When it comes to predicting what will happen in 2018, I’m following Casey Stengel’s advice: “Never make predictions, especially about the future.” But I am keeping my eye on some brands because I’m pretty sure they’ll be making the headlines in the coming year. So, here’s my list of Brands to Watch in 2018, one brand per each letter of the alphabet:
. A is always the hardest letter to write in this list since there are so many candidates, including Alibaba (the Chinese e-commerce giant with nearly 550 million active mobile users per month,) Airbnb (which is rapidly expanding into new markets and offering new services like Experiences), and Apple (I cheated — see X below). But Amazon remains my top choice for the way it is disrupting every area of business, from grocery stores to health care and pharmaceuticals, cloud services, and more.
Blue Apron, which has struggled to woo investors since its June IPO and recently laid off hundreds of workers, is only one of the many meal-kit and food delivery services that seem to be struggling. Some say the big meal bubble has burst but I suspect it’s only undergoing significant changes since Americans continue to value the convenience and choice these services offer.
CVS Health’s ballsy offer to acquire Aetna for $66 billion earlier this month is likely to get approved. And we’ll surely see more M&A and JV activity in healthcare as players try to get in front of Amazon’s eventual entry into the space. Fortunately for customers, such moves are likely to drive costs down and convenience up.
Donald Trump has been my “D” brand for two years now. His Presidential brand has unquestionably been the most unusual we’ve seen and the unbelievable antics will only continue. Between North Korea and Russia on the international front to healthcare and immigration domestically to his own staffing and family affairs, there’s so much about The Donald to keep an eye on in the coming year.
Ethereum. I am just as confused by cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as most people are, but I’m pretty sure their influence on our economy is likely to continue to grow. Ethereum, an open software platform based on blockchain technology, enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications. Given how wide-ranging it can be, I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more about it in 2018 and beyond.
Facebook. Nearly 200 million U.S. adult users spend an average of 41 minutes a day on Facebook — that fact alone makes this brand noteworthy. But 2018 will bring more newsy developments given its involvement in the Russian election meddling, new features like its Watch video tab, and continued acquisitions.
Galaxy, Samsung’s mobile device product brand, remains a formidable challenge to Apple. The Galaxy S8 Plus has been viewed as a viable — even preferable, in some cases — alternative to the iPhone X, and the S9, due out early next year, will feature a massive redesign (likely including dual cameras). But the Galaxy X with its expected folding display may catapult it well far ahead of even our imaginations.
Huawei. My bullish take on Samsung aside, I also continue to track Chinese smartphone giants Huawei and Xiaomi for their strength in international markets. Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro holds its own against the Galaxy 8 and iPhone 8 and the brand is the smartphone market share leader in China (Apple is #5, Samsung , #9). Meanwhile Xiaomi is gaining a winning position in India, investing over $1 billion in 100 Indian startups to build out a robust ecosystem of mobile apps.
Inditex, owner of retailer Zara, is one of several fast-fashion brands I’m watching. H&M and Fast Retailing’s Uniqlo have also dominated the retail apparel landscape in recent years because of these brands ability to win customers with trendy styles and cheap prices. They’ve shown that logistics has become as important as marketing has to retailers, as retail leadership depends on delivering hot styles, maintaining low inventories, and refreshing fast-selling items to keep costs down while meeting fickle consumer demand.
JC Penney continues its slow slide downhill. I’m writing this before early results of the holiday season are available, but there’s no reason to be optimistic about this brand’s future. Although Sears has resurrected its Wish Book holiday catalog and Macys is planning a rooftop expansion to its flagship store in New York, there seems little any department store can to do offset the…