The Book
The Study
The Solution

The Study


Identifying the Highest Growth Brands
Eileen Campbell, CEO, Millward Brown, at the 2012 ARF Conference, NYC
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The Study

The Jim Stengel Study of Business Growth

We believe that great brands grow as they do because they connect deeply with people. That was the central premise of our study with Jim Stengel.

Our burning question was threefold:

  • Are the bonds that people form with brands the ultimate growth driver?
  • If so, what kind of bond generates growth?
  • And how can businesses leverage it?

With this in mind, we assembled a multidisciplinary team of top researchers, strategists, and thinkers across Millward Brown. Together, we set out to identify the B2B and B2C brands that created deeper relationships with people over the past decade and examined whether these relationships translated into stronger financial performance.

Millward Brown’s database, which includes 15 years of consumer and brand equity data on thousands of brands across 30+ countries, was the foundation of the study. We tracked the connection over a 10-year period (2001-2011) between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. We also incorporated insights from our global copy testing Link™ database and leveraged implicit, neuroscience-based research methods to gain a rich understanding of how ideals impact consumers’ minds, their attitudes and behaviors.

Together, these unique elements helped unearth the guiding principles behind the financial success of the fastest-growing brands in the world. Our findings support a new kind of marketing philosophy and will inspire you to rethink what the true drivers of extraordinary business growth are.



Our Unique Approach

Step 1 | Millward Brown Equity Database

We began by screening Millward Brown’s database of more than 50,000 brands around the world to identify the ones with the highest loyalty, or consumer bonding, score. Millward Brown’s bonding score is a composite metric that captures the highest level of engagement and commitment that brands create with people. It is not only a good proxy to define the strength of the relationship between a brand and the customer; it is also highly correlated with share of wallet.

Step 2 | Brand Growth

Our second step was a screening and ranking of the brands considering their overall bonding scores at the global and country level, their bonding score relative to category, and their bonding growth over time. This provided Millward Brown Optimor with a first list of the brands that people loved and valued the most around the world, including brands ranging in size from $100 million in revenues to well over $100 billion.

Step 3 | 50 High-Growth Brands

The next part of the analysis was confirming that these highly bonded brands with strong consumer commitment had generated faster, greater business value growth. Millward Brown Optimor conducted a financial valuation of the brands on top of our list at two points in time. The valuation considered company financials using annual reports, Bloomberg and other publicly available data. To measure brand value growth we took a weighted average of the absolute growth in the brand's financial value ($) over the 10-year period, the rate of growth (%), and the brand's value growth relative to its category. This step yielded our Top 50 list of brands and companies.

Step 4 | Brand Ideal

The fourth and final step of our analysis was a deep dive into the top 50 companies. This included investigative research as well as expert, academic and executive interviews. From this phase Millward Brown Optimor uncovered that the Top 50 brands had one thing in common—they were built on Ideals—the best brands have a higher purpose, which provide meaning and engage consumers, but also inspire employees and guide all decisions of the organization. Part of this fourth phase also included a consumer validation of the concept of brand ideals. We used a neuroscience technique called Implicit Associations Research to validate that these brands indeed triggered higher meaning and deeper emotions in the minds of consumers.

Stengel Top 50 Brands vs. S&P 500

Top 50 Brands

Embodying Extraordinary Growth

The Stengel Study of Business Growth ultimately identified 50 brands with extraordinary growth over the 2000s relative to their competition. These Top 50 brands across all categories have created more meaningful relationships with people. They have far outpaced their competition in brand value, and they have contributed to faster and greater business value growth.

In pure financial terms, the Stengel 50 as a whole grew three times faster over the 2000s than their competitors and the overall universe of brands Millward Brown Optimor analyzed. Individually, some of the fastest-growing of the Stengel 50, such as Apple, Google, and Pampers, grew on annual compounded average as much as 10 times faster than their competition from 2001 to 2011.

The Stengel 50 includes businesses in 28 categories. There are B2B companies, retailers, luxury brands, and high-technology enterprises. The list includes brands that have been around for over a century and others launched in the past decade. There are many European and U.S. brands, but there are also great brands from the rest of the world, including Brazil, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, India, and China. While the Top 50 brands span a wide range of price points, most are premium priced in their categories, another indication of their strong customer relationships.

View the Top 50 Brands

Top 50 Brands

The Stengel Study of Business Growth

Calvin Klein
Discovery Communications
Hugo Boss
Jack Daniel’s
Johnnie Walker
Louis Vuitton
Moët & Chandon
Rakuten Ichiba
Red Bull
Royal Canin
Sedmoy Kontinent
Seventh Generation
Stonyfield Farm





A New Framework for Business Growth
Jim Stengel at the 2012 ARF Conference, NYC
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The Ultimate Growth Driver

After identifying 50 companies to benchmark and learn from, we set out to dig deeper into what drove their success. This included extensive desktop research, face-to-face and phone interviews with top executives, academic researchers, and experts.

What we found was that the world’s 50 best businesses – as diverse as Method, Red Bull, Lindt, Petrobas, Samsung, Discovery Communications, Visa, Zappos and Innocent – were built not just on innovative product or service ideas but on ideals.

Some brands, like Google, IBM and Red Bull, have obvious life improving ideals. Google exists to immediately satisfy every curiosity, IBM exists to help build a smarter planet and Red Bull exists to uplift mind and body. Other brands, like Moët & Chandon, Zappos and method bring an extra dimension to life, providing their consumers with a special experience that enhances life. Moët & Chandon’s ideal is to transform occasions into celebrations, Zappos’ purpose is to deliver happiness, and method is in the business of inspiring happy, healthy homes.

There is a great opportunity for business leaders to reinvent their business and unlock brand value growth. Every business, in any industry can become more purposeful, and unleash the hidden power of ideals in every part of the business. Learn more.




Q&A: Five Fundamental Values
Jim Stengel with Mary Ann Packo, CEO, Millward Brown North America, and Eileen Campbell, CEO, Millward Brown, at the 2012 ARF Conference, NYC
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The Five Fundamental Values

By digging deeper into the Stengel Top 50 companies’ actions, decisions and motivations, Millward Brown Optimor uncovered that The Stengel 50 brands could be clustered into five fields of fundamental human values that improve people’s lives by:

  • Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility.
  • Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways.
  • Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences.
  • Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality.
  • Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories.

These five value clusters serve as a useful framework to characterize the higher-order plane in which their brand operates. Though a company’s actual brand ideal will be a more specific articulation of one or more of these value clusters, they serve as a useful starting point on the journey. Learn more about the Millward Brown approach to unlocking ideal-driven growth.



The Consumer Mind

Digging deeper with Neuroscience

Though the Stengel Study of Business Growth proved the importance of a brand ideal to inspire employees and drive inside-out business growth, Millward Brown also wanted to understand whether and how ideals impact consumers’ minds, their attitudes and behaviors.

Our neuroscience team devised a method to uncover the implicit associations that people held between brands and ideals. The research program developed specifically for the book and the Grow study provided insights on the types of associations some of Stengel 50 brands and their competitors “activate” in people’s mind – explicitly, and implicitly, i.e., thoughts and feelings consumers may not be able to articulate.

The experiment didn’t ask people directly whether they consciously associated attributes or fields with certain brands. Instead, it relied on the fact that every time a person sees or thinks about a brand, including any word or image, it activates a network of associations to that brand in the neural pathways of the brain. The firing of neural pathways leaves a chemical trace that decays slowly, so that the pathway remains active, with decreasing intensity, for a period of time. This makes it easier and quicker to trigger pathways which have been recently activated than pathways which have not been recently activated. So if a person identifies a word such as explore faster after seeing one brand’s name rather than another’s, it indicates that the person associates the quality of exploration more strongly with one brand rather than the other.

Using both these new implicit measures that modern neuroscience makes possible and traditional explicit measures of people’s conscious associations, we found that people experienced the Stengel 50 brands as being deeply ideal-based and as being more ideal-based than their competition.

The associations between the ideals fields and the select Stengel 50 brands were even stronger in the implicit measures than in the explicit ones, showing that the ideals and ideals fields influence people at the most fundamental level of their gut reactions. This evidence shows that ideals indeed move markets individual by individual.

More About Our Neuroscience Practice

The increasing scalability of neuroscience techniques offers new and exciting possibilities for getting inside the mind of the consumer. Millward Brown is the only leading, full-service research agency to have a dedicated, global neuroscience practice. With experts in North America, Latin America, Europe and AMEA, our neuroscience practice offers solutions that are integrated into our existing research suite to provide incremental insights. This includes:

  • Implicit Measurement & Emotional Priming: Enabling us to get at consumers’ intuitive, ‘gut level’ thoughts and feelings about a brand, an ad, a concept, a logo or other stimulus.
  • Facial Coding: For moment-by-moment insights of the emotional response to advertising, delivering optimized campaigns and communications.
  • Eye Tracking: To gain a precise understanding of what captures consumers’ visual attention informing stronger ad campaigns, better packaging, and more satisfying shopper experiences.





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