Value creation beyond the actual number
By Nina Oswald
For the second time, Interbrand is ranking the strongest brands in the German market today: Best German Brands shows the most valuable brands originating in Germany. This year’s ranking consolidates a total value of all top 50 brands amounting to 172,128 billion euros. Brand managers in Germany are doing a great job in making strategic branding investments that play a major role in ensuring financial stability.
All top risers had a good year in terms of financial performance, showing that their branding investments have paid off. Mercedes remains at the top of the list at number one, the country’s most valuable brand. Germany's automotive pioneer has revitalized itself with new models and fresh expressions of its brand, and celebrated yet another record year in 2014. Unit sales and revenue increased once again with earnings significantly higher over the previous year. Mercedes understands today's complex experience-based economy and is well-positioned to create a mecosystem around each customer. With a strong customer experience strategy, a world-leading position, contributions to clean mobility, and innovations like an experimental self-driving car in development, Mercedes-Benz appears to have a clear vision of its future, and is moving purposefully toward it.
TUI (+43%) is Europe’s leading travel group and the biggest climber in this year’s ranking. Plans of rebranding as “one TUI” have a strong impact on future brand value: This move will allow the brand to increase its consistency and presence across its many markets. TUI also adopted a new slogan, “Discover your smile”. An iconic part of TUI’s heritage, the familiar TUI smile allows the brand to capitalize on its strong brand awareness and loyalty.
Audi (+17%) is the top riser in the automotive industry. The brand has managed the digital shift effectively, connecting very well with its target audiences through virtual showrooms and using the latest tools and resources in ingenious ways.
Diversified companies like BASF (+8%) are also showing an above-average increase in brand value. BASF invested a great deal in its brand by launching a new tagline, "We create chemistry". The company also activated its new strategy through platforms and activities that give consumers and the general public opportunities to engage with the brand.
Good branding is not specific to certain industries – indeed, all three new entries to this year’s ranking come from different industries. They all have shown stabile financial performance over the past few years, thanks in part to their strategic brand investments. The highest new entry of this year’s ranking is Jägermeister (#40). This once traditional beverage in Germany has become a trendy drink among (not only) young people around the world, preserving its strong history and core values while introducing innovations and investing heavily in international marketing. After a successful repositioning of the brand some year ago, the brand is growing constantly and helping reinforce the company’s stability.
The other newcomers to the 2015 list are Sixt and DEKRA. The Sixt (#44) brand has a consistent visual identity across all touch points, with a distinctive orange brand color and provocative, attention-grabbing advertising campaigns. One example of Sixt’s strong presence and responsiveness was the company’s response to the strike of the train drivers’ union, GDL, in an engaging social media and advertising campaign this year.
Dekra (#47) is one of the world’s leading providers of testing, certification and consulting services. The company is currently expanding, including through acquisitions, to focus on the consulting side of the business in response to changing client needs. Such efforts reinforce Dekra’s reliable, impartial and professional reputation, and are an excellent fit for the brand’s internal values and areas of operation.
But what can we learn beyond the actual ranking and numbers? In analyzing and benchmarking the most successful brands this year, we identified four important drivers that are influencing value creation for brand managers today and in the future.
Consistency is relative, and the decisive impact of a touch point can be amplified by seamlessly integrating the interaction in its respective context. Strategic partnerships often allow for extensions into new platforms, target audiences and additional products and services. Opening up the relevant branding territory not only demands collaboration and co-creation, but also a flexible and smart use of the brand identity. Customers no longer expect a brand to simply be the same at every touch point. They don't live in a world in which brand experiences are lined up like a chain of pearls. Brand experiences are no longer predetermined sequences of events in a certain location where someone is responsible for closing the deal. Online and social platforms allow for information gathering, choice, transaction and fulfillment at any time, and in a complex and asymmetrical path. Successful brands like Deutsche Telekom and Jägermeister show how to hold true to their brand core and visual assets while playing creatively and effectively with brand experiences across platforms and individual customer journeys. Brand managers today can no longer rely on fixed guidelines– the job of brand management is becoming more content-driven. This requires case-by-case judgment calls, as well as individual accountability and decision-making.
Brands like Sixt set themselves apart by actively pushing for presence and relevance in customers’ minds. They take the latest news and events, and build their stories around it. The world today is highly connected, omnipresent and fast – but you need to be faster. Responsiveness is a game changer. Not in the degree to which a brand feels omnipresent and talked about, but also in its ability to respond to market opportunities. In addition to a very active and agile communication strategy, today’s brands need a clear idea of how to develop innovation strategies. Brand leadership needs the desire and ability to constantly evolve.
Good brand expressions and experiences are no longer enough to stand out in the market. Customers don't live in experiences – they value individual, personal memories. Brands need to provide much more than perfectly designed experiences. To be remembered, they need to connect with customers on a broader level, tell a story and deliver beyond the actual branded offer: Relevant stories are the key. BASF has managed to reposition itself as a relevant spokesperson for our global society. By changing its tagline and activating an extensive range of core topics, the brand is getting closer to its consumers and their lives. Stories are vital to connect with broader audiences, and content is essential to creating strong stories.
It’s also a fact that customers do not demand 'multichannel' marketing. A multichannel strategy is a silo mentality: Creating an omnichannel experience will likely result in rethinking the organization. Customers today demand curated, not dictated brand experiences. More than ever, brand managers today need to play an integrated role within organizations. Branding boards and other platforms will help effectively integrate different organizational roles in a holistic brand management system. The conscious design of customer journeys is a cross-functional task, and will be a major consideration for successful branding in the future.
To sum it up: Congratulations to all top 50 brand managers for a great year of successful and valuable branding in 2015.
And for 2016: Don't wait until tomorrow to change the way you communicate, activate and manage your brand. Be fast and responsive – focus on designing journeys rather than individual touch points, overcome your channel thinking and reach for new strategies to innovate.