Biggest Brand Winner & Loser of 2004

December 29, 2004

With the start of a New Year only days away, I thought I would join the many who look back at 2004 and pick the winners and losers of the year. So after much thought I would like to honor two brands with the distinction of Biggest Brand Winner and Biggest Brand Loser of 2004.

BIGGEST BRAND WINNER of 2004: Apple iPod


The brilliantly branded, designed, and advertised iPod is my clear choice for Brand Winner of the year. The product is brand divergence at its best. A single focused device that was conceived to be the very best music player period. It also helped pioneer the hard-disk-drive-music player category. Today’s music player of choice, thanks to Apple, is the iPod.

Through the third quarter of 2004, Apple has sold 6 million iPods, since they were introduced in 2001. The last quarter alone, they moved two million units. Estimates indicate that Apple could sell up to 3 million iPod in the fourth quarter of 2004. And the number would be higher if Apple could just make the hot-selling Apple Mini fast enough. Currently, 65% of all MP3 players are iPods, while 92% of all hard-disk-drive players are iPods.

Why did Apple succeed music players where so many others failed in?

In a word focus.

You know I don’t favor advertising for brand building. And when advertising is used, it should reinforce the brand message. And that is exactly what Apple did. They first used PR and a slow roll out of the iPod brand. Then Apple used advertising to accelerate the wild success of the iPod. The campaign was brilliant in its simplicity. Just silhouettes of people and an iPod. Over and over again in print and television advertising. There is nothing more to say. Except here is the iPod. People already knew what it was and how cool it was from word of mouth and PR. The advertising just reminded people. Perfect!

What should Apple do in 2005. Well they might consider getting out of the PC business and focus the whole company on iPod.

BIGGEST BRAND LOSER of 2004: Coca-Cola’s C2

Cokec2 What were they thinking? Second only to the lunacy of launching New Coke back in 1986 was this year’s introduction of C2. C2 is a mid-calorie soda which has half the sugar and calories as regular Coke, C2 was Coca-Cola’s major new product of the year. The thinking goes that there are some people who enjoy a regular Coke sometimes, but also are trying to lose weight on low-carb diets, and don’t really like the taste of Diet Coke. So Coke makes a half-and-half product called C2. Mix one part real Coke with one part Diet Coke and there you have it.

What must have seemed like a bright idea in the boardroom has fizzled on the market. Consumers didn’t get it, didn’t want it, didn’t need it and rejected the whole idea. Note too, that Pepsi is not immune from stupidity and this year introduced Pepsi Edge, their mid-calorie soda to the same dismal results. According to recent statistics from Beverage Digest, C2’s share of supermarket soft drink sales was 0.4 percent though early October. Pepsi Edge was 0.3 percent.

But it’s Coke that deserves the title of Biggest Brand Loser of 2004. The most valuable brand in the world (according to should know better. Coke is a company in trouble. They have line extended Coke to death and have not had a successful new brand launch in 40 years since the introduction on Sprite. They have been line extending and introducing me-too products that have been unable to compete with the first and leading brand in the category:

Dr Pepper, the first spicy soda, is a success, Mr. Pibb from Coke is not.

Mountain Dew, the first high-caffeine citrus soda, is a success, Surge from Coke is not.

Gatorade, the first sports drink, is a success, PowerAde from Coke is not.

Snapple, the first all-natural beverage, is a success, Fruitopia from Coke is not.

Red Bull, the first energy drink, is a success, KMX is not.

So goodbye to 2004, thanks for the memories. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for branding in 2005.