episode aired, fans calling themselves “Cloud Watchers” sent over 10,000 MARS bars to the CW hoping that they would change their minds. However, their efforts were wasted. Creator Rob Thomas said in an interview with Blogcritics “I don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm, but I have to say, it’s not going to happen. Veronica Mars the TV series is gone.” Five years later, Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign for Veronica Mars the Moive in may this year. Not only did fans reach the pledge goal of $2 million, but they shattered records and more than doubled the goal. More than 90,000 people backed the campaign, they were the fastest campaign to reach $1 million, the fastest to reach $2 million, the highest funded FILM project, the highest funded campaign in Kickstarter history, and had more backers than any project in Kickstarter history. Way to go Rob and fans!
5) Netflix/Reed Hastings – After a rough 2012, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has brought the on-demand internet streaming and DVD-by-mail company back to life, turning it into a home entertainment juggernaut. In 2013, Netflix was the top performer in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 with the stock price up 296% from 2012. Hastings and Netflix went all-in when the company spent millions of dollars to create its “Netflix Originals” and it paid off tremendously. Shows like House of Cards and Hemlock Grove were instant hits as well as the company swooping up the formerly known Fox sitcom, Arrested Development, for a fourth season. These new and positive changes helped lead the way for what most would say was the best year ever for Netflix. With such a variety of TV shows, movies, and documentaries, Netflix has regained its traction that originally made them so popular and successful. Hats off to Netflix for revitalizing its brand and becoming one of the top Brand Champions of 2013.
6) Pope Francis – The Catholic Church went through a drastic change in 2013 when Pope Benedict XVI resigned as Pope, the first ever to do so in nearly 600 years. Surrounding internal drama with the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, regarding him leaking documents, letters, and information about the Vatican and “lies” being told, keepin the Pope in the dark about key issues. Regardless, Pope Benedict felt it was time to step down, placing the Catholic Church in disarray. Amidst the controversy and struggle to select a new leader, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected to continue leading the Catholic Church. The Church was in need of someone with more physical energy and more spiritual energy and Bergoglio, or Pope Francis, was their guy. The 266th Pope was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and is the first ever Jesuit Pope, first Pope from the Americas, first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European Pope in 1,272 years. The Catholic Church needed that breath of fresh air and Pope Francis provided just that. Pope Francis has been the man to bring positive reform to the Catholic Church and earned his right to be a Brand Champion for 2013 and potentially for years to come.
7) Uber/Travis Kalanick – Michael Wolff of USA Today named Uber the top technology company of 2013, and for a good reason! It used to be that when you needed a ride from point A to point B your only options were public transportation or a taxicab. In 2010 paying for a ride got an upgrade: the mobile app, Uber, rolled out in San Francisco where riders could summon a black town car or luxury SUV. Uber was essentially started for professional drivers who wanted to turn down time, in between pick ups and drop offs, into profit. It’s no wonder why the mobile app has had such success; not only are their fares competitive with those of taxis but you are able to track your driver from the second you request the car to their arrival at your location. You even received a courtesy message informing you what kind of car your driver will be in as well as their name. Uber has not only expanded within the United States to many major cities, but overseas as well. It has been such a huge hit that taxi companies were suing Uber for operating an unlicensed taxi dispatch service. These lawsuits have since been dropped as Uber is following all mediations. With it’s growth, in 2013 Uber launched UberX, a service that would give riders the option to choose a luxury vehicle such as an Audi Q7 or BMW rather than the town car for a lower fare.
8) Pinterest/Ben Silbermann – There seems to be thousands upon thousands of apps these days that essentially allow you to post, track, share, or play just about anything and everything. Such apps have become part of our everyday lives. But who would’ve thought that the social scrapbook, Pinterest, is one of the most popular websites and apps on the planet? CEO Ben Silbermann created what was declared in 2013 the fastest-growing web service in history. The pinboard style photo sharing website and app surpassed 10 million monthly visitors in the U.S. in January 2013 and nearly doubled that number by springtime. From women “pinning” their dream wedding dresses to men “pinning” a unique watch they want, Pinterest has allowed people to save, or “pin”, their favorite items. Essentially it is your own catalog catered exactly to the things you like and want. Pinterest also was the third most used social media website by online adults in 2013 at 21%, only behind Facebook (73%) and LinkedIn (22%). Could this be the next big thing in social media in 2014? Only time will tell for this 2013 Brand Champion!
9) Nest/Tony Fadell – Imagine if you will, 25 years from now when everything in our homes from the refrigerator to the shower is using some sort of “smart” technology. If you’ve seen the Nest thermostat, that vision has already started to become a reality. Nest started selling their first model of smart thermostat in 2011 and has since fixed most of the bugs that come with anything running on software. You can pick up your learning thermostat at Apple stores, electronic stores, Amazon and hardware stores. Although they are somewhat of a luxury, costing about $250 for a unit, it doesn’t take a specialist to install one; if you’ve ever hooked up a light fixture, you are more than qualified. Nest possess the ability to learn what you like after you answer a few questions when setting it up. There is no programming involved; just turn it up or down and it will start to learn what temperatures you like as well as your schedule. Most homes don’t have a programmed thermostat and 20% of their energy bill is to blame for that. Nest aims to be energy efficient, turning down the temp while you are away and a small leaf icon is displayed when you are saving energy. It is estimated that Nest is shipping out 40,000-50,000 units a month! They are growing exponentially and at the end of 2013, rolled out the first ever smart smoke detector. Could Nest’s energy efficiency save the planet? We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for this Brand Champion!
* Update: As of Monday January 13, 2014, Google has agreed to acquire Nest for $3.2 BILLION.
10) Breaking Bad – The TV series follows struggling high school chemistry teacher, Walter White who suffers from inoperable lung cancer. He pairs up with former student, Jesse Pinkman producing and selling the purest crystal methamphetamine in Albuquerque, New Mexico to pay for his cancer treatment and support his pregnant wife and disabled son. In the five years that the show aired it was nominated for over 150 awards and won 50 industry awards. Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White, won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three years in a row from 2008 to 2010! In 2013, Breaking Bad was named #13 on a list of 101 Best-Written TV Series of All Time by the Writers Guild of America. That same year, Guinness World Records called it the highest-rated TV series of all time, receiving a Metacritic (http://www.metacritic.com/about-metascores) score of 99 out of 100. Breaking Bad makes the list for Top 10 Brand Champions not only for their awards but for popularity amongst viewers. The season 5 and series finale that aired Sunday September 29, 2013 hit 10.3 million viewers. Now that may not be very impressive until you look at the previous season; the season 4 finale barely two years earlier only brought in 1.9 million viewers. And even that was up 23% from season 3, making under 2 millions viewers look great. From 2011 to 2013, viewership skyrocketed 442%. Not THAT is a successful TV show! It went from being a dark drama that only your TV-savvy friend watched to one your whole office was buzzing about. This edge of your seat thrilling series certainly earned its worth as a Brand Champion of 2013.