There are some brands that punch above their weight in BrandZ rankings because they score well on a measure we call “Brand Contribution.”
Brand Contribution is a score between one and five that reflects how well a brand differentiates itself from its competitors, generates desire, and cultivates loyalty. The Brand Contribution score a brand receives is the result of extensive consumer research, so it reflects the quantification of current sentiment among consumers towards a brand.
The inclusion of Brand Contribution scores in the formula used to generate brand value is one of the key ways that BrandZ rankings are distinguished from other brand valuation methodologies. BrandZ is the only ranking that uses online and face-to-face interviews with consumers to quantify the place that brands occupy in people’s hearts and minds.
At first glance, the 10 brands do not present a united front, though this is not unusual for brand contribution. They come from a wide range of categories and valuations. Some are among the most and others among the least valuable brands in the Top 100. Several of these brands, like Coca-Cola, are nearly universally known and widely consumed. Others, like Pinterest and Estée Lauder, play to more niche audiences, which greatly appreciate the products and services they provide.
Still, as you lean into them a little closer, a few patterns emerge. Many of these brands are enablers. FedEx and UPS are major facilitators of the modern digital lifestyle, indeed, without their superb customer service and attention to detail, Americans would very likely not have as much trust as they do in e-commerce.
Clinique and Estée Lauder are enabling people to look their best and feel confident. Among other things, both have led the charge for beauty products in providing a personalized customer experience. Clinique’s digital properties, for example, allow people to take skin quizzes that reveal their largest insecurities about their skin and deliver individualized recommendations to address them. Estée Lauder has produced numerous videos demonstrating how to use its makeup. Such efforts have not gone unnoticed by their customers.
Ways to Win
Fill that niche. Getting the most out of your brand often involves fulfilling people’s needs in a way that no one else does. Pinterest and Instagram are both photo sharing sites, but they serve extremely different purposes. Pinterest is about discovery, finding unique and inspiring images that can enable people to be more successful in family and social life. Instagram, on the other hand, is more generalized in its purpose, among other things serving as a fashion consultant, travel guide, and virtual salon for its users.
Lean into history. Part of having a strong brand involves recognizing your heritage. Several of the top brands by brand contribution are historically significant brands that have been in American life longer than any of their competitors. Coca-Cola was the first cola and largely had its competitive field free until the emergence of Pepsi during the Great Depression. Tide was the first nationally available detergent, while Pampers can say the same for disposable diapers. While many brands do not have the luxury of such innovative starts, remembering who you are is never a bad idea.
Don’t neglect salience. Salience may not be a great predictor of growth, but you shouldn’t discount its value. Many highly salient brands advertise a lot precisely because they sit in categories that make it hard to differentiate a brand, like banks, telecoms, and insurance companies. In addition, research has shown that brands that are not terribly salient can see major improvements in revenue if they increase their scores on this measure. Many of the smaller top brands for brand contribution are not very salient and likely could see benefits from upping their investment in ads.
Be an enabler. In BrandZ terminology, purpose is defined as helping people live better lives. Regardless of their scores in the rankings, many of the top brands for brand contribution are doing just that. Whether it’s FedEx and UPS championing the e-commerce revolution, Clinique and Estée Lauder giving their customers more confidence, Tide cleaning clothes effectively, or Pampers helping people feel like they’re doing a good job, these brands are all helping people be more effective in their lives. Finding a sense of purpose in what you sell can make your brand seem more worthwhile to your customers.
Theory in Action
It’s hard to remember a time when HBO wasn’t cool. Forty-five years ago, it was the first of its kind: a channel that played recently released movies and created its own content. Early on, its presence on cable gave it an inherent advantage over television networks: it could deal with edgier and more adventurous topics. However, it has easily retained its advantage over upstart rivals like Amazon and Netflix, even as they have tried to emulate success. Part of the reason is its excellent curation of content. Compared to the 700 shows that Netflix produces every year, HBO only puts out around 15. This focus on quality may be risky but the brand’s long string of hits has worked. Though this year saw it retire its incredibly popular Game of Thrones, the brand is preparing several spinoffs to leverage the series’ magic. In an era where consumers are being faced with an increasingly bewildering number of OTT platforms, people have long gotten used to paying for HBO and will likely continue to do so in the future.