How do you measure a brand’s success? Through profit? Innovative ideas? Sheer ubiquity?
Rather than talk about the biggest and best brands, we decided to look at which brands are best positioned to endure within their industries. These brands appear across a range of sectors–from law to insurance to nonprofits to tech–but they all share one key trait: the ability to successfully navigate change.
We reached out to experts and practitioners in the nine industries we work with most frequently to nominate the brands they viewed as most enduring and equipped to thrive amid change. Of them, 334 nominees were then narrowed to a top 50 and then rated by 5,000 U.S. consumers who were familiar with the nominees. The consumer insights generated through this process allowed us to develop an Enduring Brands Index and surface five essential traits that every brand needs to endure:
Key attribute: presenting a distinct character with mastery and confidence
The most self-aware brands have a clear understanding of who they are, what they stand for, and how to express themselves to the world. Unsurprisingly, nonprofits rank at the top of self-aware brands, with Habitat for Humanity placing No. 1 overall in our index for its ability to unify its mission around benefactors and those who support the cause.
Key attribute: turning to fundamental truths to inform decision-making
Principled organizations excel when what they stand for is lived out in the daily lives of their employees. Law firms score extremely well here. Latham & Watkins, an Am Law 100 firm, ranked No. 13 overall because of its philosophy to plan carefully, consider wisely, and move with intention that correlates to its principle.
Key attribute: planning and executing growth at its own pace, on its own terms
The most deliberate brands have cultivated the foresight to think ahead and plan for multiple outcomes to maximize opportunities and build toward long-term goals, sustaining effort over time. Insurance firms, like Geico–ranked No.1 in its industry–are extremely deliberate in the way they plan to maximize opportunities. But this can have drawbacks as excessive planning can make it difficult to respond quickly and adapt to the shifting needs of customers.
Key attribute: responding to audiences to stay ahead of the curve
Adaptable brands are attuned to the changing demands of their audiences. They evolve to manage new tastes, personalities, and identities. Hospitality ranked high in adaptability. Airbnb, for example, ranked No. 2 in its category for how it harnesses data to interpret the voice of its customer base, expands its product offerings, and improves service in response to the needs of guests around the world.
Key attribute: investing in achievable goals
Focus is derived from an ability to set clearly defined goals that can be used to measure progress. As an industry, consulting faces an uphill battle in popular perception, yet the focus needed to succeed in this space has cultivated enduring brands through the decades. At No. 2 in its category, BCG understands focus–having cultivated a personality that sets itself apart from the competition as a way to attract clients and talent alike.
The most enduring brands are the ones that understand and harness a mixture of all five traits; however, there is no single recipe for success. The best strategic pathway will vary for every industry, and for each brand. It starts with understanding expectations and opportunities, harnessing strengths weaknesses, and looking for inspiration outside of the competitive set. Industries and organizations are always evolving to better navigate change. “Endurance” can take many different forms. The trick is to identify specific levers that brands have at their disposal to improve their prospects for sustained success.
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Thomas Walker is a marketing manager at the Carbone Smolan Agency.