“Obviously there are many branding studies in existence,” says Roth, who added that his firm’s new Breakaway Brands Study, done with value management consultancy Stern Stewart, is notable because it looks at data over a three-year spread. And that will consistently produce different results. “If you look at BusinessWeek for example, it’s the same brands every year,” Roth says. Looking at continued growth, meanwhile, was more in tune with Landor’s business model. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what brands have really done something with themselves to make a sustainable, demonstrable, valuable change to the brand by investing in itself in one form or another?’”
The study looked at more than 2,500 brands from the Young & Rubicam Brands’ BrandAsset Valuator database and then measured the growth or decline of that brand from 2003 to 2006.
So what are the perceptions? Landor found TJ Maxx to be at the top of the brand-equity-building list. “The bottom line,” Roth says, “is that they have been very good at looking at their customer segments. They’ve figured out that there’s a mentality—that we see anyway—of bargain shopping as sport. It’s more fun to buy quality items for less, and they captured this mindset. They [also] are very in tune with their customers. They know what’s current; they refresh their product line in the store much more frequently than a lot of other retailers.”
Other brands that topped the chart include iPod, BlackBerry and Microsoft. Landor looked at 60 to 70 different attribute measures to come up with its list, and broke down the attributes into two groups of two categories each. Differentiation and relevance are in the brand strength group; esteem and knowledge are in the brand stature group. For a brand to dominate, Roth says, it needs to have strong showings in both groups.
Landor itself is looking for opportunities to help other brands join the upper echelon. Roth defines that distinction as achieving “verb status,” citing BlackBerry has a specific example of that. Hayes says he realizes the emotional investment on the customer’s behalf must exist if a brand wants to hit that coveted verb status. “That’s sort of branding 101… but when you are the top dog, it’s easy to forget it.”