The 10 Most Hated Brands

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Brand Keys has released a list of “America’s 10 Least Engaging Brands.” These brands disappoint their customers and, based on the definition of a brand’s status, they are the most widely hated. Of the 10, three have gone bankrupt and one is under government investigation for lying, which could cost it billions of dollars.

The most hated brand is Volkswagen. Among the 635 brands measured across 72 categories, VW gets the lowest “emotional engagement” at 29%. A worldwide investigation of fraud regarding its diesel engines will cost it tens of billions of dollars. Even the German company’s financial statements support this figure.

Next on the list is BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) at 30%. The original “smartphone” was bludgeoned by Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone. In the third spot, bankrupt retailer American Apparel at 38%, which battled its controversial founder, Dov Charney.

In the fourth spot, Cosi is a brand many people do not know. It is a cafe-like sandwich retailer with just over 100 locations, and it posted 39% in the Brand Key ranking. Next is Aéropostale at 41%. It just declared bankruptcy. In fifth spot, ancient and troubled retailer Sears at 42%. It is one of the two large brands owned by Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD). The other is Kmart. After Sears is another obscure brand, Kobo, at 43%. It produces an e-reader product.

Anheuser-Busch InBev S.A./N.V.’s (NYSE: BUD) Budweiser is next at 49%. Hard to say why since it is among the most widely consumed beers in the world. Then in ninth place, Sports Authority with a rank of 50%, another retailer in Chapter 11. All of its locations may be closed and its inventory liquidated.

Last on the list is Whole Food Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM), the high-end grocery retailer, at 51%. It was one of the most popular companies in its sector. Recently someone put mouse poison into one of its buffetts. The cause of Whole Foods’ problems predates that. It was charged with overcharging some customers. It also has been charged with the sale of tainted food.

The poor ratings sometimes hit the bottom line, as is evident from the list. Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, said:

The fundamental reason these brands were rated so low for consumer engagement is because they were unable to meet the very high and ever growing emotional expectations consumers bring to the marketplace. These are the critical values consumers use to compare brand options when they shop. If you do poorly, consumer displeasure not only shows up on the list but harshly in the real world marketplace. And shortly thereafter on profit loss statements.


Methodology: For the 2016 survey, 42,792 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, from the nine U.S. Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers and the brands for which they were customers. Some 70% were interviewed by phone, 25% percent via face-to-face interviews (to include cell phone only households) and 5% online.