Almost half of the Top 100 brands lost value. Brands last declined this broadly during the depths of the 2009 global recession.
But financial performance, not brand, was the more critical determinant for 35 of the 49 brands that declined.
Brand Contribution—the measurement of brand strength exclusive of financials or any other factors—generally remained stable or increased for most brands and provided the buoyancy to navigate the year’s turbulence.
One in five of the 2012 BrandZ™ Top 100 brands came from a fast growing economy. But the total value of those brands slipped slightly for the first time to $330.8 billion because of the business slowdown in Brazil and China.
Brand value fluctuations in the 2012 BrandZ™ ranking were spread evenly across the 13 categories covered. Six categories rose in value and six declined. The financial category remained even with last year.
Other factors impacting brand value included the BRIC slowdown, Europe’s debt crisis, political uncertainty in the US and the erosion of trust culminating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Despite this challenging context, the strong performance of many brands across diverse categories pointed to the continuing importance of brand and a steady appreciation of brand value. During the past six years, between 2006 and 2012, the total value of the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands rose 66 percent.
Consumers are shopping. But they've adopted a new attitude toward consumption—considered rather than conspicuous. Many brands that appreciated in value, such as Zara, Uniqlo and Home Depot, combined quality with price into an appealing value proposition.
Brand strength isn't an inoculation that prevents problems. Stuff happens. The economy tanks. Consumer tastes change. Corrections are inevitable. Brand strength enabled renewal to happen. And happen quickly. Think Starbucks or Toyota.
Brand heritage is important and hard earned. Heritage can gain consumer trust. But to be recommended today requires being relevant. In its contemporary product range and clever communications Burberry offered an excellent example.
Consumers have little patience with brands — and corporations — that violate trust. They publicize transgressions immediately and widely on social media. When PR is facing damage control, it's too late for the reputation conversation. Reputation is a core strategic concern. No brand gets a free pass. Consumers continued to distrust banks, no surprise. But they also scrutinized more revered brands like Apple, Facebook and Google.
Not long ago, a huge warehouse filled with racks stacked high with merchandise defined successful power retailing. Consumers in those aisles now shop with mobile device in hand, conducting price comparisons. Brands expecting to succeed in this landscape are reimagining themselves, looking for ways to be present in a compelling way in every possible physical and virtual reality. Tesco even has an interactive video wall in the Seoul, South Korea subway.
6. Brand Contribution
It's the BrandZ™ measurement of how much of a brand's value can be attributed to the brand itself, exclusive of financials and other factors. High Brand Contribution is an enduring competitive strength most often found among luxury brands. But not exclusively. Coca-Cola and two Chilean retailers—Falabella and Sodimac — ranked high in the 2012 BrandZ™ Brand Contribution ranking, suggesting that this advantage is available to brands in any category.
No single brand personality guarantees success. There's no formula. Brands in the same product category, but with radically different personalities, can both succeed. The key is to understand a brand's personality and then to incorporate those traits into a consistent brand message. Brazil's Brahma beer is among the highest brands in Brand Contribution. Consumers think of the beer as friendly and happy and Brahma reinforces this perception in its advertising.
8. Harder BRICs
Western brands are no longer a novelty in many of the BRIC markets. Local brands are improving in functional and emotional appeal. Years ago, perhaps, brand success was about just showing up. Not any more. Aggressively improving its approach to consumers, the Russian financial institution Sberbank was among the Top Risers in brand value in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.
An entrepreneur with a good idea and minimal investment can rapidly impact any category. Today's telecom or a retailer can be tomorrow's bank. Digital makes it possible. Category disruption is a looming threat that brands can best handle by perpetually innovating and experimenting, adopting what works and eliminating what doesn't. Even Amazon, which perfected the world of online shopping, experimented with a distribution presence in the physical world.
In almost any category, technology seems to be at the center of the conversation. Retail is about being omni-channel, present everywhere all the time, which is only possible in your dreams or through technology. The competitive battle in cars is not about horsepower, itself a retro word, but about technical enhancements like voiceactivated communication for driving and controlling entertainment systems. BMWs came loaded with technology; so did Fords.
There's never a magic wand. But digital comes close. Its power seems limited only by the creativity of thinkers and dreamers. Digital enables brands to be everpresent in ways that inform and delight people when they're at home on a computer, engaged on a mobile device, passing a compelling outdoor display or standing in a store aisle. And digital works across categories, as exemplified by the feature "Digital Discoveries" on the website of luxury brand Louis Vuitton.
12. Health & Wellness
The impact of consumer concern with health is most apparent in the decline of cola sales and the addition of salad and apple slices to fast food menus. But the trend is deeper and wider than two categories. Because we're only human, we'll continue to consume food and drinks that are bad for us. But we'll do it less. We won't feel good about it. And we won't feel good about the brands that enable this behavior. Coke and Pepsi emphasized healthier options. And they were not alone.
Consumers feel entitled again. Having tightened their belts for so long, they need to exhale. In categories such as luxury and personal care, individuals spent money at all price points, more to feel good about themselves than to impress others, whether purchasing an expensive fragrance from Hermès or a more affordable one from Clinique.