Write off 2011 as a year of obtuse business decisions and equally bad communications for Netflix, from planning a DVD-only spinoff business to half-hearted mea culpas. Yet if it can return to fine-tuning its core offering that at one time inspired fierce customer loyalty, as well as add to its streaming library and avoid bad apologies – it can begin to win back the hundreds of thousands of customers who left the company.
The financial institution shot itself in the foot this fall when it proposed new consumer debit card fees. Although the bank rescinded that decision, it didn't do much else to explain its motivations or portray itself as anything other than a greedy institution. What the bank does have on its side is convenience. Its corner locations are as ubiquitous as those of Starbucks. If it couples that advantage with better offers or breaks for consumers, it could gain back lost supporters.
Occupy Wall Street
Temporarily homeless and girding itself for the cold months ahead, Occupy Wall Street has some time to think – something it desperately needs. If it can reenergize its supporters, create a coherent message, and free itself from the hangers-on that harmed its reputation, it could again drive the news agenda and influence the political discussion. The spirited movement made its mark on 2011, now it must decide how to fuel that momentum.
Research in Motion (RIM)
In some ways (if you're a strict optimist), there's nowhere to go but up for the beleaguered mobile-product maker, which saw its reputation take a major hit after a days-long outage in October. To survive, it desperately needs to improve its devices, which have waned in popularity, and find other ways to woo customers back. This might take a complete management shakeup, a hard look at the product line, or a sale to any one of its reported suitors, such as Microsoft or Nokia. Either way, the company needs to do a better job of letting customers and investors know how it is preparing for the future.
So its proposed merger with T-Mobile didn't work out. That won't be the end of the world for the blue-chip mobile provider. It needs to coherently explain to consumers what the broken-off merger means for them, and what it will do in response. It also lost its exclusive hold on the iPhone in 2011, so it needs to keep its other devices, plus data and voice services, near the front of the pack.