“In the world of branding, trust is the most perishable of assets.” So begins the lead article in Business Week’s September 28, 2009 special report on 100 Best Global Brands. The story here is that consumers have lost considerable trust in brands – and in business overall – in the economic tailspin of corporate greed, recession, job losses and tanking home values.
Not surprisingly, financial services and automobile brands tanked. And other long-respected brands – Starbucks, Sony, Harley-Davidson and Dell dropped in the rankings. Google and Amazon were the big winners, having gained 25% and 22% respectively in brand value since 2008. Other winners included Zara, Nestle, Apple, H&M and Ikea. Coca-Cola still holds the #1 post, followed by IBM (#2) and Microsoft (#3).
Smart CMOs are going on the offensive to restore reputations – and brand value. “Trust and transparency” are key areas of focus according to McDonald’s global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon (McDonald’s rose from #8 to #6 in the rankings). Companies like Ford, American Express, and others are re-engineering their marketing departments to embrace new media and leverage digital tools to listen, reach and engage consumers in new and open forums. They are rediscovering the strategic value of public relations and pumping up PR budgets. Investments in social media are eclipsing other marketing initiatives.
So what can healthcare CMOs take away from this news?
- Brand is a critical lever for growth, profitability and competitive performance
- Consumer values and behaviors toward brands are changing
- Trust in the brand – in the company – is paramount to success
- Reach and frequency may not be as effective as listening and engaging
- Marketing resources are shifting from production and placement to people and places
It’s a great time to watch CMOs that are stepping up as ‘chief brand stewards’ and accepting the charge to lead companies into a new consumer world, restore trust and turn the tide on economic performance. Lots to learn.