We all love lists. Dave’s Top 10, the Guinness Book of World Records, the best-selling albums, the most influential people—there is no end to our passion for lists and list-making.
Marketers are no different. And to feed that passion, the folks at Interbrand Inc. compile an annual assessment of the top 100 global brands in several different categories. Before we actually take a look at who’s on top (focusing on the top 20—you can check the rest for yourself at http://ow.ly/1Obcu), let’s consider what benchmarks and measurements are used to determine the winners.
According to the company, “The Interbrand method for valuing brands…examines [them] through the lens of financial strength, the importance of the brand in driving consumer selection, and the likelihood of ongoing revenue generated by the brand.”
Here are the specific criteria:
1. There must be substantial, publicly-available financial data.
2. One-third of the brand’s revenues must come from outside its country of origin.
3. The brand must be positioned to play a significant role in the consumers’ purchase decision.
4. The Economic Value Added (EVA) must be positive, showing that there is revenue above the company’s operating and financing costs.
5. The brand must have a broad public profile and awareness.
In the words of Patrizio di Marco, CEO of Gucci (whose brand ranks at #41), “The most successful and enduring brands are those built over the long term, where a consistent and cohesive set of values is established in the minds of your customers. From that moment onwards you should never compromise on these values for short-term gain.”
While the financial data is certainly significant in determining the top brands, the other side suggests less tangible criteria are equally important. Those who study such things indicate that one of the primary keys to becoming and remaining a top brand is relevance, and the underlying basis of relevance is authenticity and meaningfulness.
An article by Joe Cecere, Vice President and Creative Director, Little & Company, http://www.littleco.com/pdf/PERSPECTIVES_Brandrelevance.pdf offers the insight that the brands that endure, the brands that consistently rise to the top year after year, do so by understanding trends, recognizing shifts in the marketplace and taking actions to defend their brand within the volatile environment of global change.
So we have to ask the question—the same one BrandSmart 2010 poses: In a world that’s constantly changing, how do you maintain brand relevance? According to Cecere, the answer is found in one word: adaptation.
“Adaptability can take many forms. These brands have not only remained relevant, but have thrived because of their ability to meet changing consumer needs, new competitive challenges, even shifting internal trends.
“Change is a key ingredient in brand longevity. If brand watching teaches us anything, it’s that if you want to remain relevant, you can never stand still, no matter how established your laurels.” This goes back to di Marco’s position of building a brand “over the long term with a consistent and cohesive set of values.” Yet the established brand must be flexible, adaptable and responsive in order to remain relevant.
The effect of all this volatility and change results in a loss of customer trust overall. And as customers trust less, stable brands matter more. A successful brand needs to stand for something that actually matters. (http://www.klminc.com/branding/brand-relevance.html)
Brands must build a “foundation of messaging that is flexible, adaptable and nimble to take best advantage of emerging opportunities, while mitigating unforeseen obstacles. As the business world continues to shift beneath your feet, a message platform (and the story that guides it) can be the roadmap for remaining relevant to every stakeholder in every situation.” http://briancreath.wordpress.com/category/brand-relevance/
So which brands have successfully created that foundation of messaging to survive, thrive and flourish as relevant and meaningful from both a financial and qualitative standpoint? Here are the top 20 brands for 2009 (2008 rank in parentheses) identified by both Interbrand and Business Week http://ow.ly/1ObiR
1. Coca-Cola (1)
2. IBM (2)
3. Microsoft (3)
4. GE (4)
5. Nokia (5)
6. McDonald’s (8)
7. Google (10)
8. Toyota (6)
9. Intel (7)
10. Disney (9)
11. Hewlett-Packard (12)
12. Mercedes-Benz (11)
13. Gillette (14)
14. Cisco (17)
15. BMW (13)*
16. Louis Vuitton (16)
17. Marlboro (18)
18. Honda (20)
19. Samsung (21)*
20. Apple (24)
*American Express fell from 15 in 2008 to 22 in 2009; Citi had been ranked 19 in 2008, 36 in 2009.
After you check out the rankings at these sites, let us know if you agree or question the validity of the rankings. Did your brand make the cut? Should another brand have been named to the top 10 or 20 leading global brands? What factors do you believe are most important in determining a successful global brand, and does success equal relevance? Share your thoughts here and take a stand for your brand.