What makes a super brand?
Superbrands, the world’s largest independent arbiter of branding, has just published their 2019 list of Britain’s strongest brands. Leading the ratings for the second year in a row is LEGO, followed by other well-established household names. What makes a super brand and how can this be applied to any product or service?
What is a super brand?
Being a super brand does not necessarily mean being part of a huge company with a vast marketing budget. Instead, it’s about becoming a category leader and establishing an extremely strong reputation in your area. Some super brands are so intrinsically linked to their domains that they actually become synonyms for their products, such as Hoover, Xerox or Kleenex.
A brand is not its logo, company colours, imagery, tone of voice or marketing activity, although all of these things contribute. Rather than being controlled by the company, branding is controlled by its customers. It is difficult to define exactly what makes up a brand, but David Ogilvy described brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” In other words, it is all the things that go towards creating a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organisation.
A super brand stands out from normal brands by becoming one that the majority of its market recognises and acknowledges as superior. Customers may not always choose to buy that brand, but they will always compare what they buy to it. For example, Fairy has long been the market leader in dishwashing liquid and generic products will always be compared against it.
According to Superbrands itself, ‘A Superbrand has established the finest reputation in its field. It offers customers significant emotional and/or tangible advantages over its competitors, which customers want and recognise.’
When creating their league tables, Superbrands use three main criteria:
- Quality: Does the brand provide quality products and services?
- Reliability: Can the brand be trusted to deliver consistently?
- Distinction: Is it well known in its sector and suitably different from its rivals?
The tables are based on thousands of voters ranking a shortlist of brands using these core criteria, as well as a brand’s current profile, marketing activities and new developments in its products or services.
What makes a brand super?
The list of super brands covers lots of very different areas, but there are some key principles that all of these brands share. According to Superbrands, the four pillars that underpin all the strongest brands are “trust, openness, vision, and respect and responsibility. Perhaps surprisingly, vision – which includes innovation, a strong leader and exceptional marketing – was ranked third in importance behind trust and openness.”
The top brands all possess these qualities:
A distinct personality
The top brands all stand out from their competition. Everything about them, including their advertising, packaging and messaging is memorable and ensures that they are the first product that comes to mind when a consumer considers their category.
Super brands are more than just products or services, they have come to express a particular feeling or way of life. These brands connect with their customers and how they would like their lives to be.
Delivering on promises
Trust is probably the most important quality for a super brand, and that comes from consistently delivering on quality. If there is a disconnect between a brand’s word and its actions, the trust it has engendered in its customers will be damaged.
Markets are changing at a more rapid rate than ever before, as new products emerge, technology evolves and customers’ tastes change. Super brands need to be able to constantly change what they do and how they do it, while staying faithful to their core values.
Branding is an ongoing process, continuously looping through defining the brand, engaging with both customers and employees, measuring its success and then refining. The Superbrands list covers those brands that are household names with very broad appeal, but neglects more brands in more specialised niches. With constant effort and good marketing leadership, any brand can become a super brand.