The growing importance of brands from emerging markets is one of several themes picked out by compilers of the 2010 BrandZ Top 100 ranking.

Seven of the 13 emerging-market brands on the list come from China, two each from Russia and Brazil, and one apiece from India and Mexico. New entrants include Baidu, the Chinese search engine, along with ICICI and Telcel from India and Mexico respectively. Both these last two are their country’s first representatives in the Top 100.

ICICI, the big Indian financial services group, makes its debut in an impressive 45th place, with a brand value of $14.5bn.

Joanna Seddon, chief executive of Millward Brown Optimor, praises ICICI’s chairman, KV Kamath, for championing ATMs throughout India as a way of breaking down the country’s traditional hierarchical barriers – everyone has to wait in line, whether they are a cleaner or a bank executive. ICICI scores a high nine for brand momentum because of its potential in India and elsewhere – it already operates in 18 countries.

Just outside the Top 100, but included for the first time in the Technology Top 20, is Infosys Technologies, the big Indian IT group. Ms Seddon says it is an interesting brand because of its co-founder Nandan Nilekani and his espousal of the “flat world” concept – that is, servicing customers through outsourcing anywhere in the world (as popularised in the bestseller by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century).

Both Mr Kamath and Mr Nilekani feature in another theme identified by MBO – the chief executive as brand leader.

Many of the top 100 have been built – or revived – by leaders with brand vision. They include Carlos Slim of Telcel, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Lou Gerstner of IBM and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, who returned to a day-to-day role as chief executive two years ago to revive the fortunes of the company he nurtured from infancy into a global brand.

Mr Schultz’s vision for Starbucks was all about making human connections, says Ms Seddon.

“He abdicated from running it and what did they do? They went into drive-throughs. Now, if you’ve got a brand that’s about human connections, maybe a drive-through doesn’t quite fit. They expanded very fast, and kind of lost the brand essence, and he’s come back again and the brand is doing better [its brand value rose 17 per cent in the latest Top 100].”

Peter Walshe, MBO’s global BrandZ director, says some of the visionaries are no longer chief executives but their successors are following the same vision as a unique aspect of those companies, with great success.

Examples of the successors include Sam Palmisano at IBM and Michael Geoghegan at HSBC, whose chairman, Stephen Green, is an ordained minister in the Church of England and author of Serving God, Serving Mammon.

Legal addiction – whether of the long-established variety (cigarettes) or modern (playing with mobile phones or BlackBerry) – is another theme picked out by the ranking’s compilers. Marlboro, ever present in the top 10, has seen its brand value grow at an average compound annual rate of 10 per cent over the past five years.

Overall, the latest Top 100 list “tells you that people in their stressful lives want to do something to relieve the stress, fiddling with their hands”, she says. “They are either smoking, or they’re twiddling on their BlackBerries, and we have an example: if you have a really stressful job, like president of the United States, you may feel the need to do both.”

In mobile phones, the world’s top 10 operators are all in the top 100 of the BrandZ rankings, says Ms Seddon, along with Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung, and a lot of this is down to the phenomenal growth of mobile applications or apps – “everything from Sudoku to Find a Mechanic to BrandZ”, she says.

Mr Walshe adds that two key things drive brands – trust, which is the historic brand value that has been built up, and current user recommendation. “What’s interesting about this category …is that the brands are particularly high in user recommendation. They’re not particularly driven by trust,” he says.

Some of the most valuable brands are underpinned by both trust and recommendation – another key finding from the rankings.

While IBM is driven hugely by trust and Apple by recommendation, research by MBO has shown that Pampers and Tide, two consumer/household products, are the top trusted and recommended brands (Tide has slipped out of the Top 100 because of the influx of oil companies).

Brands that are high on both criteria are either visionary or benefit from having built up a heritage, based on historic performance, says Mr Walshe. “And they are delivering it today, together with innovation, and keeping themselves relevant…particularly in recent times, as politicians and banks lose credibility, trusted brands become more and more valuable.”

The role of price, and the fact that the strongest and most valuable brands are more price-resistance, is a further important finding from research by MBO.

Because of the desire they create from consumers, they tend to command a healthy price premium, even in recessionary times, and the Top 100 brands get the balance right between pricing and the power of the brand.

Data from BrandZ show that only 7 per cent of consumers buy on price alone; under a third make a compromise between price and brand; and brand is an important influence for nearly nine out of 10, while more than half take little notice of price.

Get alerts on South Asia when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article