The importance of a strong brand promise has been reinforced by a study from the US which found brands with clear and compelling ‘ideals’ create more meaningful relationships with consumers, and experience significantly higher growth as a result.

The Stengel Study of Business Growth named 50 brands that outpaced their competition in brand value over the past decade and formed “unusually strong connections with consumers”.

Combined, the ‘Stengel 50′ grew three times faster in financial terms over the 2000s than their competitors and the overall universe of brands. Analysis was performed over 10 years, 31 countries and 28 categories using Millward Brown’s Optimor technique.

At the head of the pack were Apple, Google and Pampers, growing as much as 10 times faster than average company growth between 2001 to 2011.

In alphabetical order, the 50 brands that made the list were:

Well represented on the list were luxury brands with Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Moët et Chandon, Hennessy and Mercedes-Benz, as were ecommerce firms with Amazon, Zappos and Vente-Privee, and FMCG brands with Coca-Cola, Dove, Lindt, Red Bull and Sensodyne rating a mention.

Brands from around the globe featured including Chinese beers Tsingtao and Snow, Brazilian cosmetics company Natura, Russian supermarket operator SedmoyKontinent and Indian telecommunications provider Airtel.

The study claims the top 50 outperformed the S&P 500, an index of the leading US firms, by 400% over the 10 year period of the study.

The man behind the research – high profile US marketer and former CMO of Procter & Gamble, Jim Stengel – suggested all of the high ranking brands were built around a central ‘ideal’ that fostered a tight focus on their core purpose.

Examples of these ideals highlighted by the study included IBM with its goal to ‘create a smarter planet’, and Jack Daniel’s with ‘maverick independence’.

In his book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, Stengel elaborates on the principles of brand ideals: “A brand ideal is not social responsibility or altruism but a programme for profit and growth based on improving people’s lives,” he writes.

“Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”

An example of a brand who lost sight of its core ideal was given in Pampers who lost market share by focusing too narrowly on the dryness of nappies before redefining its brand ideal as ‘helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy, happy development’.

Stengel concludes that the best-performing businesses are driven by ideals that touch on one of five human values: eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride or impacting society.

 

 

The Stengel Study of Business Growth began as a project for P&G to measure itself against the world’s most successful brands. It expanded to run between 2001 and 2011 utilising Millward Brown Optimor’s database of more than 50,000 brands in 31 countries, to track consumers’ loyalty to brands alongside their financial growth in 28 categories.