10 Brands That Were Hot Conversation Topics in 2019, for Better or Worse

Failures and triumphs alike had consumers buzzing

a long wavy receipt with various logos floating behind it
Away, Facebook, Peloton and more reigned as the year's most talked about brands.
Getty Images, TikTok, Disney, Peloton, Popeyes

Just when you think we’ve hit peak brand, something new comes along.

This year, some brands went public, like Beyond Meat—and some almost did, like WeWork. A few rolled out buzzy new products, some so popular they sold out almost immediately like the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich. Consumers said goodbye to a few brands, even ones that seemed unshakeable like Barneys New York, while other brands found popularity with new audiences, like TikTok. And some were in the news for the wrong reasons, like allegations of a poor workplace environment at Away and a holiday ad from Peloton that people couldn’t stop making fun of.

We’re recapping the brands that did all this and more with Adweek’s Top 10 most buzzed about brands of 2019.

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Popeyes

Did any brand have a better year than Popeyes? The fast-food favorite had its moment in the spotlight in August when it rolled out its fried chicken sandwich, much to customers’ delight. So much delight, in fact, that Popeyes sold out of two months’ worth of inventory in just two weeks. In those two weeks, the sandwich went viral on social media, thanks in large part to Black Twitter, who responded in droves both before and after Popeyes sent out a tweet asking competitor Chick-fil-A “y’all good?” following an apparent subtweet. Despite the sell-out, Popeyes managed to keep the momentum going all the way until November, when it brought the sandwich back on a Sunday—famously, the day of the week that Chick-fil-A is closed. The sandwich frenzy has shown no sign of dying down since.

a sign that says popeyes louisiana kitchen

Barneys New York

As two department store newcomers—Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus—were opening their doors for the first time in New York, a native institution was preparing to say goodbye. Barneys New York, the luxury store founded in 1923 that became synonymous with downtown cool over its nearly 100-year history, filed for bankruptcy in August and was eventually purchased by Authentic Brands Group, which plans to shutter the stores and instead open Barneys pop-ups inside Saks Fifth Avenue stores (a longtime Barneys competitor). The iconic retailer’s downfall was a startling reminder that no brand is safe from the retail apocalypse, and a storied name alone is not enough to ensure lasting success.

a sign that says barneys new york

Facebook

The social network has rarely been out of the news, especially post-Cambridge Analytica. This year was no different, as it spent the bulk of 2019 under further scrutiny from governments both at home in the U.S. and abroad. The Federal Trade Commission slapped the company with a $5 billion fine for misusing its users’ personal information, and the EU Court of Justice ruled that Facebook can be ordered to remove content worldwide. This past year also saw Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s return to the House of Representatives, where he testified about cryptocurrency following the company’s announcement that it planned to launch its own coin, Libra. Facebook also unveiled a new corporate logo this year, and its stock price has risen considerably, up to nearly $200 a share after starting the year at $135.68.

a white background that says facebook in different colors

Peloton

The fitness company, which is famous for its in-home spin bike that comes equipped with streaming classes, is responsible for one of the year’s most maligned advertisements. In its holiday ad, a woman received a Peloton bike as a gift from her husband, which leads into a cringe-worthy recounting of a year spent exercising with Peloton. The spot made a celebrity out of its star, “Peloton wife” actress Monica Ruiz, who had another moment of viral fame when she starred in a follow-up to the Peloton spot in an ad for the Ryan Reynolds-owned alcohol brand Aviation Gin. Beyond its marketing, Peloton also had its IPO in September and continues to be one of the buzziest companies in the fitness space.

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