“What is a man, what has he got?/If not himself, then he has naught” – the closing stanza of Frank Sinatra’s signature tune and part of his ‘brand property’, expresses a sentiment appropriate to branding at its best: namely integrity.A brand is an identity that is not merely assumed, but one that is earned and consolidated over time. It can’t be faked – although when it comes to clothing and FMCG’s many try. The image must be matched by its substance and tested in an unforgiving market.
I was reminded of this by Brand Finance’s 2014 listing of the Global 500 brands: the world’s most powerful brands based on a number of criteria, including desirability, loyalty, consumer sentiment, visual identity, online presence and employee satisfaction.
Topping their list is Ferrari, the Italian sports car manufacturers, and you can see why they tick all the above boxes. And yet, as if to prove that wealth and fame are not interchangeable, it only came 350th in terms of brand value (a mere $4 billion!) despite having an AAA+ brand rating.
Ferrari, it seems, is recognised and loved by everyone but patronised by few – which considering the exclusivity and prohibitive cost of its product is maybe only to be expected.
Apple, by contrast, seems to have the best of both worlds. It has an AAA brand rating and a world beating brand value of $105 billion, a rank it has held for the past three years.
The company has capitalised handsomely on the power of its brand and yet its fortunes are built on the vision, integrity and even the relative unworldliness of the late Steve Jobs, who eschewed value engineering in favour of unalloyed design quality and innovation. (And was temporarily voted off the board for his trouble!).
It was this visionary stance that gave Apple its ascendancy over IBM (now 10th in the brand value rankings with AA+ rating). But it should beware of resting on its laurels (as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame can testify, having just paid an eye watering $19 billion for WhatsApp in a bid to hold his ground in the software market).
Snapping at Apple’s heels is Samsung (second in the brand value stakes with an AAA brand rating). Its reputation for reliability, a faster pace of innovation and a wider range of devices have seen its brand value increase to $79 billion over the past year.
So, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. To get to wear it in the first place you have to be a true original – to ‘do it your way’ as Frank would say, whilst at the same time keeping a sharp eye on the competition to ensure that their way isn’t better than yours!