Top 5 Branding Stories of 2011

2011 is coming to a close, so it’s time to look back at some of the branding stories that made headlines and got people talking over the past 12 months. From the death of a brand champion to the launch of a new social network that could affect search results, it was a year of big changes with effects that are certain to last for years to come.

There are far too many interesting branding stories of 2011 to fit into one article, so following are five branding stories that have affected and will continue to affect businesses and consumers in diverse ways.

netflix mailbox1. Netflix

Perhaps the most explosive brand story of 2011 from a consumer perspective comes from Netflix. This is a brand that consumers trusted. They were extremely loyal to the Netflix brand and advocated it voraciously.

However, excessive price increases were not well received. Neither was the announcement that the business which made Netflix successful, DVD rentals by mail, would be separated from the newer Netflix streaming video business and rebranded as Qwikster. This new business would have a separate billing structure and a separate website for account management.

Consumers were outraged and left in droves. Today, the Qwikster rebranding was abandoned, and Netflix leaves 2011 in trouble.

Never underestimate the power of consumers’ emotional attachments to the brands they love. You can’t buy that kind of brand equity, but you can destroy it very quickly. That’s a lesson Netflix learned the hard way.

2. Google+

A sign of things to come debuted in 2011 when Google launched its new social network, Google+ and later Google+ Brand Pages. Suddenly, Facebook wasn’t the only game in town for brands looking to connect with consumers via social networking.

Sure, it will take time for Google+ membership numbers to come even close to Facebook’s audience, but Google+ has something that Facebook doesn’t — a connection to Google’s search engine.

Already, search engine optimization experts are finding ways that Google+ member activities and behaviors can affect search results, and it’s expected that social behavior on Google+ will play an even bigger role in Google’s search algorithm in the future.

3. Steve Jobs

steve jobs demoThe death of Steve Jobs affected people around the world. Jobs brought innovative products to consumers and led Apple to not one, but two successful growth periods. He was one of the ultimate brand champion examples to learn from, and business people want to learn how to brand like Steve Jobs and Apple.

AYTM asked people to share their opinions about Steve Jobs and their feelings after his death. Words like “innovator” and “sadness” dominated responses to the AYTM survey. Perhaps most significantly, 91% of respondents agreed that Steve Jobs changed the world with his work and ideas.

4. RIM

While Apple and Google soared to new heights of success in 2011 with new smartphones and tablet devices, RIM faltered. Between September 2011 and October 2011 alone, comScore reported that RIM’s smartphone market share dropped from 18.9% to 17.2% with all of that market share shifting to Apple and to Google’s Android platform. Between July 2011 and October 2011, RIM’s market share dropped by a staggering 20%.

Those numbers don’t even factor in the tablet market, which Apple and Google dominate. The future doesn’t look good for RIM. The lesson to learn is simple. Slow innovation is a death sentence in today’s marketplace.

5. Twitter Ads

At the end of 2010 when Twitter Ads launched, only 150 partners were participating. By mid-2011, that number had grown to 600, and just recently, Twitter opened its ad program up to everyone with the debut of a new self-service tool. Suddenly brands and businesses of all sizes could promote tweets and accounts to the Twitter user audience.

It’s safe to say that this is just the beginning of Twitter advertising, and during 2012, we’ll see more and more brands focusing on Twitter not just for social media and content marketing but also for ad placement.

Images: Flickr, Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as and She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of, an award-winning blog for business women.