Life at the top is often short-lived. The Hollywood “it” couple becomes yesterday’s news; the golden athlete gets replaced by a younger, faster rookie; and the CMO burns out after two or three years. However, the companies featured in WPP’s “BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2015” report know what it takes to reach—and stay at—the peak of performance in terms of translating customer appeal into corporate sales. In fact, 58 of the brands featured in the report, conducted by research agency Millward Brown, have remained on the list for the past 10 years.
To celebrate these brands’ achievements and help other companies reach their full potential, the marketing services company hosted a Top 100 10th Anniversary Roundtable in New York. Global Head of BrandZ Doreen Wang kicked off the event with a keynote presentation, and then David Roth, CEO of WPP’s retail practice The Store in EMEA and Asia, moderated a panel that consisted of agency and brand executives. Here’s a list of the top seven lessons I learned from each session that can help brands grow their value.
Don’t be afraid to be different.
So often in life, going against the grain has a negative connotation to it. Thoughts like “What if I fail?” or “That’s not what our competition is doing” can deter marketers from venturing outside of their that’s-what-we’ve-always-done comfort zone.
But being different is vital for value growth, Wang argued, because it makes brands seem creative, in control, and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers.
“In the world of so much product sameness, being different makes the difference,” she said.
However, being different doesn’t mean throwing a brand’s entire strategy out of the window. On the contrary, Wang said that marketers need to think of ways they can diverge from the norm while staying true to the company’s value proposition.
Have a strong brand proposition.
Every organization has a purpose—to make money. However, the brands that can clearly articulate their mission beyond the financial incentive, Wang said, are the ones that deliver a prime customer experience and stand out in the marketplace.
Ask the right questions.
Is your company’s brand value growing? Whether a brand has been around for one year or 100 years, Wang recommended having marketers ask themselves the following questions:
- How can we, as brand builders, make people’s lives better?
- Do our customers really believe that we care?
- Do we build meaningful difference?
Help marketing empower the entire organization.
Technology has enabled employees to be more collaborative than ever.
“The world where somebody sets a direction and tells everybody what to do—that way is over,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, CMO of Millward Brown Vermeer.
If marketers can clearly define their brand purpose, he said, then they can help other divisions better understand how that purpose applies to their roles.
Remember, great people build great brands.
When most marketers think of brand advocates, they tend to think of fiercely loyal customers; however, Jim Stengel, president and CEO of the consultancy The Jim Stengel Company, said that marketers shouldn’t count out their employees.
“Your employees are your greatest advocates,” he said.
Without question, hiring and maintaining the right talent is essential in marketing. For instance, Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer for Visa, said that he hires “human Swiss Army knives”—marketers who can do it all. And Linda Boff, executive director of global brand marketing for GE, likes to give her employees freedom to do what they’re good at. She recounted a story of how one of her employees suggested that GE join Instagram about five years ago. Today the company has 189,000 followers and counting and uses the tool as a way to give people an up-close look at its Brilliant Machines.
Big brands seem to have it made. Their budgets are generally bigger, and their heritage offers them a committed following. However, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, warned large organizations not to get stuck in their old ways. He said that instead they should leverage the resources of a big brand while working with the heart, mind, and soul of an entrepreneurial company.
“With age comes Scoliosis—so I can attest,” he joked.
Make learning a KPI.
No marketer knows it all. That’s why de Swaan Arons advised marketers to make learning a priority and a key benchmark. After all, he noted, those who learn faster than their competitors are the true winners.