Brand Building Is Key to Succeed in a Digital Age

Erzsi Eleveld
Client Director
Kantar Millward Brown

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI), voice assistants, chatbots, and on-demand delivery will revolutionize how Dutch people make their daily buying decisions.

Dutch shoppers’ fast embrace of technology is already shaking up once staid industries: today, for instance, some three in ten Dutch consumers buy their groceries online. As this trend continues, Dutch consumers will transition to “passive selection” and stick with what they know, with most of the brands in their online shopping baskets remaining unchanged for months.

What do these technological shifts mean for brands? In fact, we expect that brands will be just as important as ever in creating a competitive advantage and driving growth for businesses. Global findings from BrandZ™ clearly demonstrate the value that strong brands create. Year after year, we see that brands in the Global Top 100 significantly outperform the field in their returns to shareholders – and, just as crucially, they recover shareholder value much faster during tough and disruptive economic times. Investing in building brands will remain important to succeed in this digital, AI-enabled future, and the essential principles of building strong brands will still hold true.

Brand Building Principles to Survive and Thrive in a Digital Age
As marketers venture into a fast changing digital environment, they need to maintain the fundamentals of brand building for long-term success. From our years of working with BrandZ™, the largest brand equity platform in the world, we have identified principles to help brands survive and thrive.

These principles are true for any market in the world, but three among these seem especially vital for success in the Netherlands. Those Dutch brands that are growing faster than others:

  • Have a defined purpose and are perceived as making people’s lives better
  • Are backed by relevant innovation and are perceived to be setting technological trends
  • Remain human-centric and focused on relationships


1.Have a defined purpose and are perceived as making people’s lives better
BrandZ™ data shows that strong brands are those that have a clear purpose in making people’s lives better, in ways both large and small. Globally, the most purposeful brands grow their brand value at three times the rate of the least purposeful.

Take, for example, Dutch brand Tony’s Chocolonely, which takes its mission statement, “Crazy about chocolate, serious about people,” very seriously indeed. It produces chocolate that closely follows fair trade practices, which means that the brand is strongly opposed to slavery and buys cocoa directly from farmers in Africa. Consumers see Tony’s Chocolonely as offering something very different to other brands, with a social purpose at the heart of everything it does – while also, of course, offering great-tasting chocolate. Tony’s also stands for continual innovation, most notably in the form of the three limited edition flavors the brand introduces each year (the best of which are then added to the brand’s permanent collection.)

Of course, purpose alone will not drive success; brands must also meet the performance demands of the market. So, while it’s great, for example, that Amsterdam based start-up Fairphone is developing smartphones designed and produced with minimal environmental impact, that’s only part of the story. The brand’s purpose of creating a phone using fair labor conditions and conflict-free minerals will surely encourage many people to check out its phones – but ultimately it will need more positive product reviews across tech journals and blogs, as well good performance and processing specs, to convince shoppers to switch.

2. Are backed by relevant innovation and are perceived to be setting technological trends
Innovation can propel brand growth by creating a positive predisposition in people’s minds. Sure enough, BrandZ’s surveys show that value growth is more than 7 times faster for brands perceived as high on innovation. That said, only those innovations which consumers recognize and endorse can drive brand value.

Online supermarket Picnic, which raised 100 million Euros last year, is a disruptive player in the grocery retail space. They have instituted many operational cost savings behind the scenes to keep their business profitable. But most important from a consumer perspective are those innovations that are easy to see. These include free deliveries, more precise delivery timeframes, and the company’s fleet of electric delivery vehicles.

Another example: While Heineken wasn’t, in fact, the first mover to respond to growing demand for alcohol free beer, the splashy way it went about launching its 0.0 product made Heineken big news – meaning consumers perceived it to be the one setting the trends. Heineken’s partnership with Formula 1 at the Spanish Grand Prix, coupled with an integrated campaign including TV, digital, and experiential activations, gave the product a highly visible launch platform and an innovative sheen.

3. Remain human-centric and focused on relationships
Brands that deliver a great experience across all touchpoints and interactions grow their value most strongly. Standout brands cement their relationship with consumers by creating a holistic ecosystem that fully satisfies people’s needs.

Electronic goods e-commerce player Coolblue is completely based around the combination of great service and low price. Their efforts in the pre-purchase, fulfillment, delivery, and return phases are all geared toward achieving a smile. Coolblue empowers its employees by offering them flexibility in what they’re allowed to offer during customer service interactions. The result is a can-do mentality among staff, as well as pleasantly surprised customers. Coolblue staffers are always available for pre-purchase consultation via a variety of platforms, including phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp chats.

Similarly, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has built a very strong digital platform to not only handle complaints and queries, but also to pro-actively inform passengers about their flight status. KLM has also built an integrated, holistic approach to check-in, allowing passengers to flexibly receiv