We Compare to the Top Brands

Have you noticed the same handful of businesses lead every brand ranking, are mentioned repeatedly at conferences, and are consistently referenced in books and articles? One cannot escape testimonials to Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Harley-Davidson, and Disney. It is if there are only a handful of successful brands on the planet.

Now it seems consumers believe that to be true. Wunderman and Penn Schoen Berland surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 65 in the US and the UK, and the findings were consistent across generations, geography and gender. Here is an amazing finding: 87% of US and 85% of UK consumers compare all brand experiences to those they consider the best, such as Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks.

That means when we pick up our dry cleaning, rent a bicycle, or buy a shirt we are judging the experience as compared to ordering a venti cappuccino from Starbucks or streaming Better Call Saul.

After working with tons of brands and consulting to agencies who work with an exponential number of brands I am confident I know what consumers truly want from brands. They demand a solution. A solution that makes their lives easier and more enjoyable. Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks do that.

All that other brand stuff involving authenticity, consistency, and transparency are in the next consideration set. Those considerations are important for sure but when you boil it down consumers consume. Sure, some vote with their wallets if a brand does bad or badly but we buy to satisfy our very selfish needs and wants.

When we buy if the process is customized and personalized to us then all the better. In the Wunderman study 79% of US and 72% of UK consumers will only consider a brand that shows they understand and care about them.

In the 90’s, management consultants extolled the value of “best practice”. That is, studying how another company does things well and stealing it for your own use. That other company did not have to be in the same industry. I remember case studies of healthcare organizations emulating retailors and telecommunications companies seeking answers from the hospitality industry.

What this study demonstrates is this is much larger than pursuing best practices. Brands are expected to operate not so much within their own vertical or steal from others, they are to improve and advance culture at large. The competitive landscape is changing so rapidly effectively setting new standards of excellence that extend far beyond traditional product categories.

“With expectations at an all-time high, brands are required to operate in consumer culture and not just within their own category,” says Jamie Gutfreund, Global CMO of Wunderman. “It used to be that brands had the luxury of customers conforming to their business models, which worked for many years. But the tables have turned. Today, consumers expect businesses to adapt to their needs and our findings are consistent across all generations, geographies and genders.”

This is heady and higher-order benefit stuff. One cannot deny its importance and relevance but what remains to be seen is how many brands can and will advance our culture at large.

If you want to learn more, visit Wunderman’s micro site dedicated to this content.

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