Marketers might have different priorities from members of the public when it comes to admiring businesses and brands, but according to a new list of the companies most respected for their marketing, those brands that please their customers are also the ones that most impress marketers.
The top brands on the list, compiled by research company Grupo Consultores UK (GCUK) from interviews with more than 200 marketers, would not be out of place on a list of consumers’ favourite brands either. With retailer John Lewis, technology company Apple and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group taking the top three places, marketers clearly admire and perhaps envy brands who can generate enthusiasm from their customers.
John Lewis marketing director Craig Inglis says: “Admiration is a very personal thing, but marketers like all consumers, get excited when they see brands do innovative things, that deliver on their brand promises and engage on an emotional level.”
GCUK also asked marketers which advertising campaigns stood out for them most during 2010 and 2011. The correlation between the most recalled ads and the most respected brands is noticeable, with seven of the top 15 campaigns coming from John Lewis, Apple, Virgin Group, Nike, O2, Virgin Atlantic and Volkswagen, which are all in the top 10 most respected brands list.
GCUK managing director Juliet Blackburn says: “These brands have consistently been able to deliver work that stands out of cluttered, sometimes commoditised markets, and that really touches people in a fun, engaging way. Brands that understand the role that the increasingly fragmented and disparate channels play, how to join them up and engage with different audiences are the ones that win.”
O2 marketing director Sally Cowdry says creative advertising is one of the things she respects most in other brands, but she also cautions that marketing needs to be aligned with the realities of customers’ experiences. “The business must deliver on the advertising’s promise by reinforcing it at every customer touchpoint, or it could have a negative effect.”
Several of the brands that marketers most admire are also long-time global market leaders or have marketing embedded within the corporate culture as the driver of profit and growth. Nike and Coca-Cola, in fourth and seventh place, both fall into the former category, while Procter & Gamble and Unilever, in fifth and ninth, are examples of the latter.
Several of the brands in the UK top 10, in particular Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and P&G, replicate similar levels of respect among other nationalities. Marketers from China, India, Brazil and Spain were also asked which companies they respect most for their marketing, with each of these brands making the top 10 in at least four of the five countries. While consumers are far from uniform across the globe, it seems that marketers worldwide hold their profession to similar standards.
The brands most admired by marketers in the UK
1 John Lewis
John Lewis has a special place in the UK public’s consciousness – a brand loved by its customers and admired by its competitors. The company’s ‘partnership’ model, where 81,000 co-owners have a say in the running of the business, is one of the things that sets it apart. And its ‘Never knowingly undersold’ slogan is a promise that underpins its customer service.
John Lewis’s ads from 2010 and 2011 are also those remembered most by UK marketers. During that time the retailer ran two award-winning TV campaigns created by Adam & Eve, now merged with advertising agency DDB – a montage following a woman from youth to old age set to the song Always a Woman, and a Christmas ad featuring a young boy looking forward to giving his parents their present.
Juliet Blackburn, managing director of research company GCUK, says: “The emotion that the advertising evokes from people is one of the things that stood out for John Lewis. The advertising has had a big impact.”
The world’s most valuable brand, according to Millward Brown’s BrandZ report, and the most valuable company by market capitalisation, Apple’s high ranking is to be expected. The company, which has been shown by MRI brain scans to evoke near-religious zeal in its fans, also has the highest aggregate ranking across the nationalities surveyed.
Few corporate brands have ever created such a powerful halo effect over a company portfolio as Virgin does, hanging over business interests ranging from media to medical. And few are as inseparable from their founder as Virgin is from Sir Richard Branson. “People admire the consistency, and yet also the individuality of the different brands,” says Blackburn.
Nike shows the power of advertising in inspiring brand awareness. Its Write the Future campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup is the seventh most remembered by UK marketers. It also creates links with sporting events in consumers’ minds, even when it is not an official partner. Nike’s Just Do It describes its simple and proactive approach to marketing.
5 Procter & Gamble
The world’s largest FMCG group, and the biggest-spending advertiser, is the company where marketing was born and where many marketers are blooded into the profession. “P&G’s marketers have high standards. They have taken up new digital channels across multiple brands, and marketers have admiration for that,” says Blackburn.
Innocent is the pre-eminent example of a UK start-up that shook up an industry, even if it is now part-owned by Coca-Cola. It has created a positioning in healthy, premium-priced drinks, defying convention in a market dominated by high-sucrose fizzy water. Innocent’s branding, created without agency help, is still a big part of its success.
With over 125 years’ heritage now behind it, Coca-Cola remains the world’s best-known drinks brand – perhaps even its best known brand. It now dominates the cola market, and even though Pepsi regularly triumphs in blind taste tests, it has never punctured Coke’s armour. Most marketers can recite the long litany of classic ad campaigns by heart.
With Priority Moments, O2 has shown lacklustre loyalty schemes how to make customers feel excited about the rewards they can earn. Its sponsorship of The O2 music venue has presented a host of experiential marketing opportunities, and with recent moves into health and education, the brand also demonstrates an appetite for innovation.
Like P&G, Unilever is a powerhouse of brand marketing, with the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Flora under its corporate umbrella. Driven by chief executive Paul Polman, Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, aimed at doubling its revenues while halving the environmental impacts of its products, is another source of respect in the business world.
=10 Tesco, Virgin Atlantic and Volkswagen
Virgin Atlantic undoubtedly acquires respect via the corporate Virgin brand and for becoming a credible transatlantic challenger to British Airways. Volkswagen has always been revered for the creativity of its campaigns, while Tesco clings onto the top 10 despite recent difficulties.