When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast on October 29, millions of people—myself included—found themselves without electricity, heat, and water. In fact, more than a month later, some residents of New York and New Jersey are still struggling to get back to their normal daily lives.

But just a few days after the storm, it seemed that nearly all companies had gone back to business as usual—if their promotional emails were any indication. Unfortunately, many of those emails were memorable in that they pretty much ignored the tragedy around them.

Just who are the decision-makers who approved insensitive messages in the days that followed the massive destruction, and did they realize just what had happened on the East Coast?

Retailers Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters, among others, encouraged email recipients to shop their sites, without so much as acknowledging what had happened. How could anyone shop when they didn't even have running water, heat, or that lifeline to the outside world, the Internet? When so many people were without food, clothing—homes!

But some brands stepped up during the storm by offering genuinely sympathetic—and in the case of East Coast brands, empathetic—brand messaging that showed the people they were "one of us" and therefore worthy of our loyalty.

West Elm, for example, headquartered in the Sandy-damaged neighborhood of Dumbo, Brooklyn, made it clear that it, too, was hurt by the storm. Residents of the Rockaways rejoiced when several Target trucks pulled up filled with everything from bottled water to cleaning supplies. And Chase and American Express repeatedly offered financial and emotional support during the trying times.

So, here is our list for brands that "surged" and brands that "sank," at least in many New Yorkers' opinions, over the course of the past weeks.

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image of Gregg Lipman
Gregg Lipman is a founding partner of CBX, an independent full-service branding firm providing clients with a range of strategic and creative services. He is responsible for the overall direction and management of CBX's New York office.