Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
You loved them once.
Some were certainly at the top of their trees.
Now, they're like the neighbor you thought you had to invite to your party and you pray doesn't come.
These, according to marketing research consultancy Brand Keys, are the 10 brands with the least emotional engagement in America.
These are the brands that have allegedly disappointed their customers so much that, if the customers see them on the street, they want to toss rotting baked goods in their direction.
Six of them have turned up in this list for the first time.
And, as Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff puts it: "The fundamental reason these brands were rated so low for consumer engagement is because they were unable to meet the high, and ever-growing, emotional expectations consumers bring to the marketplace."
Now how could VW have ended up here? Could it be because it sold customers diesel cars that weren't quite the cars VW said they were? Volkswagen, says Brand Keys, enjoys an emotional engagement level of 29 percent. (The ideal is 100 percent.) These are what some might term Lindsey Graham numbers.
A thousand times BlackBerry's announced it's risen from the dead. The company even made jokes about Apple users being wall-huggers. But here it sits with a mere 30 percent rating and all the hope of the Philadelphia 76ers. Actually, not even. The Sixers might still rise again.
3. American Apparel.
It's been riven by scandal. It's laid off hundreds of workers. Once it was too cool for school. Now it's being schooled. And when people walk by one its stores at the mall, they don't even mutter "Ew," it seems.
I confess this restaurant chain has never entered my inner functions. But, if you believe this analysis, its flatbread has flatlined in people's souls. Brand Keys points to "a cast of revolving CEOs." My head is now full of images of CEOs spinning round and round and round.
It's hard to keep up with teen tastes. Even teens can't do it. And so it seems that Aeropostale, which was delisted by the New York Stock Exchange just 10 days ago, may be all out of love.
Surprised? Where have you been?
Again, a brand that never quite penetrated my consciousness. This e-book and e-reader company appears to not stimulate as much as it might these days.
This Bud isn't for you anymore, apparently. Despite seeming to be ubiquitous at sporting events and on TV coverage of sporting events, Budweiser appears on this list as a brand of bygone times. Here's what might move you, though: Budweiser was on this list last year. This year, its engagement score has gone down another 9 percent, to 49 percent.
9. Sports Authority.
This is surely less surprising. Sports Authority used to be a vast presence at malls all over America. Now, it's in liquidation. It could be that all its stores will close. It seems that real people have already forgotten it ever existed.
10. Whole Foods.
Wait, what? The home of every earth-loving, kale-munching, oat-crunching, sandal-wearer is losing customers' love? Brand Keys attributes this, Whole Foods' first entry onto this list, to accusations of Whole Foods price-rigging its own brand, as well as "corporate hubris." A brand should never get too big for its boots, even if they're made exclusively from organic materials.
This all seems frightfully depressing. You want some optimism.
So which brands have lifted themselves out of the Division of the Damned?
McDonald's, Abercrombie and Fitch, Tylenol, and Coty managed to escape this year. One reason Brand Keys attributed to their ascent: Others just got worse.