The 10 Least Engaging Brands of 2015 (and Why)

Robert Passikoff of Brand Keys explains this year's list.


Apple is the world’s most valuable brand at the moment, because it has what every other brand aspires to: loyalty and engagement. For that reason, it tops nearly every related performance listicle.

But what about the brands on the bottom of that list?

Brand Keys‘ annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index includes a list of top companies by category (click here), but it also features a list of losers, or the brands that customers found least engaging in 2015. Today we spoke to Brand Keys founder and President Robert Passikoff, Ph.D. for more on the bottom ten.

Here they are, in order:

1. BlackBerry

“It was entirely corporate hubris that did them in. There was a time when they were the only game in town for security — until they weren’t.

You would have expected, at some point during the time when they went from 52 percent of the market to 2 percent of the market, that they would have re-examined the brand and marketplace to continue to show some level of engagement.”

2. Radio Shackweird al

In this case, the company simply failed — repeatedly — to prove its own relevance.

“No matter whether you bought batteries at Radio Shack as a kid, if they disappeared you wouldn’t miss them.”

3. Blockbuster on Demand

One word: Netflix.

4. Kobo


Never heard of them? They make an e-reader that is NOT a Kindle or iPad.

“Their problem was not understanding what people are looking for. Technologists sometimes make the mistake of thinking everyone is satisfied with the technology they have, but the first iPhone buyers were happy with their previous phones, too.”

5. Sears (which also appeared on last year’s list)

“I ask my grad students, ‘What if that brand disappeared? How would that change your life?’ The answer is ‘not one iota.’

You can go to any store and buy stuff, but this is about a brand bringing you some sense of added value. If you can figure out what Sears has done to stand out, then you’re a better man than I.”

6. Tylenol

“You don’t expect something to be wrong with Tylenol, but after the umpteenth recall, the issue is that someone took their eye off the ball on values in terms of family safety and trust — which defined the brand.”

7. McDonald’s


“Changing the McDonald’s brand is like trying to turn the Queen Mary on a dime.

They’ve always had the sense of entitlement in terms of production and distribution, and they have always had the money to do whatever they wanted to do.

But it’s not the economy, it’s the brand: they ignored all the value shifts making places like Chipotle and Panera successful.

Remember the customizable Deluxe line? They can do it, but the question is ‘should they?’ and the answer is no.”

8. Abercrombie & Fitch

Can anything more really be said here?

9. Coty Cosmetics

“It’s part of Revlon, which hasn’t been doing so well: sales are down repeatedly, and eventually there are no sales.

Its failure is a good explanation of the American consumer: they expect everything and have access to everything, and if you don’t satisfy them they’re going to go somewhere else.”

10. Budweiser


“The difficulty here is the competition: expectations have shifted dramatically away from ‘give me a bottle of beer’ to ‘give me a hand-crafted bottle of beer.’

No one is opening a bottle of Bud, taking a swig and spitting it out; there’s nothing wrong with the beer itself. The problem, again, is that it doesn’t meet people’s expectations — which is the very thing that McDonald’s ignored for years.

That’s what it’s about. Not cheap stuff, alcoholic content, or availability.

There’s a culling going on across business categories. Eventually, these brands can’t afford to be in the market.”

What do we think? Do these ten brands deserve their status?