WPP and Millward Brown have been working together for the last 6 years on what they call the annual Brandz Top 100 Global Brands list. This is a massive study that is conducted in 30 countries and tries to combine both financial data with both market research on how 30000 consumers each year feel about brands they are aware of and use.
Many challenge the value of these sorts of rankings, for example Tom Ewing of BrainJuicer did just that on Twitter during a webinar on the results saying “These top 100 brands lists are ridiculous – it’s like comparing Apple with Orange”. While the actual details of the ranking can be argued, I do think that the trends and issues they throw up are always worthy of noting for anyone interested and working on branding.
Having listened to the webinar and reading the report, I believe there are at least 7 key questions everyone running a brand needs to ask and answer.
What did the survey discover?
To get the full detail you can download the results in a link at the bottom of this posting, but here are some key highlights that I took away:
- Technology brands dominate the top brands. Apple remains #1 in the rankings, and Facebook is the fastest riser.
- Apple was followed by IBM, Google, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Marlboro (cigarettes still in these days!), AT&T, Verizon and China Mobile.
- Facebook rose by 74% moving up 16 places to #19. Other big risers were Financial Brands (Visa and Mastercard) and many Prestige/ Luxury Brands (like Rolex, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Hermes).
- In 2006, 88% of the Top 100 brands were USA/ Euro originated, but in 2012 only 50% were. Now 1 in 5 of brands in the Top 100 are from fast growing economies.
- MTN is Africa’s first brand in the Top 100. MTN is Africa’s largest mobile phone network. Created in the Mandela era in South Africa, they were the 1st pay-as-you-go provider that made mobile accessible to more than just the rich elite. The services are based on understanding needs of the local population, including micro payments, and proved to be transformational for their users. They did not try and “import” a western approach and mindset. They made sure they adapted the offer to the needs and reality of the market and potential users.
- New brands are emerging and taking the place of older and established brands. The power of emerging technology brands and brands using technology to transform categories has one impact, but so do the new brands coming from outside USA/ Europe.
- Some of the fastest growing brands were luxury brands driven in part by the spending power and desire for “badge” brands to symbolise status in emerging countries.
- But also in USA/ Europe where buying trusted quality brands although expensive appeals. Partly as an escape from so much cutting back and austerity. Trends in the study shows that consumers are looking for “considered” purchases – and so focused more and more on brands offering an appealing brand value (both high quality and acceptable price).
- Women on the board. Only 77% of brands in Top 100 had women on their Boards. But this was up significantly since the study started. Brands with women on their board did better than those that did not overall. The study argues that greater diversity leads to better decisions and brand building.
- Investment in building a distinctive Brand Experience. Brands that focused not just on cost cutting, but on creating and spending on a distinctive and engaging brand experience around the brand grew more than those that had not. This was key even for Retailers, as consumers with Smartphones can easily price comparison shop, and so the shopping experience becomes even more key.
- Focusing on buzz and creating word-of-mouth recommendations. Brands that are embracing social media and looking to build trust by getting more recommendations and endorsements are doing better than those that are focused only on traditional approaches. This is not a surprise as studies show (as I have blogged about before) that consumers rely more on trusted recommendations than on advertising when making purchase decisions.
So, from the learning what are the 7 question I think you should be asking if you want to build your brand into a Top 100 Global Brand?
For me, the study has highlighted that to be successful in building large brands globally there are some trends and challenges that you need to embrace and challenge yourself, and those working on your brand, to ask and answer. For me these are:
- Technology: Am I using and looking at how technology can create new services, or new ways to change the “rules” in the category?
- Recommendation & Buzz: Am I embracing new media channels like social media to create a dialogue and get trusted recommendations and endorsements for my brand?
- Brand Experience: Am I ensuring I create a brand experience around my brand to build differentiation, emotion and loyalty – or am I too focused on cutting costs and the physical benefits and features of my brand?
- Value Proposition: Am I ensuring I have the right value proposition for my brand, or am I too focused on just cost and not on the right bundle of quality and price of what the brand offers? Remember, Luxury brands are growing fast even in tough economic times
- “Western” Bias: Is my thinking too rooted in “the west” and thinking too much about and looking for inspiration in the “West” versus emerging regions? (Think about how 50% of brands on the Top 100 did not originate in USA & Europe…and every year that percentage grows)
- Local insight: Am I truly thinking local and needs of the users when trying to develop my brand globally, or am I just trying to roll out a “western” brand? (Think about how MTN mobile outmaneuvered global Mobile brands by understanding local but using global technology)
- Diversity: Am I ensuring I have enough diversity of thinking and points of view working on the strategy and implementation for my brand? While the study talks about lack of women on boards, there are other shades of diversity that will add to thinking as you try and build brands globally.
What do you think? Please leave thoughts and comments below. Please also share this post using the social media buttons below.
Links for more reading:
- BrandZ Top100 Global Brands Full report (PDF)
- WPP Reading Room: Brandz Top 100 2012
- WPP: BrandZ Main Page (including past studies)
- BrandZ Top 100 Brands iPad App on iTunes
- View A Millward Brown/ WPP Infographic PDF of the Key Findings
I’d just like to point out that my tweet wasn’t a serious critique of BrandZ. It was an opportunistic pun on the saying “it’s like comparing apples with oranges” – an old and wrong* cliche about the silliness of comparison. Part of the joke being, of course, that as Apple and Orange are both partly telecoms brands, you can compare them too. No criticism intended!
*(You can compare apples and oranges – you do it every time you go to the fruit bowl)
Tom, thanks so much for taking the time to look at the post and for commenting. I had taken your comment as you had explained above, and intended it to show that while we can challenge the exact detail it is the learning and debate that it throws up. And agree that apples & oranges is a great point. I can tweak the posting on my blog to better capture that if you prefer!?