Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 20 December 2018

Podcast - How Connected Brands Drive Growth

The latest FutureBrand Index highlighted how the most future proofed companies consistently align the totality of the experiences they create with their wider corporate purpose and that was the focus of our latest, produced in partnership with FutureBrand with guests from GSK & IBM

Our guests were:

FutureBrand worked with PWC’s Global Top 100 companies by market capitalization, built a sample of an informed global public, ranked the list by 18 brand attributes and ended up with a brand perception strength.  Jon said that the most future proofed brands share an ability to really build a connection between why they exist and the experiences they create for people every day. 

Jeremy said that, as a Chief Strategy Officer, he is essentially just a storyteller.  The question becomes ‘what’s the value of those stories and what do they mean?’. He talked about the four V’s:

  1. Volume
  2. Velocity
  3. Variety
  4. Veracity

But added Value - what is it worth to have some type of a purpose and what does that mean on culture? 

Jon said the real key to growth is to what extent brands create the connection between purpose and experience and that the top 20 brands on the list are creating a really connected brand experience.    

Healthcare & Technology Companies

Kerry thinks that what’s quite challenging within the Pharma sector is that in a sector where you don’t always have direct contact with your end user, it can complicate that connectivity.

Jon explained that one of the major drivers of the FutureBrand Index was the perception that [as a brand,] you are changing people’s lives for the better.  He said that what they have seen is that core driver is something that is more associated with healthcare companies because they are making technology meaningful to people’s lives in a way that feels relevant and exciting. He categorised technology brands as New Era, such as Facebook and Amazon, and those that are more established like IBM and Microsoft.  He describes New Era brands like teenagers, struggling to grow up with some of the adult issues like paying taxes or having a need to take care of their family, i.e., their users, in a way that perhaps they have been slightly disregarding of in terms of privacy.

Kerry was adamant that this wasn’t a case of healthcare vs technology brands but healthcare + technology.  She added that GSK’s new strategy is the multiplying effect of Science x Technology x Culture and talked about GSK’s four-year collaboration with 23andMe.

Jeremy described IBM as a 107-year-old start-up. They have 6000 people in their research team and don’t spend that much on marketing proportionately yet spend just under $8bn/year on research, registering just over 9000 patents last year - for 25 years running, registered more patents than any other company in the world, most of which has gone into healthcare. He said that when you ask 3000 people to look at the perception of IBM, they’re going to be thinking sometimes of mainframes or computers and may see it as something from the 1960s or related to a film like ‘Hidden Figures’.  He said AI is driving a huge transformation for IBM and that most of the most innovative brands in the world are using IBM’s infrastructure, but they can’t talk about it because a lot of it is cutting edge. 

Sharing stories internally

Kerry said that as you can’t “buy a GSK”, the company has been seen as a very faceless organisation. She explained that this prompted the company to really re-evaluate from a reputational point of view what they were doing.  They found that, whilst people didn’t know much about the GSK story, when they told them, they liked it. Their issue was not about changing who they are as a company or changing what they did but actually making sure that enough people were hearing the message. She added that this could be internal as well external and not to assume that those 100,000 internal people know what you’re doing.  She gave an example of how GSK looked to leverage that employee advocacy base and develop those employee ambassadors with the drug testing that GSK carried out at the London 2012 Olympics. She said that it was a great thing to do reputationally, but actually internally, there was a lot of pride that developed of people from GSK seeing something external that they thought was a good thing for the company to be doing.  Kerry explained that the ads were shown on screens internally at GSK’s offices and that they supported it with outdoor advertising at every GSK site around the country.

Perception in terms of innovation

The discussion moved on to how important the perception is of being innovative in contributing to brand value.  Jeremy said that often, whoever did it first isn’t the most successful. The way he sees it is that innovation is just really doing the same thing as everybody else but faster, whereas disruption is when you do a new thing that makes the old thing completely obsolete. The challenge is for those CMOs that say this is the way we’ve always done it. He said that there is definitely a case for traditional marketers acting like they’ve got to do things faster vs. Samsung who say, ‘No, let’s bring in a completely different person that’s going to look at things from a customer’s perspective and it’s going to help us create new business models or new products that are going to make the old ones obsolete’.

Jon said that when it comes to innovation, what’s really at stake is to stop being banal.

Walt Disney Company at No.1 in the FutureBrand Index

Jon said that when you look at the performance of Disney over the period, what you see, which is common to a lot of the businesses that are either consistently strong or strong this year, is their ability to stand for something that people really warm to, that is meaningful to people and to be able to deliver that in a coherent way.

Jeremy said that he invited Disney and Pixar to help IBM tell its own story internally because they’re obviously an incredible brand of storytellers. He added that before Disney went in, many IBM people were regurgitating the same “here’s what we’ve done, here’s what we’ve invented”” stories, but Disney helped them to articulate their own personal stories and find out their ‘whys’. 

Impact of social media on brand perception and value in respect of social issues

We talked through three recent ad campaigns:

  1. Iceland on the impact that the production of palm oil can have on the environment
  2. Nike supporting the NFL player Colin Kaepernick
  3. Pepsi’s ad with Kendall Jenner that they had to pull because it was so badly received as it was seen as trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kerry said that in the case of Iceland, it has been brilliantly successful because it is authentic and real. With Nike, it’s related because they’re in sportswear and they are in sport, and he was a sportsman, but when you move on to Kendall Jenner, it’s completely irrelevant. Therefore, authenticity is so key to whatever you do.

Other findings

Jon said that when looking ahead in three years’ time, we will see a world that is increasingly dominated by American and Chinese brands – brands that are fundamentally built on the power of their huge home markets but that come at the world from a very different perspective. He believes that the values that are driving a lot of the Chinese brands are much more in tune with where the world wants to go and where the world will potentially react to where it is today – Confucian values, values linked to harmony, to long term evolution, long-term improvements and consistency over a long period of time.

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