As a colleague of mine pointed out this morning, these stocks were the poster children for buy-and-hold investing. People would always drink Coke and scarf down Big Macs. And IBM was the computer DNA of corporate America. These were companies with products that would always be in demand and therefore sound investments, no?
Well, with the latest numbers, that reasoning comes into question. And so two questions have to be asked: Can the companies transform themselves and keep their blue chip status? Or is it time for them to move to the back bench of once-great-but-now-not-so-much players (slide over a little and make room, will ya, Alcoa?).
To be sure, each company is already making transformational moves. Coke is revamping its franchise bottling structure, McDonald's is on a healthy transparency campaign, and IBM is trying toget more cloudy. Such efforts by companies have worked in the past, particularly for IBM. But that was a couple of decades ago.
Now a new generation of companies seems to be taking the stage. And they are also posting the earnings that investors want to see. Take a look at the numbers thrown up by Apple or Monster Beverage, for example.
Indeed, we see it every day here at CNBC.com in our ticker counts … where people look up stock prices throughout the day. The most popular? Apple consistently places on top, followed typically by names such as Facebook, Tesla and, lately, Alibaba. Coke, McDonald's and IBM rarely break the top ranks, unless they've had a burning news day.
In fact, the only blue chips that rank near the top tend to be banks and cars: Bank of America, Citigroup and Ford, for the most part.
On the basis of that quick and dirty daily popularity contest—and the more concrete trend of disappointing earnings reports—it would seem the old guard is on its way out.