Future Brand has created quite a stir with the release of its 2018 Index.  Running in its fourth year, the FutureBrand Index, a global brand perception study of the PwC Global Top 100 Companies by market capitalization, is challenging the notion that the future of brands is set. The Brandberries has exclusively interviewed Jon Tipple, author of the report and Global Chief Strategy Officer of Future Brand, to dig deeper into the index and get more insights on the future of brands.

Jon Tipple, Chief Strategy Officer, FutureBrand

BB: What makes the future brand index more distinguished than other brand ranking indexes is the methodology used.  Being a “global perception” ranking index, it’s all about making valuable intangible data, tangible. Can you give us some insights on the methodology of the index and how the future success formula is measured?

JT:The FutureBrand Index offers the only rigorous assessment of how future proof the world’s most prominent companies are based on the perceptions of a uniquely and carefully selected ‘informed global public’.

By associating with PWC and using their Global Top 100 companies by market capitalization, we avoid any bias around which companies feature in our Index from the outset. Similarly, by partnering with the independent research company, QRi, we have a fully transparent research methodology.

We also avoid ascribing a financial valuation in our Index as we believe that these are invariably only partially accurate. What’s more, these valuations rely on a range of data points and, whilst interesting, all data comes from one place – the past. Instead we seek to help marketers and company leaders understand how they are perceived today across a broad range of brand associations and how these are likely to change in the future if left untended.

Ultimately, this means that our Index is the only one that really goes beyond being an interesting league table to become a ‘user manual’ for business leaders regardless of whether their own company features or not.

BB:The future brand index 2018 is causing quite a stir. With Disney taking an unprecedented first place rank and Apple falling to fourth, the perception of the future of brands is being shaken. What is the index telling us about the future of brands?

JT: It tells us a number of things. Firstly, that the future is not set. We are seeing, for example, a new resilience amongst larger, older companies. All the talk over the last decade has been that the future belonged to ‘new era’ digital services brands like Uber, Google, FaceBook etc. While these brands aren’t going away neither are many of the pre-millennium companies like Disney, ABinBev, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and GSK who have found new, innovative ways to stay relevant and meaningful to modern day lives.

The Index also tells us that as well as maturity, things like sector, country of originand tech/data-savvy are less relevant right now. What matters far more is how well brands are able to align the totality of the experiences they create with their wider corporate purpose. In this sense, Walt Disney, Nestlé, GSK and Toyota are as future proof as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

That said, it’s hard to ignore the Healthcare sector which has significantly benefited from the rising demand from the public for brands that offer up a clear sense that they are changing lives for the better and bringing increased wellbeing. This is something the Technology sector should urgently address.

Looking further ahead, the FutureBrand Index 2018 also reveals, that right now, the future would seem to belong to Chinese and US brands, with only a few companies from elsewhere. Successful brands from these two huge markets enjoy both the commercial clout that comes from their domestic scale and size but also the experience that comes from meeting the needs of their home audiences which are invariably reflect those of the wider planet.

 BB: The future brand index 2018 lays out the Financial ranking of the brand vs the Perception ranking. The index showcases some brands having a significant deviation between both rankings.  In your opinion, what impacts a brand more, the finance or the perception?

JT: Slight correction. We use PWC’s Global Top 100 by market capitalization which is, to some extent, itself a perception measure as it is partly based on share price – a sign of market sentiment.

But to answer your question, both have an impact especially when you consider that our informed global public sample will likely include investors as well as customers and consumers.

The gap between a given company’s PWC ranking and its FutureBrand Index ranking – i.e. its ‘cap gap’ – is valuable as it gives a sense of how future proof a company happens to be, today. By reordering the PWC ranking, we seek to be useful to real life brand decision making because we believe that well managed brands future proof businesses.

BB: There are quite a good number of new entries to this year’s ranking. Having a new entry brand such as Chinese liquor giant, Kweichow Moutai rank second is quite outstanding. In your opinion, what are they doing right?

JT:There are some exciting new entrants this year like Netflix and Nvidia as well as Kweichow Moutai.  The nature of our methodology and sample allows for brands with real energy around them to rise strongly.

Kweichow Moutai has not only the stature that you’d expect from the world’s number 1 spirits company but also the momentum that comes from creating world class brand experiences in and around the product itself. With strong rituals and plans to expand into hospitality, this is great example of a product brand that is thinking more like a service experience.

BB: Only two technology brands were able to make it to the top ten. With Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet tumbling in ranking and the perception rate of the technology sector in decline, the index raised the question of whether technology brands are losing their purpose and meaning. Please elaborate.

JT:Amongst our informed global public sample, there is a confidence crisis emerging around tech brands right now. While there is no doubt that technology will play a big part in shaping the future, quite how has become increasingly unclear.

While technology brings change and new experience, the point and purpose behind this change is sometimes less apparent. This is in stark contrast to their tech ‘cousins’ in the burgeoning healthcare space which scores strongly on not changing lives but changing lives for the better. To recover fast, technology brands need to address concerns around how they bring pleasure, how they introduce big ideas and how those ideas positively progress the wellbeing of humanity.

BB:The future brand index includes brands from everywhere around the world, except the Middle East. What could brands from the region do to enhance their global perception and make it in the ranking?

JT:Be inspired by the world’s more future proofed brands and avoid the mistakes of the biggest fallers! And remember that the Index shows that where you’re from, how old you are, how tech-enabled you are matters far less than how well brands are able to align the totality of the experiences they create with their wider corporate purpose. The Middle East is a place of unbelievable imagination and possibility – delivering on your vision and purpose with deeply human-relevant experiences and interactions is where every brand needs to focus to fully proof its future.