It is that time of year. The time of lists. Loads of executives, marketing, and other professional folks looking back on what's hot as we barge into 2023. Here at Merton Way, we announce the 2022 brands of the year.

Our criteria?

Well, we can more readily say what it is not. It is not spending the most on ads or even having the zaniest commercials. Making matters worse, we lump B2C and B2B across all sectors into a single, ambitious, fractious heap from which we arbitrarily name our Top 10 Brands.

There is some method to our madness. We like brands where the culture aligns with its products and, in turn, to the brand. To us, brand equals culture. Together, they deliver the brand promise.

Named for the late, great Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, our agency gives extra credit to brands that do good. Brands that are consistent or purpose-driven also become teacher's pets. Like we said, it is pretty subjective. (That's what makes best-of lists so much when R.E.M.'s album, Murmur, outscored Michael Jackson's Thriller as Rolling Stone's album of the year, once upon a time.)

That said, without further much ado about so many pixels, here is the 2022 shortlist for brand of the year...

This $1.9 billion company could be a cash cow for investors.

10. TransMedics

U.S. News, Bankrate, and others report that the top 10 stocks in 2022 were energy, oil, and tankers. But #6 in most top ten lists is the modestly known brand, traded as TMDX: 222.9% year to date. Now, ad agencies may not measure a brand by investor returns; agencies tend to like more flowery or ESG kinds of things. But this health care company specializes in organ transplantation. TransMedics developed the only organ transplant system approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration to transport multiple organs. Revenues jumped 378% in the third quarter, driven by its OCS Heart and OCS Liver systems. TransMedics’ full-year revenue growth was 164% at 71% gross margins. This $1.9 billion company could be a cash cow for investors. TransMedics also could be an attractive acquisition for a larger health care company. We’re not qualified to give you stock advice. But this is a differentiated brand leader, delivering on several levels.

9. Tony’s Chocolonely

This Dutch confectionery pledges to “make chocolate 100% slave free.” Merton Way likes companies that walk the walk. Strong brand values equate to strong cultural values, and those are tastily aligned at Tony’s. The brand worked diligently to raise awareness of child labor throughout the chocolate industry—including its supply chain. Clever innovations included its limited edition products: QR codes on the wrappers led consumers to sign petitions against the use of child labor. Tony’s Chocolonely, a £100M company, spends zero on traditional marketing. Its use of social media is the primary mode of outreach.

A civics lesson to us all.

8. Patagonia

Patagonia has camped out for years on being sustainable and responsible, including its own business practices. The founder and former rock climber, Yvon Chouinard, announced in September that he was forfeiting ownership to fight against climate change. If your politics do not agree that climate change is more important than other global issues—you’re missing the point. The company’s mission is “to save our home planet.” And Patagonia is practicing what it preaches. Darn hard to disagree with planting trees, treating vendors and employees well, and so on. A civics lesson to us all.

This year’s most powerful, debated, loved-and-hated brand: Twitter.

7. Twitter

Arguably one of the most influential social media platforms in history changed hands via one of history’s richest and most maverick entrepreneurs, Elon Musk. The blue bird’s course flipped and flopped since the Trump administration. Love it, like it, don’t care about it…the fact remains that in 2022, Twitter went from public to private, angered and annoyed every one of every political stripe, increased tweets per minute, users and membership, and unchained explosive documents about the brand’s own role in little old things like U.S. and foreign elections. Twitter is one of the year’s most powerful, hotly debated, loved-and-hated brands. That makes it compelling, somewhere between a watching a car accident and Yellowstone. Hard to look away, either which way. And this will intensify as Musk decides whether or not he’ll listen to voters and step aside as CEO.

6. Baby2Baby

The mission of Baby2Baby is providing children in poverty to have fresh, clean diapers. In 2021, demand for help with something as simple and essential as diapers hit an all-time high. This nonprofit received 731 million requests for diapers—a 505% increase over our pre-pandemic era. Supply chain issues, rising costs, and shortages scared the pants off a lot of parents, diaper makers included. Big question: How do you donate diapers if there are no diapers to give? Answer: start making diapers. Baby2Baby became a producer of diapers, manufacturing them at six cents each. That’s half what they paid for wholesale diapers. The nonprofit projects manufacturing of 30 million diapers for hundreds of thousands of families. That is real results doing real work for real people. We love it.

5. Virgin Atlantic

With pandemics and shortages and fuel costs—travel has had some turbulent years recently. Virgin Atlantic re-focused on its strengths, reminding us of how unique it is to travel with Virgin. The airline played the diversity and inclusion card, including relaxation of policies around tattoos and gender neutral uniforms. Whatever your politics, wherever you have the most miles, Virgin's policies and promotions nail what Virgin represents: different, cool, leading edge, and a bit over the top. And that’s the brand. The coolest airline around, and it is high time for everyone to enjoy travel again. So, Virgin gets #5.

4. Perspective Pictures

This video production company is all about social-first marketing and content. It began outside of London by a 16-year old doing YouTube videos. Today, it is a fully-fledged video production company generating content across 28 countries. The jam is that you watch their content—and never feel like it is an advertisement or worse yet, being TikTok’d. Content is at times funny, compelling, unique, and always non-salesy. One particular strength is their work for B2B clients, who have more complex products and sales cycles than consumer brands. In B2B, authenticity and accuracy matter to buyers and influencers—far more than marketing to consumers. Using tropes like behind-the-scenes footage and photos outtakes of industry VIPs are just a few of the colorful strokes that help them engage viewers. A great brand that makes brands great.

Their cost-efficiency is superior to many or most global conglomerates and publicly traded companies.

3. International Children’s Fund

International Children's Fund is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides humanitarian aid to incredibly poor children and their families. The fund operates through a network of dedicated indigenous pastors located in rural villages in Africa and India where need is greatest. An incredible 82% of operating funds go to the people in needs—not the operators, executives, or marketers. In other words, much like Catholic Charities, the cost-efficiency of this organization’s business model is superior to many or most global for-profit conglomerates and publicly traded companies. And the bottom line are the poor, the suffering, the disenfranchised. This is a brand that matters and does it with gusto.

2. FedEx

FedEx is #2 because they are, well, FedEx. Everyone overlooks FedEx every day of the week. We take FedEx for granted, like running water and corrupt politicians. FexEx are colors and shapes on a package that arrives on time, every doggone time. These are the folks who just said “No” to Amazon a few years ago, walking away from one of their biggest customers—the largest retailer on Planet Earth. Yet, here they are. Standing and delivering. They are friggin’ FedEx. They’re #2. Just because.

1. Microsoft

According to Interbrand, the House That Gates Built grew its brand value score by 32 points in 2022. Microsoft has evolved from a widgets company where we begrudgingly lived with its operating systems into a true digital transformation giant. Hot points include Microsoft’s relatively recent forays into intelligent clouds and AI, interoperability with open source initiatives, and various devices showing increasingly sexy industrial design, UX, and UI. Admit it. You like how Outlook has evolved. Office is really good and probably still the smarter choice for businesses vs. Google's suite. Fiscal performance, marketing, and the products and services all seem wonderfully aligned in 2022. They under-promise and over-deliver at reasonable prices. That’s good branding.