CMO Council identifies 20 brands entering 2020 bruised and embattled

Juul, Snapchat, Boeing and Sears are just a few making the group's dishonor roll.

The CMO Council, a global network of senior marketing executives, sifted through the business headlines of last year to come up with the 20 most "Bruised, Battered and Embattled Brands" report. 

Juul, Carnival, We Work, Boeing, Snapchat, Sears and JCPenney are just a few that made the list of challenged companies. 

The reasons for this dishonor were varied -- from Juul’s adolescent-attracting flavored vapes to Boeing’s 737 Max jet, that took two fatal crashes and growing public outcry to force a grounding. 

What they shared in common, said Donovan Neale-May, the founder and executive director of the San Jose-based CMO Council, were poor advisors and a lack of urgency and empathy for their customers. 

"A lot of these problems have been exacerbated by leadership," said Neale-May. "The fact that they run for cover, burrow down and don’t progress the issues - they don’t get out there and deal with the problems."

And did these companies have problems.

Juul, under regulatory scrutiny, spent approximately $100 million on advertising during the first half of 2019, according to media reports, but halted activity due to public pressure and FDA scrutiny. The agency questioned Juul’s claims that vaping was a safe alternative to tobacco. 

The product was banned in India. Media companies, including CBS, refused to run its ads. Deaths were attributed to the product. "Juul thought they could advertise their way out of it," said Neale-May. 

Carnival Cruise Line typically has to deal with the occasional norovirus outbreak and blowback about environmental impact. 

In December, it also had to deal with a little problem of two of the ships colliding in a Mexican port. Smartphone cameras and social media took the mishap viral. "Part of the problem here is not live TV cameras but lots of mobile, video cameras documenting this; it’s unbelievable," he said. 

The retail apocalypse has had its share of victims in 2019. Sears, in particular, was embattled by brand irrelevance and leadership that seemed to be more interested in flipping real estate than finding a way to save it. 

"The brand was jaded and owners did not do anything to bring vitality," said Neale-May. "Retailers that have been successful have found niches...Sears never modernized."

The CMO Council also identified 15 issues that can result in brand battery, including data hacks, competitive disruption,  irrelevance and over-hyping. 

As for brands with brighter outlooks, Neale-May likes Havaianas flip-flops for owning a niche on a global scale and the giant Ali Baba retail site.

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