What does it take for a brand to break through the noise in today’s marketplace? That’s the question we explore in the January issue of our magazine. To get an answer, we surveyed over 4,000 consumers and asked them to name the brands that mean the most to them, both overall and across a variety of industries. We then sorted through the results, did our own reporting and analysis, and came up with a list of 10 “Breakthrough Brands” – relative newbies who in a very short time have managed to earn a place with the likes of Coca-Cola, Disney and Apple.
Our top ten are all less than ten years old. And perhaps not surprisingly, all are tech companies — which says something about the digital chops needed to break through today. Top of the list is Airbnb, which is the biggest development in the hospitality business since Holiday Inns started dotting the roads three quarters of a century ago. You can read the the full list here.
Also out this morning – an excerpt from an upcoming book by Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher that tells the inside story of how Airbnb made its breakthrough. And a look at how the room-sharing service is making the big hotel chains sweat.
More news below.
• U.S. Blacklists Alibaba’s Marketplace Again
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office put Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace back on its blacklist of “notorious marketplaces” known for the sale of counterfeit goods and violations of intellectual property rights. That follows complaints from trade groups for apparel and luxury goods that Taobao was not doing enough to police sales of fakes and pirated products. The USTR had first included Taobao on its blacklist in 2011 but removed it in 2012 after the company responded with a cleanup of sorts. That in turn helped Alibaba to a handsome valuation when it listed in New York in 2014. Inclusion on the blacklist does not carry any direct penalties but is a blow to Alibaba’s reputation, one that will hamper its expansion beyond China and its efforts to take global market share from competitors such as eBay and Amazon.com (even though the latter aren’t entirely immune to similar shortcomings).
• Europe-wide Manhunt for Berlin Killer
Germany still hasn’t caught the man who killed 12 people Monday by driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market. A string of embarrassing failures by law enforcement emerged yesterday. The prime suspect is Anis Amri, a Tunisian man whose ID was found in the truck cab’s footwell 24 hours after the crime, after being missed in an initial search. Amri had been under surveillance for months as a potential terror threat, but was at liberty pending deportation after his request for asylum was rejected. He couldn’t be deported while Tunisia (mindful of its own vulnerability to terrorists) refused to take him back. After months of stalling, Tunis finally delivered a replacement passport yesterday. The revelations triggered a visceral outpouring of hostility on social media towards Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising doubts about her (otherwise very good) chances of re-election next year.
• Trump Taps Icahn, Huddles With Defense Giants
President-elect Donald Trump asked activist investor Carl Icahn to be his advisor on rolling back “excessive regulation.” In an attempt to pre-empt criticism of further perceived conflicts of interest in an administration heavy with businessmen, Trump’s Transition Team said Icahn would not take a salary, wouldn’t be a federal employee, and wouldn’t have specific duties. It didn’t answer the more relevant question of whether Icahn would be recused from advising on regulations affecting companies in which he is invested, such as insurer AIG or oil refiner CVR Energy. Elsewhere, Trump met with the CEOs of Boeing and Lockheed, two government contractors he had publicly chastised for poor cost control. While both Dennis Muilenberg and Marillyn Hewson made suitably earnest noises after the meeting, there were few concrete details about its outcome.
• Hershey Raises Michele Buck to CEO
Hershey appointed Michele Buck as its next President and CEO. The first task for Buck, who joined Hershey 11 years ago and who is currently chief operating officer, will be to put together a convincing standalone strategy for the future, after resistance from the company’s controlling shareholders killed plans for a takeover by Mondelez earlier this year. The company’s sales have stagnated for the last two years. Buck’s remuneration hasn’t been settled yet.
Around the Water Cooler
• Patent Wars: A New Hope for IP Lawyers
What a week for nostalgia freaks: first the Star Wars franchise gets a reboot; now, after a five-year absence from the screen, comes the revival of Smartphone Patent Wars. Nokia and Apple launched new lawsuits against each other – Apple in the U.S., Nokia in Germany and the U.S.. The peace deal the two signed in 2011 was due to expire at the end of this year. Nokia kept many of its patents when it sold its handset unit to Microsoft, and Apple is accusing the companies that hold these patents of squeezing out royalties unfairly. Nokia clams that its IP is still a major value-adder to Apple’s hardware. The Christmas parties at their lawyers’ offices must be something to behold.
• California Stops Uber’s Self-Driving Experiment in San Francisco
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles brought Uber’s experiment with self-driving taxis to an abrupt and premature end, after Uber resisted a Cease-and-Desist order with a characteristic but ultimately futile exercise in legal hair-splitting. The company said it was still committed to California “and will be redoubling our efforts to develop workable statewide rules.” Elsewhere, Google’s self-driving technology project Waymo said it was in formal talks with Honda to put the technology in Honda vehicles.
• Obamacare Torschlusspanik
One of life’s great surprises is how often the best word for something is actually a German one – in this case, relating to anxiety about opportunities soon to be lost. Roughly 6.4 million people signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act on Healthcare.gov since the start of November. That’s an increase of 6.6% on the same period last year, despite a 25% estimated increase in benchmark premiums in 2017, and obvious doubts about the system’s future. The development suggests that the President-elect will start his period in office with something of a credibility gap on healthcare, having pledged to overturn the ACA but offered few details about the new system he plans to introduce.
• Petrobras Scandal Generates Record FCPA Fine
Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht is set to pay a record $2.6 billion fine to authorities in Brazil, the U.S. (under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) and Switzerland for its role in the Petrobras corruption scandal. The fine is as much as the authorities considered Odebrecht capable of paying without being forced into bankruptcy. Odebrecht was reportedly the biggest offender in paying kickbacks to officials and Petrobras management in return for contracts from the state oil and gas company. The scandal led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and is still destabilizing the business-dominated new government under Carlos Temer. Odebrecht’s former CEO Marcelo Odebrecht has filed a plea bargain to reduce a 19-year jail sentence that was handed down earlier in the year.
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Summaries by Geoffrey Smith Geoffrey.email@example.com;