10 Principles of Brand Strength

Business is changing, but the principles of strong brands still hold true. Interbrand’s Brand Strength Score is comprised of 10 components, all of which have an important and equal role in the brand’s ability to generate value.

While Interbrand has always looked to these components through our years of valuing brands, they recently underwent an update to better reflect the factors that are reshaping the marketplace. These factors include proliferation of social media, corporate citizenship, audience fragmentation, the increasing role of product design, and increased pressure on ROI.

The 10 principles bring together all aspects of a brand — its people, products, positioning and partners — to create a more holistic and accurate way of understanding and evaluating the power of brands.

2 COMMITMENT

CommitmentA measure of an organization’s internal commitment to or belief in its brand. Commitment is the extent to which the brand receives support in terms of time, influence and investment.

A retailer's brand is a powerful ally in the fight for share, but it requires full ongoing commitment from the boardroom to the sales floor. U.K.'s supermarket giant, Tesco, rises above commodity status to the point of transcending its category, thanks to corporate commitment to brand. Tesco's staff of 20,000 receives training in "every little help" skills, and the company continues to invest in internal education and incentives for its people to become brand advocates, and improve their ability to "live" the brand.

3 PROTECTION

ProtectionThis component examines how secure a brand is across a number of dimensions – from legal protection and proprietary ingredients to design, scale or geographic spread.

Consumers continue to perceive the retail landscape as "a sea of sameness." Stores across categories sell similar merchandise and imitate one another's promotions, leading to the challenge of blurred channels. Since there is no Coca-Cola-like
secret formula and few design patents that retail brands can avail themselves of to protect the integrity of their brands, the best protection is real estate. Great scale and geographic spread protects the Walmart retail brand. The company has over 8,400 stores in 15 countries (500 of those were added globally just in fiscal 2010).

1 CLARITY

ClarityThe brand's values, positioning and proposition must be clearly articulated and shared across the organization, along with a clear view of its target audiences, customer insights and drivers. It is vital that those within the organization know and understand all of these elements, because everything that follows hinges on them.

In this transparent day and age, it is essential for brands to ensure that employees as well as external audiences understand what the brand is about. Lidl's fight for a guaranteed minimum wage and its top 10 fair trade product line "Fairglobe" demonstrate its clear mission of quality and fairness.

Avon supports its agents by building the entrepreneur within. The iconic Avon lady is indoctrinated in and supported by a very precise set of values and a clear-cut brand proposition. The brand is also involved in many female-focused charities around the world.

4 RESPONSIVENESS

ResonsivenessThis component looks at a brand’s ability to adapt to market changes, challenges and opportunities. The brand should have a desire and ability to constantly evolve and renew itself.

Amazon.com is a world-class example of a responsive brand. Much has been written about the online giant's business history and how it continually shapes the business environment today through its innovation and leadership. The company owns several patents on key technological ideas and is always on the search for the next great thing. Amazon.com develops whole businesses where it sees the need (e-book publishing, auction house competition for eBay, cheaper print-on-demand publishing, website, and data hosting).

5 AUTHENTICITY

AuthenticityThis component is about how soundly a brand is based on an internal capability. Authenticity asks if a brand has a defined heritage and a well-grounded value set, as well as if it can deliver against customers' expectations.

Marks & Spencer has resisted the urge to focus on a short-term, price-only strategy and instead opted to deliver on customer expectations through its legacy as a beloved U.K. brand. Recent communications, including the 125-year anniversary celebrations and celebrity-filled TV spots employing slogans such as "Your M&S," have played on the brand’s perception as the U.K.'s national treasure.

Another brand that has stayed true to its roots, even in the face of global expansion, is Canadian brand lululemon athletica. It has maintained its yoga-friendly, healthy lifestyle core, even as it branches into new products and markets.

6 RELEVANCE

RelevanceThis component estimates how well a brand fits with customer needs, desires and decision criteria across all appropriate demographics and geographies.

American Eagle Outfitters excels at using digital tactics to connect with its younger demographic. In 2010, it broadcast price promotions via SMS, Facebook, Foursquare checkins, mobile gift cards, QR codes, and Shopkick almost daily. As a result, it has stayed top of mind, gaining favor with teens as their idea of value moves beyond price.

French beauty brand, L'Occitane, has remained relevant by continuously updating products to create a sense of urgency and excitement. Frequently refreshed displays, and customer engagement through mobile apps keep the brand flourishing.

10 UNDERSTANDING

understanding Not only must customers recognize the brand, but there must also be an in-depth understanding of its distinctive qualities and characteristics, as well as those of the brand owner.

There is little evidence that anyone in the U.S. doesn't understand what Victoria's Secret is all about. The lingerie retailer has legions of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. It continues to stay top of mind for consumers of intimate apparel and playful lounge wear. The racy campaigns with supermodels in thongs and wings have made the brand a cultural phenomenon.

In the same way, there is no confusion around the Polo Ralph Lauren brand. Its product placement in polo matches, tennis tournaments, and involvement in the Olympics makes the ethos and aesthetic of the brand globally comprehensible.

8 CONSISTENCY

consistency This measures the degree to which a brand is experienced without fail across all touchpoints and formats.

Whole Foods Market's commitment to a healthy lifestyle is delivered at every touch point, from its feng shui-ed stores to its salad bar. Its friendly service, healthy products, and superior social media presence — which is customized in every community — ensure that the brand experience is always in line with its positioning.

9 PRESENCE

presence This measures the degree to which a brand feels omnipresent and how positively consumers, customers and opinion formers discuss it in both traditional and social media.

Brands are beginning to realize they are not in charge of their messages anymore. Their advertising campaigns are less powerful than word of mouth, which has achieved global scale thanks to the internet. This is a fact that Spanish retailer, Mango, has taken to heart, as it aggressively expands overseas. It closely follows street trends to connect with a young, urban market. The blog and ad campaign "What Should I Wear by Mango" have generated buzz in social media circles.

7 DIFFERENTIATION

differentiation This is the degree to which customers perceive the brand to have a positioning that is distinct from the competition.

When it comes time to shop for fashion apparel, there are many fine competing brands offering denim, runway knockoffs, prep, basics, or the latest trendy must-have. If you were dropped into the middle of any apparel store, would you even know where you were? In the case of Anthropologie, there would be no mistake. The store's romantic storybook cottage atmosphere and its bohemian fashion aesthetic are utterly unique. On the top of that, no two stores are alike. The brand is so distinct, it can claim something of a cult following.