5 action points for building
and sustaining valuable brands
1. Invest in long-term brand growth
This year’s record rise in the value of the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands validated this key point. Brands that deliver consistent Meaningfully Different products and experiences, and effectively communicate about them, grow faster in value, provide greater return to shareholders, and are better able to navigate the inevitable marketplace disruptions. The list of disruptors is long and often technology-related. It includes the disintermediation of brands by voice assistants as well as challenges from the proliferation of new brands on the internet.
2. Look East for inspiration
Traditional test markets may not best capture the needs and expectations of today’s consumer. The place to stress test products is Shanghai and other Chinese cities where consumer expectations are high because brand ecosystems are so much more developed. Chinese consumers expect to shop, pay bills, order taxis, view entertainment, and engage in myriad other activities, seamlessly and with minimal friction, using their smartphones. Brand builders looking to the West to understand the future of consumer behavior and customer experience are looking in the wrong direction.
3. Broaden communication
Brand building spans every consumer touch point from initial awareness to engagement, transaction, and ongoing conversation. Advertising remains a critical part of this consumer-brand relationship. But today, communication needs to match the needs of a more complex relationship. Brands—especially those with vast ecosystems—are engaging in social media with live streaming and other brand expressions that connect the consumer to the brand anywhere—before, after, and along the winding path to purchase.
4. Develop the brand ecosystem
A brand ecosystem is the industrial conglomerate updated for the digital age. It is a network in which a brand connects with multiple aspects of peoples’ lives. Each interaction adds data that informs subsequent interactions. In the industrial age, the effect would be called synergistic. In the digital age, every action adds data and insight to the brand’s understanding of its individual customer. Ultimately, individuals rather than demographic segments, populate the ecosystem. Scale is great. But the possibility of interacting with customers at multiple points and serving multiple needs does not require vast scale.
5. Build Meaningful Difference
In a world where consumers will have many purchase decisions made for them by algorithms, it is important to give consumers reasons to proactively consider and choose a brand. The brand needs to stand out, but it needs to be salient for a reason. It needs to have a purpose that meets consumer needs in relevant ways that go beyond a functional benefit to form an emotional connection. And it needs to be distinctive. These qualities do not guarantee that consumer will ultimately select the brand—a lot of competitive promotional activity happens on the way to the sale. But Meaningful Difference makes it much more likely that a brand will be considered.