Even in a climate of global disruption, the BrandZ™ data for 2021 shows that brand-building and long-term marketing investment are still key. The strongest, most profitable brands enjoy the strongest Brand Equity.
In particular, the core building blocks of Brand Equity - Meaning, Difference and Salience – continue to separate the brands that grow from the brands that decline. As a quick refresher:
Meaningful brands are brands that consumers feel meet people’s needs and connect with them emotionally.
Different brands feel different from the rest of their category, and set trends in the marketplace.
Salient brands come to mind quickly and readily when activated by ideas relating to category purchase.
In the 2021 BrandZ™ Netherlands data, we still see that the most valuable Dutch Brands – those in the Top 30 and above of our ranking – enjoy well-above-average scores for Meaningful, Different, and Salient:
What’s more, Meaning, Difference and Salience also separate top Dutch brands that grow from brands that decline, with performance of growing brands being stronger on these equity drivers:
As this data shows, it’s not that declining brands are necessarily doing poorly on any measures of brand equity – indeed, their average scores for Meaningful and Salient are well above the average Dutch brand score of 100. The only outlier here is Difference. Even as this year’s declining brands in the Dutch Top 30 performed basically well on Meaningful and Salient… as a group, the declining brands also had an average Difference score that was only slightly higher than the typical Dutch brand (an average score of 107 against a baseline of 100). Declining brands are not awful on Difference, but they’re not great, either.
This suggests that Difference is the key metric for differentiating gainers from decliners amid the COVID-19 storm – a hypothesis that is further borne out by the year-on-year Dutch Top 30™ data. This year, 15 of the ranking’s 28 returning brands notched Difference scores that were well above average (110 or above). As a group, these high-Difference brands increased their total brand value by 4 percent - a notable feat in a year when the overall value of the Dutch Top 30 declined by 12 percent.
In contrast, 13 of this year’s 28 returning brands had difference scores that were slightly above or below average. As a group, these less Different brands declined by 12 percent:
Brand Health, vQ, and the building blocks of Meaningful Difference
The challenge for most top Dutch brands, is how to take brands that are already largely Meaningful, and make them more Meaningfully Different. The ways to do this will vary from industry to industry, and from brand to brand – there are countless paths, after all, to setting trends in the marketplace.
One first step that all brands should take, however, is to examine their existing strengths and weaknesses in key components of Meaningful Difference.
To help companies gain a better understanding of these existing strengths and weaknesses, BrandZ™ has identified five factors that together highly correlate with Meaningful Difference. vQ is the name of this proprietary diagnostic measure of “Brand Health.” It is made up of five indicators:
- A strong sense of Brand Purpose, meaning that the brand makes people’s lives better.
- Innovation, defined as a brand being seen as a leader and change agent in their sector.
- Strong Communications, with creative, powerful, and memorable advertising.
- A great Brand Experience that meets consumers’ needs, and is available when and where consumers need it.
- A sense of brand Love that’s built with consumers over time, and that helps to sustain the brand until the next innovation.
This year, the better a brand performed on vQ and its underlying elements, the more positive its brand value change was – a sign that brands cannot afford to overlook any of the dimensions of Meaningful Difference:
For interested companies, BrandZ™ can drill down even further to perform a “Meaningful Difference Diagnosis” that codifies a brand’s strengths and weaknesses on Difference at the granular level. Just like humans, brands need to be proactive in monitoring their vital signs - the better to identify and build on existing strengths, and also to head off any looming trouble.