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Fame is Not Enough


Fame is Not Enough

The powerful cocktail of Meaning, Difference and Salience

When brands stand out from the crowd in a way that matters to consumers, they perform better and grow in value faster than those that don’t. We call it having Meaningful Difference, and we’ve already shown that the Top 10 fastest-growing UK brands of 2019 have Meaningful Difference in spades.

Brands in the top half of the Top 75 have Meaningful Difference scores 12 percent higher than the average UK brand, while those in the lower half are 6 percent stronger on this important metric than average.

But there’s another key factor in success that works in combination with Meaning and Difference. At BrandZ, we use the term “Salience”, and it’s closely linked with being well known, though it goes further than that. A salient brand isn’t just famous; it springs to mind as a potential option when a consumer thinks of a category or has a need.

Most brands know that they need to have their name out there if they’re to make sales, and it’s true that the most valuable brands in the world are very well known. In fact, the Top 50 brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100 for 2019 are 12 percent more Salient than the next 50, and let’s not forget that the next 50 are all household names themselves, so this is quite some achievement.

But often brands get fixated on fame. We want to be clear that while Salience is important, Meaningful Difference actually matters more.

British High Streets and shopping centres are littered with empty shops that have been vacated by incredibly famous businesses – brands that have been household names for generations – but that have failed to adapt fast enough to changing circumstances. We look at retail in more detail, but you only need to consider the likes of Toys’R’Us, JJB Sports and BHS to understand that fame simply isn’t enough to sustain a brand.

Getting the balance right

Brands do need to be Salient in order to achieve growth; after all, people need to have heard of a brand in order to consider buying it, and the name must come to mind at the time they’re thinking about making a relevant purchase.

But brands must also attain and retain Meaningful Difference in order to fuel their growth potential.

The bad news is that UK brands have been losing Meaning, Difference and Salience in recent years, and this explains the current stagnation in value growth. The Top 10 Most Valuable UK brands are now only marginally more Meaningful than the average of all brands in the UK.

What might surprise some is that the fastest-growing UK brands in the Top 75 this year are actually more Meaningfully Different than they are Salient. And for the other 65 brands in the ranking, the reverse is true: they are significantly more Salient than they are Meaningfully Different.

This imbalance represents a sizeable risk for UK brands. Too much focus on being well known, at the expense of being well known for something that stands out and really matters to consumers, is a recipe for disaster.

The same is true on the world stage. Among the most valuable global brands, those that are growing are much more Meaningfully Different than those that are stable or are in decline. Brands seeing shrinking value are more Salient than growing brands, but that’s not stopping them from losing value.