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These 10 Brands’ Public Images Improved Most in 2013

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Yes, we’ve already offered readers our takes on 2013′s winners and losers via listicles galore. This post, however, is less about our personal overgeneralizations and more about research conducted by our friends at YouGov.

The survey in question sought to determine which brands’ public images had improved most dramatically in 2013, and its results may surprise you; they certainly surprised us.

1. American Airlines

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Come on, now: how long could you stay mad at that face?!

The only theory we have going to explain American’s impressive public perception boost is that it’s less a “jump” than a return to baseline after a 2012 that couldn’t get much worse, what with the bankruptcy filing and the executive pay controversy and much, much more. As YouGov spokesperson Drew Kerr puts it, “You always have to look at where they were coming from” to appreciate what this means.

The company’s successful emergence from bankruptcy and its coming merger with US Air were big steps toward a viable future, of course. But we’ll attribute this one almost entirely to 2013′s lack of horrifically embarrassing stories about American Airlines.

(FWIW, we don’t really think the new logo had much to do with it.)

2. Goldman Sachs

3. Bank of America

4. J.P. Morgan

5. Morgan Stanley

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Wow. We’re going to lump these four together for obvious reasons: public perception of their brands is directly tied to the way the average middle American reacts to the word “banker.”

Based on JPM’s recent Twitter fail to end all Twitter fails, we’re surprised that Americans are so forgiving of their financial institutions. But Occupy is no longer on Wall Street and things have (almost) returned to normal in the FiDi: the populist urge for revenge has subsided and it seems that quite a few of us have now come to view Goldman, Chase and the lot as necessary evils.

We’re also going to assume that YouGov performed this survey before JPM agreed to pay the U.S. government record fines in at least two different cases.

It’s not all good news, though: the pic above will probably not lose its place as one of the top three stock image search results for “banker” anytime soon.

6. Galaxy

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In business, it often pays to be cheaper than your competitors—especially in a cut-throat field like tech. Other companies can brag about features and shiny spokespeople all day long, but if your price is lowest you’ll come out on top.

That’s the case with Galaxy, which finally passed Apple in global sales this summer with the S4, also known as the fastest-selling Android phone. Price almost always beats innovation among the general public…unless your product explodes or causes heart failure upon ingestion.

Samsung’s also begun closing in on Apple in the brand affection category as well, but that’s another story.

7. Starbucks DoubleShot Energy+Coffee

shutterstock_136180871This one’s easy: it’s a caffeine shot product that isn’t called 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull or Four Loko and hasn’t been directly linked to any cases of heart failure.

Case closed.

8. Citibank

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We’d like to think a good bit of this goodwill comes from the Citibike program, because a lot of people who will never live in lower Manhattan (and probably wouldn’t want to ride a bike through this traffic anyway) heard about it in 2013.

But it’s more about the same sort of slow improvement that we witnessed for the financial brands above. Citi also went further out of its way to demonstrate how its services helps entrepreneurs “rebuild communities”, etc. with multimedia narrative projects like this one and this one.

9. MTV

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Two names: Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke.

Seriously, though: it wasn’t just the VMAs. This year, MTV reminded the public why it’s somehow still relevant by driving pop culture trends and social media conversations, creating a few hit TV properties that aren’t called Jersey Shore, and thoroughly digitizing its brand.

10. Starbucks DoubleShot

Yeah, see #7.

Of course you noticed the big theme running through this list: we can’t name a single thing any of them did on their own behalf to raise these scores. It was simply the passing of time (which we hear heals all wounds) and the fact that, as Carreen Winters of MWW told us in discussing Lululemon, “the American consumer is extremely forgiving.”

Lucky them.

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