The biggest risk in today’s world? Not taking any. That’s the key takeaway from Activating Brave, the latest edition of Best Global Brands 2018, recently published by Interbrand. The publication coincided with the global financial crisis’ tenth anniversary, allowing us to analyze the performance of some of the world’s most important brands throughout this decade of decline and recovery. The most immediate conclusion: the brands that are growing fastest today are those that intuitively understand their customers and make brave, iconic moves that delight and deliver in new ways.

The global crisis took place during a time of technological and digital transformation, and we now live in an ecosystem that is entirely different to the one we lived in ten years ago. At that time, Nokia was the 5th most valuable brand and Apple remained 24th with a value of 13,724$m. Today, the situation is radically different: Nokia has disappeared from the list (along with other brands from its sector such as BlackBerry or Motorola) and Apple is, for six years straight, the most valuable brand in the world. Moreover, this year Apple has become the first brand in history to break the $200 billion barrier in brand value. Who would have guessed that in 2008?

Brands continue to play a vital role as one of the most decisive intangible assets for any business, having penetrated companies across disciplines (not only in marketing) as a centric asset that directly shapes the products, services and experiences with the customer – also a basic and fundamental pillar.

It’s indisputable that in today’s world brands are intangibles that, if well managed, add value to the business, both protecting it in turbulent times and boosting it in better times. Looking to the future, brands must harness their ability to take bold short-term actions that respond to the needs of the marketplace while pursuing a clear and aligned long-term vision. In other words: to simultaneously look through a microscope and a telescope, to have the courage to intercept the future, not just flow with it.

Top Growing Brands are clear examples of this behavior. Amazon and Netflix lead their categories because of their tremendous ability to adapt to the needs of their users but also because they were ahead of the future. They listened to people, understood them and, consequently, gave people what they needed even before they knew they needed it. But if we open the frame and analyze recent years of BGB, growth of the best brands can be explained by one of the following trends:

  1. Positive Utility: A few years ago, the word “storytelling” filled a lot of headlines, meetings and seminars, but today BGB’s leading brands are demonstrating that growth is not so much derived from a great story but rather in the ability to be useful in consumers’ daily lives. Google is the clearest example of this: it’s an omnipresent brand that lives with us daily and provides us with services that make our lives easier in every way.
  2. Subscription Mindset: 29% of BGB 2018 brands follow a subscription-based business model. In 2009, this figure was less than 18%. Brands such as Netflix or Spotify have cultivated customer loyalty in a society that prioritizes access over ownership and that interacts much more with highly personalized services.
  3. Customer Centricity: One of the key factors in providing value to a brand is the ability to respond to the changing expectations and needs of customers in a relevant way. To do this, the future is about co-creation, bringing the voice of consumers to every aspect of the business.
  4. The rise of luxury: Luxury is the Top Growing Sector this year (42%). It is an incredible leap that can be explained by the ability of its brands (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, etc.) to anticipate and respond to ever-changing cultural trends. They have immersed themselves in urban culture and have opened new levels of access without losing their authenticity and exclusivity.
  5. Role of Brand: This is one of the pillars of Interbrand’s methodology when evaluating any brand. The Role of Brand indicates the importance of the brand at the time of purchase. Of course, this percentage is higher in sectors such as luxury or premium automotive, but it is not exclusive to just those sectors. For example, Apple managed to increase the brand’s role in its category back in 2001, after launching iTunes and the iPod. Steve Jobs thus revolutionized an entire industry where the brand began to play an indispensable role.

Options are as many as brands in the world. There is still no magic formula for growth, but what appears to be certain today is that immobility is no longer an option. Moving forward courageously is the price to pay to be in the game.