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Top 10 Brand Winners for 2010

The year is drawing to an end, so it's time for my annual big brand winners post. This year saw some incredible brand victories, especially outside of the corporate world. And, as always, there are some major lessons to be learned from each winner.

As usual, the final page of this post has a poll for you to vote for your favorite winner. When there are enough votes to get the readers' opinion, I'll rearrange the list to match YOUR ranking, rather than mine. Also, if I missed a big winner, be sure to remind me in a comment!

CLICK for brand winner #10 »

BRAND WINNER #10: General Motors
  • Category: Automotive Brands
  • Runner-up: Ford
  • Why GM Won: General Motors used to be a branding disaster. The company had so many product brands that you couldn't turn a corner at corporate headquarters without tripping over a couple of marketing drones. Today, however, GM has slimmed down to four product brands, and with the help of a government loan, survived the meltdown, and is now in a stronger position than the company has been in years. Global 2010 sales of the new stripped-down GM brands are up approximately 22%, a growth rate that outpaces the rest of the industry.
  • Lesson Learned: Too many brands spoil the margins.
CLICK for brand winner #9 »
  • Category: Electronics
  • Runner-up: Samsung
  • Why Apple Won: Apple continued with a string of hit products and is poised to extend its iPhone franchise beyond the AT&T deal that limited its market growth. While there was some controversy surrounding the iPhone antenna, and irritation over the prudery of the iStore, Apple's brand reputation steamrollered over it all. While Google's Android platform does pose a future threat, Apple has emerged as the premier brand in high tech, even overtaking Microsoft. The hits keep coming!
  • Lesson Learned: A history of great products makes a brand more resilient.
CLICK for brand winner #8 »
BRAND WINNER #8: Wall Street
CLICK for brand winner #7 »
BRAND WINNER #7: The Foxhole Strip Club
  • (AP Photo)Category: Erotica
  • Runner-up: Erin Andrews
  • Why FHSC Won: For years, the Foxhole in Zanesville, Ohio had been just 3rd rate strip club with an irritating problem -- a local church kept sending people over to picket and take down the license numbers of the club's patrons. Then the owner got the bright idea to send the girls over to picket the church. The result was worldwide publicity for the club, which is now one of the most popular gentleman's establishments in that part of the world.
  • Lesson Learned: Nothing builds brand visibility more quickly than sex and religion.
CLICK for brand winner #6 »
BRAND WINNER #6: Lady Gaga
  • Category: Entertainment
  • Runner-up: Miley Cyrus
  • Why Lady Gaga Won: Every decade or so a pop-tart of some variety emerges who manages to combine a minimum of talent with a maximum of chutzpah. Coming from out of nowhere, sudden Lady Gaga is everywhere, not just on all the entertainment venues, but even commenting on politics, religion, the nature of art, and everything else. She takes the Madonna mold and basically breaks it over your head, and then makes you eat the pieces.
  • Lesson Learned: When building a brand quickly, there is no such thing as too outrageous.
CLICK for brand winner #5 »
BRAND WINNER #5: Facebook
  • Category: Software
  • Runner-up: Google
  • Why Facebook Won: Who would have thought, three years ago, that Facebook would not just completely steamroll over competitor Myspace, but would become a rival to mighty Google? Truth is there were once plenty of contenders for social networking crown, but somehow Facebook managed to win above the rest. Now on the brink of launching a "Gmail Killer" and with a founder who's the subject of a Hollywood movie, Facebook has managed to turn its brand into an icon for an entire way of looking at the world. Although the company has taken some missteps with privacy issues, with over 500 million active users, Facebook's brand is engraved on the consciousness of the entire online world.
  • Lesson Learned: Sometimes the best brand strategy is to be in the right place at the right time.
CLICK for brand winner #4 »
BRAND WINNER #4: Dove World Outreach Center
  • Category: Religion
  • Runner-up: Westboro Baptist Church
  • Why DWOC Won: Pastor Terry Jones had already gotten some brand traction for his church by putting up "Islam is of the Devil" signs. Then he had the brilliant idea of commemorating the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks as "International Burn a Koran Day." Suddenly, he was all over the news, with the planned desecration widely condemned by nearly everybody -- except, of course, for his target audience. Even though Jones backed down from the burning, he emerged as a major folk-hero to the evangelicals who are likely to tithe his church.
  • Lesson Learned: Brand equals emotion; the more the better.
CLICK for brand winner #3 »
BRAND WINNER #3: The Tea Party
  • Category: Political Brands
  • Runner-up: The Republican Party
  • Why The Tea Party Won: The incredible growth of the Tea Party brand has left the political world gasping for breath. The approach was simple and deadly: package a set of semi-plausible conspiracy theories under a brand name that echoes the respectable image of the founding fathers. While the actual founding fathers (who were the elite of the elite) would undoubtedly look upon today's Tea Party as a collection of hoi-polloi yahoos, the "patriot" brand image spins the message exactly the right way.
  • Lesson Learned: Nostalgia makes for strong brands in hard times.
CLICK for brand winner #2 »
  • Category: Nationalities
  • Runner-up: China
  • Why India Won: With China flexing its economic muscle and using currency manipulation to turn free trade into a sad joke, it's not surprising that business folk are looking for a kinder, gentler place to outsource American jobs. The population of India not only has the technical chops to destroy hundreds of thousands of U.S. engineering jobs, many Indians speak English, so they can take over millions of service sector jobs, too. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that India's other arch-rival, Pakistan, is busily funding terrorism. The sure sign that India won the national brand competition was when Obama himself came to kowtow. अचà¥?छा कारà¥?य!
  • Lesson Learned: Sometimes the best branding move is to let your competitors screw up.
CLICK for brand winner #1 »
BRAND WINNER # 1: Sarah Palin
  • Category: Personal Brands
  • Runner-up: Bill Clinton
  • Why Sarah Palin Won: Say what you will about this woman, she's an unstoppable branding machine. When she bailed out from her job as governor of Alaska, many pundits thought her career was over. But now, with book deals, a commentator job at Fox, and her own "reality" television show, she's positioned to be the Republican candidate for president in 2012. While many outside of the GOP think she's a twit, that just makes her brand even more attractive to her many fans. Palin's creative brand-building shows that she's got more marketing acumen than any politician in the past 50 years. You go girl!
  • Lesson Learned: Branding thrives on the unconventional.
CLICK to vote for your favorite »

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