How to keep your brand in rude health – a look at the YouGov BrandIndex

Brands are so often in the public eye that it can feel quite overwhelming. Open any website and you’re almost guaranteed to find a mention of Amazon’s latest innovation in retail (whatever that may be), Samsung’s newest tech gear or Adidas’ most recent sportswear product.

You only need to look at the pre-season build-up in the Premier League for a wealth of branding; there is no escaping it, but this is part of the game that we all play in the advertising and media industry.

But what the three aforementioned businesses all have in common is that they were ranked top ten in YouGov’s latest BrandIndex.

The ranking categorises brands by quality, value, impression, reputation and many other traits. In parallel to the global ranking, the UK brand health ranking was also launched with Josh Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Sony all featuring.

But what does it mean to have a healthy brand? Simply put, creating a strong bond and building an infallible relationship with the audience is the only way to build a fit brand. There is no special trick or equation to it, just a customer-first model that all brands should take on board.

Balancing heritage and tech driven innovation to create a customer-first model

Building a relationship with your audience is undoubtedly important but achieving just that is no longer enough in a tech-driven world, where consumers’ demand immediacy with everything; just last week Warc’s UK ad spend figures found that mobile spend was up 36.2%.

It’s no surprise to find that tech brands dominated the global list because they can be accessed around the world by anyone with an online connection. The BBC was the only brand in the UK to own three spots in the top 10: second, third and ninth. Its BBC iPlayer, One and Two channels all scored highly but notice how iPlayer was well above the other two.

Despite its recent gender pay controversy, the BBC has done an outstanding job in building its brand and updating its offering with the times. iPlayer is now a ubiquitous, personalised platform for streaming content on mobile, tablet and desktop – that’s why audiences love it so much.

The BBC is not the only brand to update its core offering along with the impact of digital and online services. Bricks and mortar retailer John Lewis actually topped the UK list and what they, BBC and Sony all have in common is that they combine strong heritage with innovation and customer-focused brand strategy.

All have moved with the times – from John Lewis developing online shopping and customer services to match the increasingly digitally-led public, to Sony which has continually created forums for its customers such as the Sony Entertainment Network and the PSN. This demonstrates that brands are in tune with how their customers’ needs and behaviours are changing and it is clearly paying off based on the BrandIndex data.

Mass adoption of purpose

The majority of these brands succeed because have a clear purpose and stick to it. Sony understands its gaming community better than anyone else, while the BBC’s Reithian principles of inform, educate and entertain haven’t wavered at all.

Putting ‘purpose’ at the very heart of the business is what enables them to be so strongly connected to each audience. Our research found that we, as a society, are heading towards mass adoption of ‘purpose’. Across all sectors, there is an increasing consumer awareness of and focus on what a brand stands for – to the point where 1-in-2 consumers will pay more for a brand that supports a cause which is important to them, while 40% have abandoned or rejected a brand because of its behaviour or values.

Often businesses think of purpose and automatically go to CSR. The truth is this is no longer enough.

There is an increasing awareness of brand purpose and societal impact, or lack thereof, among consumers. Nearly half of the UK audience actually agreed that they would pay more for a brand that supports a cause that is important to them.

Google is defamed every day for its tax practices, while Amazon is always questioned on its retail dominance being bad for competition. Top brands aren’t in the headlines by mistake – and it’s something that consumers have a big interest in.

Society as a whole is evolving and doesn’t only care about a brand’s beliefs but is investing in brands that make a tangible impact.

Is your brand really in good health?

Brands must look and learn from the companies at the top of the list. But even doing just that is too easy; brands must take it upon themselves to develop their own message, build a strong heritage and create a purpose-led strategy.

Purpose cannot be an afterthought; it must sit at the very core of an organisation. And consumers are wising up to brands’ purpose. Use this to your advantage and develop beliefs that offer clarity in a world clouded with doubt.

It’s no coincidence that many of the brands in YouGov’s top 10 were also identified by participants in our research as being purposeful brands. Brands must innovate but also build formidable social values in order to thrive in the long-term.

Josh Krichefski is the chief executive officer of MediaCom

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