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Where do marketing leaders get their inspiration?

Two weeks ago, Millward Brown released their updated list of the Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.  In the 8 year period since the study launched, the BrandZ™ Top 100 Strong Brands Portfolio has appreciated 58 percent, compared with a market value gain of only 23 percent by the S&P 500.

These leading brands outperformed the stock market benchmark by a wide margin of 35%.

But what does it take to lead in the market?  Where do leaders look for inspiration and benchmarking?

Laterally, of course.  Leading brands don’t look at direct competitors to understand how to win in their market: you can’t break away from a category by looking within it.   Instead, they look outside their market to brands that are outperforming in other categories.

But don’t take my word for it.  As my blog title suggests, I obviously think this way.  Consider instead the behaviour of Sue Shim, CMO of Samsung:

When asked about companies that Samsung wants to benchmark … the CMO admitted she is spending more time studying best practices at Western companies. “In terms of brand strategies, Samsung should learn from many cases; and so I am studying some brands that saw a large and effective rise in value.’’

Or Sandrine Huijgen, Heineken’s global communication manager:

At no point does she mention competitors, instead regarding the likes of Nike, Apple, Old Spice, BMW and Chanel as Heineken’s bedfellows. “These all have, for very different reasons, a very strong consumer-brand relationship. We want consumers to love Heineken, but we’re not there, yet.”

Or Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.’s global marketing chief:

[Ford] closely studied global brand campaigns used by companies such as McDonalds and Nike to see how they work.

Or AT&T’s, Paul Roth, president of retail sales and service:

 “Our starting point wasn’t, who is the best retailer?” Roth says, “but who has the best customer service?” Roth and his team spent time with Harley Davidson, Ritz Carlton, Starbucks and Nordstrom to see what they could learn. “Our business has nothing to do with coffee or motorcycles. We were trying to understand how to build that type of customer loyalty.”

Or Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell, talking about Interbrand’s top 100.

We use Best Global Brands as a benchmark and look to others on the list as a source of inspiration and creativity. They motivate us to continually improve.

Or Deborah S. Conrad, corporate vice president and CMO for Intel:

I’ve been learning a lot from the automotive industry, from companies like Toyota and BMW, and that’s because I see a lot of parallels between cars and computers. I see that a computer is becoming an emotional and style decision. It’s not just about performance anymore…. I look also at consumer electronics, at companies such as Sony, Samsung and LG. Only a few years ago those companies were making products that weren’t all that exciting. The TV, until recently, was lackluster. But now it’s exotic, and it’s generating excitement. With both cars and TVs, companies struggle to keep the details simple and understandable yet exciting.

But looking laterally isn’t just about understanding how to execute.  It needs to start much earlier  –  with an understanding of who else is in your ideaspace and how to effectively compete against them, as Coke do.

Which brands are your lateral benchmarks?

If you’re struggling, a look at the world’s top 33 brands might be a good starting point.

Sources:

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/tech/2012/11/133_123678.html
http://www.mandmglobal.com/global-accounts/activity/26-09-11/heineken-global-ambition-for-consumers.aspx
http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2012/05/ford-planning-to-drive-further-with-new-global-ad-campaign/
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/08/att-upgrades-its-retail-turns-to-ritz-carlton-for-advice/
http://www.interbrand.com/en/best-global-brands/2012/articles-and-interviews/dell-karen-quintos.aspx
http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/18/intel-marketing-creators-project-vice-cmo-network-deborah-conrad.html
http://adage.com/article/cmo-interviews/purpose-affects-bottom-line/237597/

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