Top 5 Learnings for Marketers
1. Return to the building blocks of brand value: Meaningful, Different, and Salience
Strong brands succeed in all types of economic weather. Meaningfulness, Difference, and Salience have long been the cornerstone of the BrandZ™ approach to business insight. In Japan, most of the brands in the BrandZ™ Top 50 indeed score well above average on dimension of Meaningful, Difference, and Salience. Marketers keen for their brands to join this elite group should ask themselves:
- Is my brand Meaningful? Do consumers feel that my brand meets people’s needs and connects with them emotionally?
- Is my brand Different? Do consumers think that my brand feels different from the rest of its category, and does it set trends in the marketplace?
- Is my brand Salient? Does the brand come to consumers’ minds quickly and readily when activated by ideas relating to category purchase?
2. Strengthen your pillars of survival
Kantar has analyzed the difference between brands that saw steep declines in value thanks to the events of 2020, and the ones that were able to maintain more of their value. It has identified three key pillars of survival. First is Innovation (Disruptive Leadership): Innovative, Disruptive Leaders show initiative and are quick to turn a challenge into an opportunity. They are agile not just in their product offerings, but also in areas like pricing, marketing, and distribution. Second is Social Responsibility: Socially responsible or Purposeful brands show that they care for their customers and work to make their lives better. Third is Accessibility and Salience: In a time of isolation, brands that reach out and make their presence felt in a natural, non-opportunistic way have more chances for success.
3. Build more Trust
In difficult times, Trust is everything. But building and strengthening Trust is often easier said than done. To build trust in a connected world, brands should look to activate the “Three I-s”: Integrity, Identification, and Inclusion. Integrity means doing what you promise. Identification means connecting with people at a human level. And Inclusion means building a sense of kinship.
4. Dare to be different
Even more so than Meaningfulness and Salience, Difference was the most important discriminator of growth for Japanese brands after a difficult 2020: Growing brands were perceived as much more “Different” than declining brands, and low Difference scores were a strong negative driver for brand value in the BrandZ™ Japanese rankings.
Difference was also the main driver of perceptions around brand “Premiumness” – the factor that predisposes consumers to see a product as worth paying for, and as a good value for the money. Traditionally, Japanese brands have sought to build Difference by focusing on product functionality and innovation. But some of the most successful Japanese and global brands have gone beyond this to commit to a distinct set of values and emotion, which they incorporate into everything they do. This is a more holistic approach to Difference – and it works.
5. Keep your eye on the Premium
In difficult times, the ability to generate demand for a brand – its Power – is not the only important factor for success. Brand Premium, or the perception of a brand being worth its price, increases both consumer demand and companies’ margins. At a time of constrained consumer spending, it’s not enough for people to want to buy a brand – they also need to be convinced that a brand is especially worth its price, which is the essence of Premium positioning. This year, BrandZ™ data for Japan shows that this year Premium value was highly associated with perceptions of Difference. It’s not enough that brands be Salient, Meaningful, and well-liked – consumers are looking for something extra to keep them from “trading down” to a cheaper alternative. That’s where Premium and Different come in.