5 actions for building valuable brands today
1. Be purposeful
Purpose is not new for brands. But it is now more important. In an uncertain and unsettling world, people are looking for answers and security. Purpose makes a difference to people—and to brands. Brands with a clear Purpose grew in value at three times the rate of other brands, on average, over the past 12 years according to BrandZ™ research. Purpose can be completely utilitarian. Or it can be about helping improve the world in some way. Increasingly, consumers, especially young people, are attracted to brands that, in an authentic way, are about making money, but are also about more than making money.
2. Be different
Difference gives the brands their competitive advantage. It is one of three components (along with Meaning and Salience) that comprise Brand Power, the BrandZ™ measurement of Brand Equity. Over the past 12 years, the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 brands viewed as most Different grew 258 percent in brand value. Those viewed as least Different grew only 21 percent. Consumers usually view technology brands as Different. Achieving Difference is more challenging for brands with long heritage. But buried in every successful brand that has survived for decades is the Difference that drove its success initially. It is important to rediscover that Difference and make it relevant today.
3. Be elastic
Category is not destiny. Certain brands, particularly technology ecosystems, benefit from elasticity. It is easier for those brands to extend across categories. Think like a disruptor brand, and focus on the needs of the consumer rather than the boundaries of the category. Categories help organize and define markets, but they are less useful when they become arbitrary definitions and constraints on innovation.
4. Be responsible
Words like “authenticity” and “transparency” have been part of the brand lexicon for a while, almost long enough to lose their meaning. However, they have become even more important. As major institutions continue to disappoint the public, brands have an opportunity to face growing skepticism, even cynicism, with honesty, by doing what brands are supposed to do—provide people with good products and services— and by reminding people that the brand is there to help.
5. Be prepared
Brands have invested a lot of effort to cultivate personalized customer relationships, sometimes based on shared values. To consumers, that closer connection makes some brands seem more like friends than strangers. And people have different expectations for their friends. They expect friends to speak up when important shared values are violated. Amid the current geopolitical turmoil around immigration, inclusion, climate change, and other issues, consumers often expect brands to take a stand. Taking a stand can be risky, especially for mass market brands that reach a broad constituency. Niche brands and brands with clearly articulated values may have more permission to take a stand. Usually, it is better to take a stand on principle, not politics. But the decision to take a stand—or not—is not always left to the brand. In these agitated times brands are called out all the time. Brands need to be prepared. Have the earthquake kit ready.