BrandSnark: Good Week/Bad Week for the Big Brands

Good Week: Mars – No, not the red planet. The secretive family-run candy empire – the Mars siblings are routinely listed among the richest Americans – is betting big on the pet industry with its $7.7B acquisition of 700-location, Los Angeles-based veterinary and dog daycare chain VCA. The deal is nothing to snicker at: through its Mars Petcare division, Mars also owns the Banfield chain of clinics located in more than 1,000 PetSmart stores nationwide as well as such pet food brands as Whiskas and Pedigree.

Bad Week: Sears The one-time retail giant announced a double whammy: the sale of its iconic Craftsman tools brand and the closing of an additional 150 stores, including 41 Sears locations and 109 Kmart stores. Rival tool manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker – itself the product of a 2009 acquisition of the latter by the former – will pick up Craftsman for approximately $900M and plans to grow the brand through channels beyond its current Sears-only availability. #retailretools

Worse Week: Fiat Chrysler The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the automotive giant of using “secret software” to cheat on admissions tests in more than 100,000 diesel vehicles, including Dodge Rams and Jeep Grand Cherokees. This was literally less than 24 hours after Volkswagen pleaded guilty to similar charges and saw six of its executives indicted. Will this be enormously costly for Fiat Chrysler in terms of fines and penalties? Absolutely. Another case of self-inflicted brand damage? Guilty. Will it impact sales? Perhaps not, with analysts predicting that 2017 car sales in the U.S. will continue last year’s record-setting trend. 

Farewell: Big Mammals & Big Planes Two more icons are about to go the way of the phonograph: Seaworld held its final killer whale show (after years of controversy) and United announced plans to retire the remaining 747 jumbo jets – the Shamu of the Skies – in its fleet (after years of delayed takeoffs, missed connections and angry customers).