From McDonald’s to Barbie, iconic brands are struggling

May 7, 2015, 5:03 PM UTC
McDonald's Retains Rank As Largest Single Restaurant Brand In The World According To 2012 Sales Report
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 12: The McDonald's logo is posted in the window of a McDonald's restaurant on March 12, 2013 in San Francisco, California. McDonald's has retained its number one ranking in both global and domestic sales and continues to be the largest single restaurant brand in the world with company-store sales last year of $4.53 billion and franchise-store sales of $31.063 billion for a domestic total of $35.59 billion. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Times change and so do consumption habits. The following iconic brands, companies, and products once seemed to be timeless, but now it seems the titans are teetering.

Part of these shifts in buying habits can be attributed to the different tastes and values of millenials. But it’s not only millenials turning their backs on these brands. With the resources of social media, it’s easier to spread the message nationwide and globally if a product or business is unhealthy or otherwise outmoded.



McDonald’s sales declined more than expected–nearly $400 million–in the first quarter of 2015, as the company annouced they were closing 350 poorly performing stores in Japan, the U.S., and China. And that’s just the latest in a series of struggles the fast food giant has gone through lately.

The oft-cited reason for McDonald’s woes is that customers are defecting to chains they see as healthier choices, like Chipotle. Plus more upscale burger chains like Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Smashburger are edging in. It seems like a case of the ubiquitous Golden Arches and what they stand for are now working against the corporation.

McDonald’s has tried a number of tactics to capture that millennial love such as test-marketing all-day breakfast and a 24-hour, 24-city marketing “day of joy” on March 24, a response to reporting its first sales fall in 12 years in January. At the time the company admitted there was an “urgent need to evolve with today’s consumers.” In Australia, McDonalds opened an experimental hipster cafe called The Corner in Sydney and is offering customizable gourmet burgers in Melbourne. The company recently announced that the first details of a turnaround plan but it failed to impress investors.



Barbie sales have declined for three years straight, and that trend continued in the first quarter of 2015. In November 2014, “Frozen” mania bested Barbie dolls as the top Christmas toy for girls for the first time in the 11 years that the National Retail Federation has issued Top Toy survey results.
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Mattel responded at the New York Toy Fair in February, revealing that 78 new Barbies were coming out featuring two things that millenials tend to value: diversity and technology. Hello Barbie will be a talking doll, and some of the other new models feature African-American, Asian and mixed race features.



Another toy giant in peril, the preschooler line Fisher-Price, performed poorly in 2014, with sales down 13%–although first quarter 2015 sales are up 3%. The decline in popularity is being attributed to millenial parents, who are more likely to live in cities and be more mobile, so they’re looking for smaller swings and more sleek designs for the toys. Plus there’s more toy lines competing for the little ones’ favor, including officially licenced tie-ins with their entertainment obsessions like Frozen.


Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Sales numbers on the iconic boxed mac and cheese ain’t what they used to be,with numbers down 3% while organic competitors like Annie’s are up by that same 3%.

Again, the drop in sales is due to customers seeking out healthier and less processed choices. The product has also been the subject of a consumer advocacy campaign which appealed to the company to use naturally derived ingredients like paprika, annato and tumeric.

Just recently, Kraft revealed it is removing the synthetic coloring from its Original Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the U.S. by January 2016, and from Canada’s Kraft Dinner Original by the end of next year. The company had already launched Kraft Boxed Shapes with no synthetic colors in 2014 and it removed the artificial preservatives from that product this year.


Diet Coke

There’s no way around it: soda sales are down overall, and have been for a decade, largely due to the the sugary beverages’ link to obesity. The nation’s third most popular carbonated beverage, Diet Coke, has taken the worst dive of late. The beverage is being viewed by consumers as unhealthy due to its sweetener aspartame and possible associated health risks, in addition to studies suggesting diet sodas may actually contribute to weight gain. The latest sales numbers reported Wednesday show a decline of 6% from those a year ago. However, the same numbers show Coca-Cola and its other soda offerings up by 1%–the first rise in nine quarters.


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