Triumphs and failures for some of the world’s biggest brands

As recently as 2000, the leading brands on earth were Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM respectively (followed by General Electric, Intel, Nokia, Ford, Disney and McDonald’s). The carbonated beverage manufacturer remained at the top of the best global brand rankings in 2000–2012. That was the year Apple went to the top, where it has been ever since (although Amazon and Google are nibbling at their platinum-heeled heels).

So how have these brands become so prominent? What do they do so much better than their competitors? And what does the example of Kodak – a brand that seemed too big to fail… until it did – tell us about how changeable the success of a brand can be?

Market dominance

It may not be ranked number one, but when it comes to dominating its market, it’s hard to get past Google’s dizzying success, according to associate professor of marketing at UNSW Sydney Nitika Garg.

“It’s a story of pure dominance when it comes to product quality, while if you look at Microsoft, it has failed so badly,” says Garg.

“[Google is] not only do they serve the needs that the consumer recognizes today, they serve the needs that the consumer will recognize when they offer the product. “- Nitika Garg

“As a researcher, I often talk to other colleagues and I ask, ‘What happened to Microsoft? They have the resources, how can they be so awful? How is that possible?’

“What Google did and still continues to do really, really well is innovate in the true sense of the word. Not only do they serve the needs that the consumer recognizes today, they serve the needs that the consumer will recognize when they offer the product.

“I have not seen a search engine come close to Google. They had competitors, but they are all gone, and then they build synergies between categories.

“So if you think about Google Photos or Google Drive, these are things that people did not even recognize or thought they would need. Now, how many of us use these products? Almost everyone does.”

The cool factor

So being brilliant and innovative is obviously a way to drive success, but the only company that is even stronger financially than Google is what we often use to access the ubiquitous search engine – Apple. And while it has far more competitors, including Samsung, which is also one of the world’s most successful brands, it has managed to differentiate itself by not necessarily being the best but rather by being the coolest.

Garg says that the secret there is to create desirability through design. Apple not only sells devices or computers, it sells a picture and although that picture may have been “more-nerdy-than-mainstream” during the company’s jelly bean-colored iMac, everything changed with the launch of the iPod in 2001 and then, Six years later, it went to the next level with the launch of the iPhone.

“When we teach here, all the laptops in the classes are dominated by Apple, although, if you ask the experts, their laptops are actually not the best,” says Garg. “But that’s what they’ve done really well; they have understood who the consumer is, because they are not trying to satisfy everyone and they are not just looking for the technically savvy types anymore.

“They go after the consumer who values ​​the aesthetics, Apple’s sleek looks, Apple’s promise that it’s the top of the line, which signals that they can afford this product. And it’s a form of eye-catching consumption too. It’s a symbol that says.” See, I can afford an Apple “or” I can have the latest Apple device. “

“And then Apple also supports that sales pitch with excellent service because it’s also very important. People expect consistent quality and you do not want to break consumers’ expectations or disappoint them because that’s when they will change their view of the brand and their preferences.”

Luxury in demand

When it comes to selling an image rather than just the product, the world of premium brands works on a whole different level.

Today, Professor Ian Phau is the director of the Luxury Branding Research Cluster at Curtin University, but he previously worked for LVMH, a French company that includes some of the world’s most exclusive brands including Louis Vuitton, Moët and Chandon, Hennessy, Bulgari, Fendi, Christian Dior and many more.

He explains that the world of luxury brands is changing everything about how other products are marketed.

“When you talk about the luxury industry, you talk about exclusivity, scarcity, rarity. So the smaller the specific product, the more consumers want it. “- Ian Phau

“Just take the price to begin with. If you look at your ambitious brands, your H&M for example, all the fast fashion brands, they will offer things like discounts and promotions. But if you look at Louis Vuitton, there is no such thing as a promotion. ”, Phau explains.

“When you talk about the luxury industry, you talk about exclusivity, scarcity, rarity. So the smaller the specific product, the more consumers want it.

“One of the most important things about luxury brands is that they are not about satisfying consumers. You see the luxury product as a work of art – either you like it or you do not like it. If you do not like it, you are not the customer, so to speak. But luxury brands still want you to know about them – they still want to build that communication.

“I would say that the successful brands are the ones who set the tone, set the innovation, set the trend for others to look at. And they have a very strong focus on brand culture. The culture of the brand must be consistent, must have a very strong personality and must really act according to what the brand stands for. ”

Incredibly, the recent years of covid-19 locks and supply chain problems have actually proven to be lucrative for luxury brands. Phau describes them as “recession-proof” because it has enabled them to play into their favorite trick – to focus on scarcity and use it to raise prices to increasingly stratospheric levels.

“Brands like Chanel and so on have raised their prices by 25 percent every quarter in recent years and that builds on the rare aspect of it,” he explains.

“I actually interviewed a consumer in Shanghai in early 2020 who loved Chanel like crazy. She had saved to get a Chanel handbag that cost about $ 18,000, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, it was locked so everyone physical stores were closed and she could not get hold of it.

“After three months or so when the stores reopened, the price had risen by 25 percent and she could no longer afford it. I literally make her cry on the camera because she lost the opportunity to buy it.

“If you look at the price level of their product two years ago, since then it has probably gone up two or three times in total. So luxury brands work in a completely different way because the whole idea is to build on scarcity, rarity and exclusivity.”

To achieve cult status

For almost all brands, even the most luxurious, advertising is an important way to keep their profile high in the eyes of consumers.

However, there is a giant extremist: Tesla, the world’s most valuable (or overvalued) car company, which threw out the marketing manual from day one and spends very few of its billions of dollars on traditional campaigns.

Garg says it has been incredible to see how Tesla has avoided the conventional marketing plans for advertising, marketing, product placement and co-branding. “Instead, it has relied almost exclusively on publicity and public relations in the sense that their CEO is the brand – Elon Musk is Tesla,” explains Garg.

“Everything he does or says is covered and it makes Tesla stand out in people’s minds so it happens a lot word of mouth. I have a friend who actually said, ‘Oh, I just got my Tesla, which was on my bucket list.’ . “I really mean? To-do-before-I-die-list?

“They have created a cult status for their brand in a way. From the beginning there was a shortage, but now it goes to the masses and it is seen as an innovator in the market.

“And because of the hype, Tesla has become like Apple’s cars, right? Tesla symbolizes innovation, it symbolizes technology, it symbolizes superiority in these dimensions, which creates a halo effect for the consumer in terms of how it signals, ‘I’m ahead of the curve.’ . ”

The task for other car brands, such as Mazda, is much more traditional but no less challenging, and brand building is still extremely powerful.

Zoom Zooms past the competition

In Australia, Mazda is the second best-selling car brand, a position that it is far from holding anywhere else in the world – in Europe, Mazda comes in 18th place. In terms of market share, Australia is actually Mazda’s main market and much of that success is due to the fact that only one word is repeated: “Zoom Zoom”.

Alastair Doak, Marketing Manager at Mazda Australia, says that the launch of the memorable campaign and slogan back in 2000 was a huge success.

In terms of market share, Australia is Mazda’s leading market and much of that success is due to the fact that only one word is repeated: “Zoom Zoom”.

“It really tied in with the idea that Mazda is a bit special, that it’s a bit sporty, and I think the ‘Zoom Zoom’ slogan really encapsulated what it means to most people in Australia. That’s why we’ve stuck to it in Australia – it still exists and it is still an incredibly powerful message “, Doak explains.

“It’s not used globally anymore, they use ‘Feel Alive’ in the US and ‘Drive Together’ in Europe. You have to have something that really means something, that reflects the brand’s values, and for our markets, ‘Zoom Zoom’ has just been incredibly successful. . ”

Too big to fail?

Consumers are, of course, extremely changeable, as the war between Microsoft and Apple clearly proves. So is there such a thing as a brand that is too big to fail? Garg does not think so.

“We have seen enough examples of brands that seemed invincible and then suddenly they are nowhere,” she says. “You may seem like you have a very powerful position, but if you do not keep up with the current offers, if you are not at the top of your game, it is easy for the competition to knock you down.

“An example is Kodak, which was the biggest on the market, right? Nowadays, if you look at the film sales, and even the brand itself, it has just disappeared, which is fantastic. How can such a large brand that was number one in its category just disappear? Because they completely missed the opportunity to become first in digital, or even second in digital.Kodak had so much brand capital – people associated them with photography – and they lost the action.

“So I do not think any of these brands take their position for granted. Or at least they should not do it because consumers can very quickly let us know that tomorrow, if there is a better deal out there, they will move on. ”

Read next: 10 of the most powerful luxury brands today

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