Differentiation makes the difference for top 100 brands

Millward Brown’s BrandZ ranking shows that the brands growing in value demonstrate ‘meaningful difference’ and disrupt competitive markets, with the retail sectors providing key examples.

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Pioneering companies continue to thrive in the BrandZ ranking of the world’s most valuable brands. However “innovation for its own sake will not necessarily create a point of difference”, warns Peter Walshe, global BrandZ director at research company Millward Brown, which compiles the annual list. Instead brands need to show that they have a purpose and are “meaningfully different”.

Over the past decade brands perceived as ‘different’ by consumers have grown by 336%, compared to just 23% for those that are perceived as less differentiated. Walshe argues that consumers might think Samsung’s mobile devices are better engineered but it is Apple’s products that resonate in a “more meaningful and differentiated way”.

Likewise in retail, it is the discounters and ecommerce brands that have disrupted the market by offering consumers new choices. Over the past year Aldi has climbed 10 places, increasing its brand value by 22% to $11.7bn, while US discounter Costco enters the top 100 for the first time in 97th place with a value of $11.2bn.

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Chinese ecommerce brand Alibaba is another new entry, storming into 13th with a value of $66.4bn and overtaking Amazon ($62.3bn) as the most valuable retail brand. Millward Brown couldn’t rank Alibaba previously as it was unable to make an accurate valuation prior its initial public offering last year. Brand value growth in the retail category drops from 24% to just 2% if Alibaba is excluded.

It is not just the disruptor brands that are benefiting from being different. Aged 129, Coca-Cola is one of the oldest brands in the top 100 but remains fresh in consumers’ eyes as it continues to rejuvenate its proposition.

“We are constantly evolving, adapting and innovating to ensure we are meeting the needs of our consumers, as well as attracting new ones,” says Bobby Brittain, marketing director of Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland.

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As a result, Coca-Cola’s valuation has increased by 4% in the 2015 list. Although it drops two places in the ranking it is still the 8th most valuable brand in the world and leader of the soft drinks category. Coke has a value of $83.8bn, which compares to its next biggest rival in the sector Pepsi, in 79th place overall with a value of $13.1bn.

While Brittain agrees Coca-Cola’s heritage is “a real asset” and fundamental to its proposition, he says it has only been able to strengthen the brand by ensuring consumers understand its offering.

“With our new approach we are bringing the four Coca-Cola variants together under one brand [in Europe] to make our consumers aware of the full choice available to them within the Coca-Cola range,” he says. “By adopting this ‘one brand’ strategy we are focusing on building one brand and extending its appeal.”