Global CEO Jez Frampton spoke at the World Business Forum 2012 about Interbrand's 13th annual Best Global Brands report. Frampton explained that Interbrand studies the economic success of brands, the role brand plays in consumer purchase decisions and how far into the future will the brand impact customer loyalty and future sales. He notes of the brand ranking within the report, "The number itself is great, but more importantly it reminds companies of the importance of brands."
The importance of internal brand engagement was stressed. "It's as much to do with what's going on in your company as outside," Frampton said. The key too, he explained, is in listening to customers and staying relevant. The Best Global Brands 2012 report is itself a reflection of what's going on in the world.
Coca Cola, number one on the ranking, "always seems to be on the edge" of what's trending globally Frampton added. The historic rise of Apple on the list, questions about the company's future and the strong showing of technology bands as a whole reflect how much technology has become part of our lives. While the numbers for the report and valuations were completed months ago, Frampton noted that recent headlines declaring Google overtook Microsoft for the first time demonstrate that the Best Global Brands report is a solid future predictor.
Ann Lewnes, SVP of Global Marketing for Adobe, and Andy Palmer, EVP at Nissan, joined Frampton on stage to discuss branding. Both Lewnes and Palmer agreed that the focus on internal brand engagement has become critical with an understanding that "the brand matters." Lewnes noted Adobe's ranking on the report motivates the team from the engineers to the marketers to ensure that products are developed with the brand story in mind. Palmer said that "where we are" on Best Global Brands functions at Nissan as a "sanity check."
Listening is critical for brands today. Adobe, for example, showed technology that could de-blur photographs at a conference, and it was so well-received conversations about the new innovation went viral. While Adobe as a software company has the ability to create a product from idea to launch within months or a year, for an automotive company like Nissan, the process can take far longer. So how can the brand ensure it's incorporating listening to consumers, staying relevant and keeping the brand in its long-term product development goals?
Palmer explained that marketers, PR and engineers are working together at Nissan to ensure that the story of the products and the products themselves connect long before launch, helping to ensure the process stays true to the brand. He noted Nissan's teams work together to analyze data, listen to trends and the marketplace, study the global picture and "demystify this thing called brand."
Lewnes and Palmer each shared views of their brands into the future. Lewnes observed, "I actually think the world is getting smaller." With more and more people around the world seeking similar products and having shared consumer experiences, Lewnes noted they are finding that where once different locals needed different marketing campaigns, testing indicates the same campaign can now be used in the US and Japan, for example. Palmer added that Nissan is stepping up its focus on consistent tone in its messaging globally.
Lewnes and Palmer also shared that going forward commitment to brand transparency and corporate social responsibility will play growing roles. "People want to know more about the companies they buy from," Lewnes commented. Palmer noted that within emerging markets such as India, where compared to the US's car ownership rate being about 800 in 1000 people, it's at about 50 in 1000. He noted we will "have to democratize the motor car again," yet the "planet simply can't" handle that level of increased Co2. So we will have to see the emergence of significant use of electric vehicles, fuel cells and other sustainable technologies.
Ultimately, in as Frampton described it, "our highly social, networked world," it will be "responsiveness" that will drive brands' stories into the future.