According to the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands ranking by Millward Brown, Apple heads the list in terms of brand value. What’s too often lost during an average boardroom conversation is that 34% of Apple’s $623 billion value is comprised of an intangible asset known simply as “brand value.” While average companies become mired in the minutia of balance sheets, leaders of master brands like Apple [or] of which Apple is a prime example, understand and respect how the company’s brand contributes to the value of the company, exclusive of financials and other factors.
Defining the brand experience is often an interwoven, multi-dimensional effort utilizing both a strategic view towards the big picture as well as painstaking attention to details that differentiate the brand across every customer touch point. The dimensions of the brand are thereby formulated in product quality, service and performance, descriptive language, visual identity, experiential design, tactical materials, and media.
Other top 10 leaders on the 2012 BrandZ list are also of notable brand strength: AT&T, CocaCola, IBM, and McDonald’s. They each earn high scores for brand contribution towards corporate earnings.
While media performance measures (e.g. impressions, hits, views, etc.) may be readily quantifiable as marketers focus on big data to ascertain customer attributes, the intangible asset of “brand” continues to be more a measure of passion, perception, retention and consistency of message. What becomes apparent is that successful brands are heavily invested in innovation in order to preempt changing market demands.
Passion, Consistency and Differentiation: The Keys to a Superior Brand
Where do we see passion for discovery, convenience, performance and satisfaction? What makes successful brands outperform their competitors, those brands that continuously reimagining themselves or those brands that listen to their customers? Time and again these successful brands present themselves with clarity and consistency, while providing an enhanced level of engagement that stimulates an emotional connection with their audiences, generation after generation.
It’s difficult for average companies to define and justify the line-item expense of creative services and marketing staff necessary to achieve messages that become ingrained within generations of customers. During times of economic stress, the efforts to simply maintain market share can undermine investments in creativity at two ends of the corporation–R&D and in brand messaging. When budgets tighten, we often see the impact on brand reach and consistency, and the results are communication gaps and brand perception inconsistencies for customers. Achieving and sustaining market differentiation, customer and channel engagement, and ultimately sales, comes at an even greater cost for international marketers where subtle nuances of language and culture must be considered when planning for target audience preferences and brand perception.
Increased pressure for documentation, accountability and transparency can add to the burden of creating a strong brand. This justification of marketing expenses saps time and labor that could be used to support creativity and technology all for the benefit of the customer. Certain types of initiatives have suffered the burden of media scrutiny – perks like sales incentive programs where employees are rewarded with group travel. Unfortunately, the cultural benefits and performance enhancements created by such activities, which ultimately trickle down to brand perception, are not easily measured nor recognized.
A successful focus on corporate culture as a part of brand should also be extended to relationships with suppliers. Here again, cost scrutiny frequently supersedes excellence and quality, with little regard for how the supplier, through its role, contributes to the passion and consistency of the brand experience.