Despite globalization and new-economy hype, the Swiss are more infatuated than ever with their own brands: among the strongest in the world are no fewer than 14 domestic brands. These include Migros, Toblerone, Rivella, Ovaltine, Gruyère and Swatch. Two other traditional Swiss brands have joined the ranks: Si- nalco and SBB. They displaced well-known global brands such as Chiquita and Levi's from the top 20.
To find out the secret of successful brands, Advico Young & Rubicam (AY&R) surveyed Swiss consumers about more than 1,000 brands as part of the global Brand Asset Valuator brand study. After 1995 and 1998, this survey has now been conducted for the third time. What surprised Peter Felser, CEO of AY&R, most was the consistency of the power brands: "The mass mind reacts less quickly than many believe." Thus, the majority of brands were among the top 20 three years ago, as they were five years ago.
Dotcom companies need to differentiate themselves more clearly
Among the current power brands in Switzerland are both older and relatively young brands. For Felser, this is a strong indication that maintaining brand leadership is not a function of age, but rather reflects vitality and stature: "Brands - unlike products - can maintain a powerful position virtually forever if they are managed properly." By no means would there be an inevitability of brand decline, as Felser points out.
According to the study, Eschenmoser, Smirnoff, M-Budget, Media Markt, Red Bull, Schiesser and Sega are all developing successfully. While Bluewin, Diax, Motorola and Sunrise are developing dangerously "flat," Red Bull and Sega are following the ideal-typical development of successful brands. Nokia, Media Markt and Smart experienced a stormy development, making the leap to power brand in a short time.
The new economy brands still have a long way to go: none of them made it to the top ranks. According to Rolf Zimmermann, head of strategic planning at AY&R and co-author of the study, this is due to the fact that the advertising of most dotcom companies is very similar. He urges them to differentiate themselves more clearly and not to invest almost exclusively in brand awareness, as they have done in the past: "The same laws of brand building apply to dotcom companies as to other brands."
Customer orientation alone is no longer enough
According to Peter Felser, the way consumers experience a brand has fundamentally changed in one crucial respect: "The aspects often demanded, such as quality, customer orientation and customer loyalty, are no longer sufficient to distinguish a brand." They no longer represent a differentiation strategy for Swiss consumers. They are simply taken for granted, are now a must and therefore standard in order to remain in business at all. The vitality of a brand, on the other hand, is very much driven by independence, authenticity, originality and appreciation. This is where the big challenges for power brands lie.
According to Felser, the misconception of customer relationship management, which is on everyone's lips today, is completely misleading in this context. The term suggests that customers are to be managed according to a certain scheme. "Completely wrong," finds the CEO of AY&R, "because managers are supposed to direct their company and not try to lead the customers."
Brand Asset Valuator
With the aim of subtly capturing the brand landscape, the internationally active Young&Rubicam Group surveyed 120000 people in 40 countries worldwide about more than 16000 brands. In Switzerland, the study was conducted for the third time this year on behalf of AY&R, after 1995 and 1998. It is a representative survey based on personal and written interviews in German and French-speaking Switzerland. The study design is based on the following four dimensions of a brand: differentiation, relevance, appreciation and familiarity. From the combination of esteem and familiarity, the ac- tual strength (brand stature) of a brand can be assessed. The relevance and differentiation of a brand together form the brand vitality, which provides information about the future performance of a brand.
What moves the vitality of a brand?
Standalone image (0.91)
Unique offer services (0.86)
Perceived as originals (0.79)
Exude authenticity/genuineness (0.78)
Being different (0.70)
Hardly any influence:
High quality (0.48)
Good price-performance ratio (0.31)
Customer oriented (0.12)
©Advico Young & Rubicam
The top 20 power brands of Dchweiz
Caran d'Ache SBB
Migros Uncle Ben's
Source: BrandAssetTM Valuator, ©Advico Young & Rubicam