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The Whiteboard: On and off the brand wagon: Winners, losers and some hybrids in '12

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Some winners…

1. Allstate creates Mayhem and wins the battle of insurance-brand characters.

Insurance companies are reluctant to lean too heavily on fear of disaster as motivation for buying their products. But Allstate's Mayhem character has become an artful expression of danger that is both entertaining and effective.

Mayhem suffers through outrageous slapstick moments posing as everything from an oversized sports team flag to a worn-out wiper blade. But as we chuckle at yet another scene with this snide humanization of the risks we take as drivers and homeowners, Allstate is building a likable brand with high awareness.

2. Oreo rolls along.

Its online campaign embracing social change and modern topics is brilliant, as is its ever-expanding product line of new, largely limited-edition, flavors in order to attract more/new customers. (Case in point: Its limited edition candy-corn-flavored Oreos, available only at Target, sold out almost immediately and were seen being resold on Amazon Marketplace in mid-October for close to $20 a package.) All of it helps an old brand stay relevant.

3. Chrysler/Fiat makes a move.

Sales at Chrysler are up 37 percent from 2009 levels and market share has risen to 11.5 percent compared with 8.9 percent three years ago. Its "Imported From Detroit" campaign has provided some effective resonance with consumers in a country that wants desperately to retain manufacturing jobs.

Meanwhile, Fiat has seen strong sales from the Fiat 500 and Abarth models. Although still small in share, Fiat jumped from 21,000 units to 47,000 in one year. Jennifer Lopez's spots for the car were widely panned, but these little European cars offer more than just good gas mileage. They're also kinda cool.

Some losers….

1. Lance Armstrong succeeds Tiger as the latest disgraced athlete-at-the-top-of-his-sport.

Once again, we saw the risk of investing too much brand equity in a fallible human being. (See also "Paterno, Joe" under "hindsight.")

Lance is a strange case indeed, since most of his American fans have probably watched him compete for all of a few minutes in the Tour de France and could tell you even less about how the sport is scored and regulated.

But the real brand damage has rippled out to affect Lance's Livestrong Foundation, which has now dropped his name; USA Cycling; and at least the American view of the international cycling sport, now seen as rampant with cheaters (or accused cheaters) for decades.

2. Facebook did a faceplant into financial reality when it launched its IPO.

The Zuckernaut's celebrated cashing-out party quickly turned sober when investors started asking hard questions about revenue growth, mobile monetization strategies and other issues that relate to actually making money and not just generating a billion users.

The stock fell dramatically and left a lot of people looking for searching answers that can't be found on Google. There is no doubt that Facebook is here to stay and it is already a huge advertising channel, but it appears to have burst its brand bubble.

And some winners that were losers and vice versa…

1. Samsung got hammered when the courts decided it was stealing fruit from Apple's tree.

While it appeared to be less than honest with its competitor's technology rights, its products continue to gain in the consumer electronics marketplace. Its cellphones are leading the way with sales up 18.6 percent year-on-year. Its Android-operating-system phones currently have the largest market share at 22.9 percent.

2. Hostess Twinkies are proof that old brands don't die, they just move lower on the shelf.

Although dragged down by the business of making and selling classic snack food brands, there seems to be little doubt that somebody will try to sustain at least a few Hostess brands when the smoke clears.

Twinkies were, after all, the raison d'être for Woody Harrelson's character in the satirical movie "Zombieland," proving that some brands can survive almost anything.

3. Donald Trump will never be president, although governor of Minnesota or California may not be out of the question.

But the Donald is both hysterically funny with his earnest political rants and yet compelling as the star of his reality TV show, "The Apprentice." He may be Exhibit A for the bromide that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

And for pure graphic identity, his hair helmet ranks right up there with the distinctive 'dos of Don King and Carrot Top.

David Taylor is president of Lancaster-based Taylor Brand Group, which specializes in brand development and marketing technology. Contact him via www.taylorbrandgroup.com.

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