2014’s 10 Least Engaging Brands


Who’s having a great 2014 so far? Airbnb, Snapchat and even—dare we say it—Facebook are doing pretty well. But what about the other side of the brand equation?

Customer loyalty consultancy Brand Keys and reporter Truman Lewis of Consumer Affairs recently published a list of 2014’s least engaging brands, which we reviewed to try and figure out why these companies are having a bad year.

Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff says the market itself often provides the best evidence of consumers’ brand assessments, and these brands’ recent performances just don’t measure up.

The bottom ten, from worst to least bad, after the jump.

1. BlackBerry: Outdated technology? Check. Painful layoffs? Check. Misguided attempts at relevance via celebrity “creative directors” who don’t even use the products they endorse? You’d better believe that’s a check.

2. Quiznos: The company just filed for bankruptcy, which should come as a reminder that all the (alleged) cockroaches in the world won’t end Subway’s extended reign as the king of fast-food sandwiches that don’t include beef patties. The chain had a reputation for mistreating its franchisees and inviting class action lawsuits, which is never a good thing. Our Quiznos subs also tended to fall apart, but we attributed that fact to our own notoriously weak grip.

3. Kmart: While Kmart hasn’t suffered the same security breaches and labor disputes as top rivals Target and Walmart, an AdAge quote from 2012 sums up its escalating problems: “What do you love about Kmart? There’s nothing, really.” When you can’t claim the lowest prices or the largest selection around, your chances at winning the big box wars don’t look so good.

4. Sony: Sony has taken the lead over Microsoft in the gaming console wars, but it’s losing the smartphone battle to Samsung and recently decided to get out of the PC business altogether. The fact that the brand scored near the top of reputation surveys only two years ago proves, again, how fickle tech consumers can be.

5. WOW Search Engine: We’ve never even heard of WOW because we haven’t used Firefox in some time, but a quick Google search reveals plenty of irritation over viruses attached to the software supporting the engine, which is tied to AOL and “powered by” Google. In the meantime, have you considered using Bing? Neither have we.

6. Sears: See #3 and JCPenney. Kmart’s parent company simply doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics when compared to competitors in the overstuffed discount retailer category.

7. American Apparel: The only thing surprising about this entry is the fact that consumers ever had high expectations for American Apparel, a brand that can attribute most of its success to its own habit of using shock value to gain exposure. Yes, its products are (badly) made in America. On every other level, it’s the brand equivalent of a Terry Richardson photo shoot—you feel a little gross for even mentioning its name in public.

8. Budweiser: Anheuser-Busch weathered the lawsuits accusing it of “watering down” its products, but attempts to enter the craft beer market feel like too little, too late. Plenty of people still drink Bud, but tastes have changed—and the brand could be stuck playing catch up for the foreseeable future.

9. Coty Cosmetics: Coty’s June 2013 IPO didn’t go so well, inspiring class-action lawsuits that accuse the brand of misleading investors. Its attempt to improve its fortunes by acquiring Avon also fell through amidst disappointing quarterly returns.

10. Volkswagen: While the automaker remains strong on the sales front, its U.S. market share is not where it could be, and ongoing technical problems involving failing accelerators damaged consumer confidence ratings. VW’s reputation also suffered among investors due to an inability to match profits to sales. Something tells us that Lindsay Lohan would be open to making a Herbie sequel, but that’s an idea best left in the trash folder.

It’s a simple equation, really: when brands fail to meet customers’ expectations, their reputations suffer along with their market share.

Now who else should be on this list?