Lessons from the most valuable brands

Published in Philiippine Daily Inquirer, March 14, 2003

MOST local businesses hesitate to benchmark with global brand practices citing an apples to oranges comparison. Ironically, these global brands during their infancy had the same constraint as many local entrepreneurs – a limited budget. But their success came with the resolute effort to wisely allocate and prioritize financial resources to marketing.

Following are marketing lessons that can be gleaned from some of Interbrand’s 2002 world’s most valuable brands that include McDonald’s, Kodak, Kellogg, Heinz, L’oreal, Kleenex and Nescafe.

Develop a clear-cut, non-esoteric positioning. Create a meaningfully relevant, easy to understand but compelling statement of how you would like your brand to be remembered by your target customers.

Heinz® is the world leader in ketchup. Yearly, the brand sells 650 million bottles of ketchup. Since 1876 to today, Heinz® anchors its ketchup positioning on the identity statement “No other ketchup tastes like Heinz. If it isn’t Heinz®, it isn’t ketchup”.

Kodak, with a brand value of $9.6B in 2002, placed the first simple camera in the hands of consumers with a clearly understood brand positioning. “You press the button, we do the rest”.

McDonald’s has come a long way from the first restaurant opened by Ray Kroc in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. Today, valued at $26B, McDonald’s shares the same universal statement captured in “good times, great taste” across diverse markets worldwide.

Nescafe while celebrating over 60 years of existence has remained steadfast to its big idea of “one world of Nescafe” where visual advertising shows how people the world over take time out to listen to each other and open up with a cup of coffee. Today, it is estimated that some 3,000 cups of Nescafe are drank every second.

Make marketing communications a priority. Global brands believe in the value of establishing awareness in the minds of their targeted market. While still a young brand in 1933, L’Oreal, despite limited budgets in advertising and promotions, invested in building name recall and identity by commissioning French graphic artists like Colin, Loupot and Savignac to develop the brand’s promotional posters. Over time, the brand explored other mediums and ways that included celebrity endorsements, movie advertising and a radio jingle – novel approaches at the time.

Kellogg is the world’s leading producer of cereal that include cookies, cereal bars, crackers, toaster pastries. One of Kellogg’s most popular characters remains to be Tony the Tiger. Tony the Tiger personifies Kellogg’s identity statement, “we build gr-r-reat brands and make the world a little happier by bringing our best to you.” Behind the selling line Tony the Tiger loves Kellogg’s frosted flakes® and the growl “GR-R-REAT’ is a larger than life, unassuming and trusted friend to kids and adults. The first full color ad with Tony the Tiger appeared in 1953. Over time, across the world, Tony the Tiger appears on television and cinema, newspapers and magazines, radio and in-store activities.

Kleenex with brand value of $5.04B recognizes the importance of advertising. The brand, launched and advertised in 1924, anchored its positioning on “a marvelous way to remove cold cream.” Screen legends Helen Hayes and Jean Harlow promoted Kleenex that established the facial tissue category. Since then Kleenex has used movie star endorsements and testimonials as a hallmark of its promotions campaigns.

Engage in product renewal through innovation. Despite the brand’s leadership, the world’s most valuable brands continue to invest a major part of their earnings in innovative product technology. A commitment to sustain the life of the brand is the prevailing mindset of the brand leader. Milking the brand business is never an option. Over time, developing product extensions and new product technology is critical to building the brand portfolio and refreshing the brand’s image. In 1924, Kleenex invented the facial tissue category. Through time, the brand enjoyed other firsts that included introduction of pop-up cartons with perforated opening; colored, printed and pocket pack tissues; paper towels; space-saver and purse packs; scented tissue, tissue with lotion or menthol, among others.

Over a century after George Eastman sold the first Kodak camera in 1888, the company continues to make significant contributions to the field of photography and imaging that include innovations in pocket camera, motion-picture film, cameras and projectors, color prints, film emulsions, medical imaging, writable CD, digital camera, etc.

Recognize people as your best marketing assets. Many global leaders anchor their success on recognizing individual employee talents and contributions.

McDonald’s people promise is aptly stated, “We’re not just a hamburger company serving people; we’re a people company serving hamburgers.”

At L’Oreal, chair and CEO Lindsay Owen-Jones states “the optimization of the individual’s talent along with the will to work together in teams with a shared vision is the key to L’Oreal’s success. At L’Oreal, there are no taboos, only open linkages where you defend convictions but also listen to others and question your own perceptions.”

Lest one forget, many of the world’s most valuable brands started small. A good number started in small backrooms, backyards and garage or kitchen space. Nevertheless, tenacity, clear thinking, organization, commitment to sustain the brand’s life and the right marketing catapulted them to their present success.