02/07/2015

By Amanda Phillips, Head of Marketing at Millward Brown

Every marketer knows that the delivery of a brand’s products and services must live up to the brand promise. However, communicating a promise that’s based solely on rational performance is not enough to grow sales, gain market share or justify a price premium. To drive growth, both promise and marketing must elevate a brand beyond the functional benefits to engage consumers through a total brand experience.

Fast-growing brands create, market and live a brand promise that influences purchase decisions by meeting needs in a rational and emotional way across all touchpoints, and builds perceptions that lead to sustained loyalty.

We’ve examined the marketing strategies of the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands to identify how they consistently achieve this. These brands are extremely fast-growing: a 10-year analysis of a selection of the strongest brands from the Top 100 as a ‘stock portfolio’ shows their share price has risen more than three times as fast as the MSCI World Index.

They find – and amplify – a point of difference.

Differentiation makes it easier for consumers to choose between alternatives, justify paying more, and feel satisfied with their purchase.

Brands can stand out from competitors with innovations in design, positioning or brand experience, as well as products. For the gain to be sustainable, however, the differentiation must benefit consumers in a relevant way. Apple – the world’s most valuable brand – has sought to increase its relevance over the last year by diversifying into new services such as ApplePay and pay TV, for example.

They earn their place in people’s lives.

Brands which are seen to offer additional services and experiences that are meaningful, as well as differentiated, command a higher market share, according to Millward Brown’s research. Emphasising how they ‘make a difference’ to customers makes them highly relevant and desirable, and also boosts salience: the brand leaps readily to mind.

Nike (no.28 in the Top 100) extends well beyond its functional raison d’etre to embed itself into customers’ lives, with services such as Nike+ for runners and NikeLab for the development of innovative workout gear.

Google (no.2) grew its brand value 9% last year. It makes an enormous contribution to our lives with its easily accessible, free digital tools. Its Android operating system is also being embedded in goods such as cars, and the brand has now entered telecoms to become more valuable to businesses. Facebook (no.12), meanwhile, extends its reach through acquiring other social apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp, keeping itself relevant to younger audiences and bringing more users into the ‘Facebook family’.

They nail their colours to the mast.

Many strong brands achieve a meaningful difference by establishing and communicating a clear purpose. Brands which are in business for reasons beyond profit are better able to forge strong emotional connections.

A 10-year analysis of the BrandZ Top 100 shows that the brands with the strongest, most distinct propositions have the highest brand equity (which predisposes customers to buy) and value growth.

Pampers (no.37) demonstrates the social value it can bring by promoting mother and baby health issues, while Dove – the world’s eighth most valuable personal care brand – has found huge success with its ‘real women’ philosophy. Starbucks (no.29) has infused meaning into its brand through championing issues like higher wages and sustainable sourcing.

They align marketing with their brand personality and values.

Strong brands speak with one voice across all activities and media to create a seamless, integrated 360° experience. They blend clear messaging and brand elements to maintain a feeling of difference, reminding people what the brand stands for and why they buy it.

Coca-Cola’s brand continues to grow in value, increasing 4% over the last year. It feels differentiated and successful to consumers because of the way it consistently applies its masterbrand across marketing – for instance the recent campaign celebrating the centenary of its famous contoured bottle, and the setting up of retro-themed pop-up shops in major cities.

They consistently deliver on the promise.

To build trust, a brand must behave in authentic and transparent ways – living up to its values and delivering a high-quality experience across physical and online environments. This needs to happen from the inside out, through development of a strong internal culture where employees are engaged with the brand purpose and reflect it in their behaviours.

Research and evaluation should then be used to track how consistently and strongly the brand’s promises are being communicated and delivered on to consumers.

Brands that are meaningful, different and salient capture five times more volume, command a 14% price premium and are four times more likely to grow value share over the next year, according to Millward Brown research. The scores of the BrandZ Top 100 in these three areas rise every year.

The highest scores belong to the newcomers entering the ranking in the years since it launched. These include long-established names such as KFC, Visa, Pampers and Shell, proving it’s never too late to create a highly attractive brand that carves out a place in people’s consciousness and predisposes them to buy.

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