“Al­ways Coca-Cola” – a brand prom­ise made… and kept

Finweek English Edition - - News -

For some, this year’s In­ter­brand Best Global Brands rank­ings come as no sur­prise. Apart from a slight reshuf­fling, the top five brands re­main un­changed.

As the best global brand for the eighth year in a row, Co­caCola is keep­ing its brand prom­ise to con­sumers. IBM takes over the No. 2 po­si­tion from Microsoft, which now ranks third. Gen­eral Elec­tric (GE) and Nokia rank fourth and fifth re­spec­tively.

Al­though there aren’t any South African brands in In­ter­brand’s top 100 rank­ing, the top 10 have on av­er­age been around for 84 years, said In­ter­brand South Africa’s chair­man Jeremy Samp­son at a re­cent fo­rum event hosted by the Uni­ver­sity of Pre­to­ria’s Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Sci­ence (GIBS).

The im­por­tant thing is that th­ese com­pa­nies are hold­ing up and re­tain­ing their huge brand val­ues in tur­bu­lent mar­kets, said Samp­son.

Pro­tect­ing and grow­ing a brand is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. “It is a busi­ness’s most valu­able as­set. And, dur­ing times of eco­nomic un­cer­tainty it is far less volatile than other as­sets,” he said.

Strong brands grow in weak economies, be­cause they ac­crue fu­ture de­mand and cus­tomer loy­alty. But, ir­re­spec­tive of whether the times are good or bad, Samp­son said, the key to suc­cess is un­der­stand­ing how your brand cre­ates value.

For ex­am­ple, top search en­gine Google, now in tenth po­si­tion, is 2008’s big­gest clim­ber. The brand is now val­ued at US$25 590 mil­lion, up 43% from last year.

“Google is no longer just an in­ter­net brand. It is the in­ter­net,” said Samp­son. Al­most all of Google’s rev­enues come from ad­ver­tis­ing on its search re­sult pages.

In­no­va­tions, like Google Earth and Google Mo­bile make the brand an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of our daily lives.

But, in the ever chang­ing land­scape of pri­vacy and copy­right law, Google has its crit­ics. The com­pany is in­creas­ingly tested against its un­of­fi­cial cor­po­rate motto: “Don’t be evil.”

The value of green con­tin­ues to shade brand per­for­mance, as com­pa­nies eval­u­ate the en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and fi­nan­cial im­pacts of their sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives.

Com­pa­nies like GE (4) and BP (84) moved up the rank­ing by mak­ing sub­stan­tial in­vest­ments in sus­tain­able busi­ness prac­tices. BP is also the leader in work­ing to­wards greener en­ergy and in­vest­ing in sus­tain­able en­ergy sources.

Samp­son said sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts should be con­sis­tent with a brand’s po­si­tion­ing, cre­ate value for the busi­ness and do the right thing for the planet.

2008’s big­gest loser, Ford, con­tin­ues to strug­gle, af­ter in­vest­ing heav­ily in the rapidly shrink­ing big truck mar­ket.

“De­spite chang­ing its prod­uct port­fo­lio, con­sumers are still not con­vinced that Ford does more than man­u­fac­ture big gas guz­zlers,” said Samp­son.

“Al­though Ford now pro­duces smaller ve­hi­cles in the US, it needs to com­mu­ni­cate with cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees to re-es­tab­lish its rep­u­ta­tion,” said Samp­son.

Chang­ing its im­age won’t hap­pen overnight. “Neg­a­tive me­dia cov­er­age on the com­pany’s per­for­mance also un­der­mines in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal con­fi­dence in the brand.”

He said peo­ple have emo­tional re­la­tion­ships with brands. If some­thing goes slightly wrong with one of our favourite brands, we give it a sec­ond chance. But, if we don’t have a re­la­tion­ship with a brand, we won’t, be­cause we have al­ter­na­tives.

“Brand value is about cre­at­ing, manag­ing and mea­sur­ing brand value across ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness,” said Samp­son. “In driv­ing brand value, the brand should be at the core of the busi­ness. It be­comes the unit­ing force in ev­ery­thing you do and say.”

He said you op­ti­mise a brand’s per­for­mance by only spending money on the things that will drive de­mand and cre­ate value.

Samp­son said many of the ma­jor brands weren’t thought of as brands orig­i­nally. They came about through pro­fes­sional man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing, and through in­vest­ment, which is not nec­es­sar­ily syn­ony­mous with ad­ver­tis­ing.

He said ten years ago 90% of com­pa­nies’ mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing spend went to “above the line” ad­ver­tis­ing. That’s dropped to way be­low 50%. Many of the world’s big­gest brands, like Star­bucks, don’t ad­ver­tise at all.

Samp­son said, in fu­ture, com­pa­nies will in­creas­ingly use mo­bile tex­ting or SMS and the In­ter­net. Apart from be­ing cheaper, th­ese me­dia chan­nels are more tar­geted, more pre­cise and more con­trol­lable than tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing chan­nels.

“The world is in tur­moil. You need to be a solid brand for your cus­tomers so that their world makes a lit­tle more sense,” said Santie Botha, mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer at mo­bile net­work provider MTN, which has been around for 14 years.

“You need to think big, think fast and think ahead. Ideas are no one’s mo­nop­oly,” she said.

Suc­cess­ful brands un­der­stand their mar­kets and, there­fore, con­stantly rein­vent them­selves. That’s why MTN (which sees it­self as a truly “glo­cal” com­pany) em­ploys lo­cal peo­ple, who un­der­stand the mar­ket, but also have in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

Com­ment­ing on how to get the elu­sive Gen­er­a­tion Y’s at­ten­tion, Botha said it is about ad­dic­tion; hook­ing into peo­ple’s pas­sions and get­ting into their blood­streams.

Botha said Gen­er­a­tion Y is about four things:

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