By Claire Zillman
February 27, 2014

It can take decades to build a well-respected brand, but it can crumble instantly with a CEO gaffe or a sleazy ad. Here are nine companies that need to stage a reputation comeback.


Courtesy: GoDaddy

In addition to its Super Bowl ads — which featured scantily clad women and sparked charges of sexism — the web domain hosting company has been criticized for a video of its founder killing an African elephant, its support of an antipiracy bill that other tech companies had opposed, and its role in a hack earlier this year that cost a well-known Twitter user his single-letter handle. Let’s just say GoDaddy’s reputation revamp is a work in progress.


Photo: Giuseppe Aresu/Bloomberg/Getty

The pasta company is still trying to recover from comments made by chairman Guido Barilla, who in September said that he would never use a gay family in his products’ ads. Gay rights groups called for a boycott of the brand, and social media erupted with numerous satires, including one that turned Barilla’s rigatoni into “bigotoni.”

Carl's Jr.

Photo: woidda/Flickr

Nothing makes you hungry for a burger more than scantily clad women right? That seems to be Carl Jr.’s opinion, since it’s used supermodels and crude innuendo to hawk its food for nearly a decade. The fast food chain could use a brand rebuild since its commercials have been criticized as more sexist than sexy.

Electronic Arts

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty

Electronic Arts’ (EA) most recent sin was a server issue that made its new SimCity game entirely unplayable. It’s also seen as a foe to innovation since its M.O. is shamelessly relaunching the same games over and over again. FIFA 13, anyone? Time to hit reset.

Spirit Airlines

As much as American consumers despise their domestic airlines, Spirit (SAVE) was the only U.S. carrier to make SkyTrax’s 2013 list of 20 worst airlines. Spirit could earn a lot in the way of reputation redemption if it simply eliminated its outrageous fees– such as the $26 – $100 fee for carry-on luggage and the $10 it charges for boarding passes printed by a gate agent.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Nothing puts a dent in a reputation like having the words “poop cruise” associated with your product. After Carnival’s (CCL) Triumph ship lost electricity and left 4,000 passengers without working toilets last year, the cruise line has tried to rebuild by launching specialty vacations such as the Dr. Seuss at Sea voyage, but it’s hard to gain ground when your passengers keep becoming violently ill.

Abercrombie & Fitch

The initial hit to Abercrombie & Fitch’s reputation came after the media revived a 2006 interview in which CEO Mike Jeffries touted the store’s exclusion of XL- and XXL-sized shoppers. But now a lack of tact isn’t the only thing harming the retailer; so is its taste. In February it reported its eighth straight quarter of sales declines since its logo-laden denim and graphic tees no longer appeal to teens.


Photo by Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Once known for its iconic catalogue, Sears (SHLD) is now better known for its epic slide. Failures to invest in its name brands and mounting competition from retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) have sunk the former retail juggernaut. In January it projected that its 2013 fourth-quarter revenue — along with that of the Kmart stores it owns — would decline 7.4%.


Theater, concert, and sporting event tickets are expensive enough, but Ticketmaster has received criticism for making nights out even pricier with additional service fees that often vary by event and venue. For proof of the ticket seller’s wounded reputation, look no further than The Consumerist’s Worst Company in American contest, where Ticketmaster is a perennial contender.

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