Brands are like people. They build strong, enduring relationships based on honesty, trustworthiness and dependability. And like people, there are natural leaders and resigned followers. Yet regardless of sales, some brands achieve “leadership status” and others do not. Is it authenticity? Ubiquity? Engagement with social causes? Do they trigger memories from another time?
Big Arrow’s quest to understand the perception of leadership and the strategies brands follow to achieve it started in 1994 and continues to this day. We assumed that if marketers could better understand how brands evolved into leaders, they could short-cut the process of positioning (new) products, thereby saving time, money and guaranteeing a more successful return on investment.
Two decades of the same answers.
More than 20 years ago, we began exploring the concept of “brand leadership” among customers of packaged goods, healthcare and B2B brands. We wanted to determine what customers expected from a leader, the perceived value leadership offered, and what brands did to achieve and sustain their status in their customers’ minds.
Leadership principles are consistent regardless of category.
This ongoing longitudinal, quantitative research revealed some surprising consistencies, regardless of category, geography or audience demographics. When given a relevant category, most people can name a leader, and when asked why they name a certain brand the ‘leader,’ more than 90% cite trust and longevity. Fewer than 50% of those surveyed named a leader because it sold the most. We also discovered that once a brand gains “leadership status,” consumers bestowed a halo of perceived benefits whether the brand offers them or not. These supplemental assets included reliability, quality, service, ubiquity, value and innovation. Pretty heady benefits, even though they might not be true.
Achieving leadership status also improved reputation. Three-quarters of our respondents would give leaders the benefit of the doubt in case of a problem or issue. Not only do most people choose their perceived leader over any competitive brands, more than half would pay a premium for the leader’s products or services.
Take your leadership journey with Big Arrow.
So how does a brand go about creating the perception of leadership? Next week we’ll continue our conversation by revealing the four universal human needs that brands must address in their quest for leadership.
Leadership is closer than you think. All you have to do is follow the arrow.