Trust in digital advertising is at an all-time low thanks to various data misuse scandals and the public's growing awareness about how their data can be exploited. While GDPR can be seen as the regulators big stand on behalf of consumers, the industry itself should be taking a proactive approach too. So what should advertisers and vendors do? Ben Humphrey suggests five key areas where they should take action.
When people started using Google as a search engine almost 20 years ago, few could have predicted the global dominance it has achieved today. Warren Buffet recently admitted he failed to recognise its potential. However, the signs were all there. Even in the early days, Google’s brand was performing highly in five areas that are indicators of strong future growth potential.
As a matter of fact, 86 of the brands listed in Kantar Millward Brown’s first BrandZ Global Top 100, back in 2006, are still in the ranking today. Each has been measured on key brand attributes and consumer perceptions over that 12-year period – and the analysis shows that those which have grown their value the most in that time exhibit five ‘vital signs’ of brand health.
- These brands have a strong sense of purpose, founded on an intent to make people’s lives better in some way.
- They are innovative, which means consumers see them as leaders in their sector and brands that shake things up.
- They express their purpose and innovation through creative, powerful and memorable communications.
- They bring everything to life with a great brand experience.
- Over time, consumers have developed a sense of love towards these brands.
When these five vital signs are all strong, a brand has the best chance of driving purchase and commanding a price premium. This is why the ‘healthiest’ brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100 have vastly outperformed their rivals. Their combined brand value has increased 232% since 2006, while the least ‘healthy’ brands have grown 15% in value.
Brands in excellent health
Unsurprisingly, the brands that score highly across all areas include some of the world’s best known names, like Nike, which has increased its brand value 217% since 2006. Nike has focused single-mindedly on its purpose – to make athletes perform better – clearly communicating it with targeted messaging. As a result, it has cultivated strong relationships with consumers, which it continues to build on with innovations such as direct-to-consumer shopping experiences.
Amazon has grown its brand value a massive 2,228% since 2006 after evolving from an online bookseller into a platform that plays a role in every facet of our lives. Its purpose is simple and compelling: to make people’s lives easier on a day to day basis. And Amazon delivers on this in the brand experience; it’s easy to check out, return items and interact. Innovations like Prime and the Echo personal assistant have been extremely successful and brand messages are reinforced with advertising campaigns, like the touching and powerful 2016 ad The Priest and the Imam (below).
Another all-round high performer is the world’s reigning most valuable brand, Google, which has grown its value +556% in 12 years. One of the leaders in advancing the use of AI, it innovates constantly to improve core products such as Google Search, Google Maps and Google Translation, while introducing new ideas like autonomous cars and Google Home. It also helps us communicate and collaborate at work, with its cloud capability and enterprise tools.
Brands show potential and are the ones to watch
The clues that suggest which brands may have the potential to become the giants of the future are visible in the DNA of a number of disruptors. Strong in all five ‘vital signs’ is Netflix, a new entry into the Top 100 after growing its brand value 30% in a single year. Netflix has redefined how consumers access film and other entertainment content, evolving from a streaming platform into a provider of high quality original content. So confident in its future is Netflix that CEO Reed Hastings recently claimed its biggest competitor was our need for sleep.
Car manufacturer Tesla is not yet in the BrandZ Global Top 100, but grew its value 32% in the last year. Strong on purpose, innovation and brand experience, it lags behind on communication and as yet lacks high levels of love. Tesla positions itself definitively as a luxury brand that offers performance motoring without the guilt, and has been able to innovate to develop mass market models while also retaining exclusivity at the top end. If it focuses on how it expresses this through marketing, Tesla could unlock a great deal of love.
Getting in shape
All brands stand to improve their health if they examine and measure their performance against each of the five vital signs outlined above, and focus investment on improving any areas in which they lag.
The priority area for a strategic ‘health kick’ should be brand purpose. A clear, compelling and differentiated purpose serves as a foundation for the other four vital signs – guiding innovation, supercharging great marketing and driving a memorable brand experience that meets consumers’ needs and solidifies the relationship.
Huawei, the Chinese smartphone brand, is extremely strong on purpose – bringing value to customers – and this has helped it find enthusiastic customers outside China. Consumer trust in the brand has been lower than in Apple and Samsung, according to BrandZ research, but heavy investment in global marketing that harnesses A-list celebrities is boosting its presence and influence. With such strong foundations, Huawei could well be another star of the future.
It’s also important to consider wider market context, taking into account category pressures, trends and disruption. Of the 14 categories researched in BrandZ, technology scores highest overall on the five vital signs, excelling particularly in innovation and purpose. However, technology brands should avoid diluting their purpose, as they stretch their brand to create ecosystems that meet multiple consumer needs. Retail was the second-healthiest category, largely due to brands’ aptitude for connecting with consumers – but traditional retailers must protect the brand experience as they introduce digital innovations.
Sustaining strong vital signs plays a key part in future growth, but this will be an ongoing battle as consumer purchasing priorities and shopping habits change. A focus on making people’s lives better will provide the best foundation for health. And this purpose doesn’t have to be a lofty aim to change the world; finding a small but highly relevant way to improve consumers’ lives can be the equivalent of a vitamin shot.
Find out more about the BrandZ Vital Signs for Brands Success – view the webinar here.
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