In search of sustained growth, by Kantar’s Amol Ghate

By Amol Ghate, managing director, MENAP and head of analytics practice, Middle East & Africa, insights division, Kantar.

Sustained growth is hard. Our analysis of the Kantar BrandZ database reveals that less than 1 in 20 brands managed to grow and sustain growth over the last three years. However, we have also seen that while growth is hard, brands that have invested in brand building have grown not only in good times but also in bad. In fact, the Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands value grew by 6%, even in a year as difficult as 2020, and as the economy recovered in 2021, that growth skyrocketed even further, with a phenomenal 42% increase.

The question that naturally springs to mind is what should brands do to ensure they don’t just grow in the short term but also sustain that growth in the long term. We have seen that brands that have grown consistently have created a meaningful difference, which they have amplified to a larger audience by finding a more competitive strategy that they have communicated effectively.

Brands also need to watch for the “Salience gap” – a discrepancy between how well the brand is known, and how meaningfully different it is perceived to be. Brands with a negative Salience gap are currently much better known than they are Meaningfully Different. They have excess Salience that they aren’t “using” effectively enough to drive sales conversions, owing to a lack of appeal. The trick, for these brands, will be finding ways to rebuild perceptions of Meaningful Difference.

Sharpen your brand’s double-edged innovation sword…

Brands that drive innovation end up growing in the long term as they ensure they grow their difference. However, they need to keep in mind that innovation is a double-edged sword: innovation needs to be meaningful, and consumers should be able to clearly see how it makes a difference in their lives. Innovation, therefore, needs to be routed in a consumer need. Just think of how Uber has made commuting easier, Airbnb has ensured people have more authentic experiences while travelling, and Dollar Shave Club has made shaving cheaper and more convenient.

Differentiation also allows for a brand to charge more or justify a premium because consumers feel that they are getting good value or their money’s worth. iPhone and Nike consumers willingly pay a premium over other brands because they perceive the product to be associated with better quality. This in turn allows the brands to generate stronger returns, which can further fuel investment in future innovations and communications, creating a cycle of growth.

Getting the experience right also helps brands create stronger meaning and difference, and thereby grow. On-demand, omnichannel commerce has fully arrived and with it has come a new set of consumer experience “table stakes” that brands must meet if they want to achieve parity with their category competitors. This means providing a superior shopping and service experience across all touchpoints, while also maximising convenience so that the brand’s well-designed offerings fit seamlessly into consumers’ everyday lives.

The power of punching above your weight on communication awareness

Once put into practice, brands need to talk about their meaningful difference and amplify this in their communication, to ensure the brand and product are salient when the time comes for people to buy them. That’s why advertising plays such an important role in generating profitable brand growth. Brands that punch above their weight on communication awareness as compared to their market share are more likely to see an increase in market share.

As the strongest, most successful brands are those that are meaningful, different, and salient, brands need to first ensure they are perceived as different, as that’s what gives you the ability to command a premium. Next, ensure that difference is perceived as meaningful, as this ensures your brand will appeal to a wider audience. The final step is to shout out loud about that meaningful difference so that more people know about you and therefore buy your brand. Simple as that.

[email protected]

Kantar BrandZ brings you brand valuation, combined with research from the world’s largest and most extensive brand equity study.