If we think about the history of the big brands that have starred in the 20th century and what we have of the 21st, we realize that each of them promoted one or several transcendental movements that altered the competitive landscape and anticipated the expectations of the consumers. In surprising competition, they have been able to create temporary monopolies that have brought them extraordinary results. At Interbrand we call these types of actions that change the rules of the game “Iconic Moves™”.
Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Coca-Cola are the five most valuable brands in the world, according to Best Global Brands 2019, recently published by Interbrand. Regardless of their age and history, they all have developed one or more Iconic Moves™ that have elevated their brand value to the top.
If something has differentiated Apple (whose brand value is 234.241 million dollars) since its birth is its ability to break the rules of with its products, services and experiences that were clearly ahead of the expectations of consumers.
The first Macintosh was born in 1984—the first computer that could truly be used by everyone. That world changed forever thanks to Steve Jobs, promoter of a “new normal”, in which everyone has one (or several) computers in their home.
It is not the only Iconic Move™ that has starred in Apple. In 2001, when Jobs returned to Apple, he realized the products were not appreciated enough in stores where it was sold. That insight is the seed of the Apple Store, a groundbreaking retail concept, which revolutionized the industry again, putting the customer and the experience at the center of the strategy. That same year, Apple´s total sales were $5.4 billion, of which $19 million came from the newly released Apple Store.
The innovation goes on: the iPod and iTunes transformed the way music is consumed and its industry forever; the launch of the iPhone marked the beginning of the decline of the almighty Nokia, inaugurated the era of smartphones and changed the lives of millions of people forever; The App Store only came to confirm that the mobile phone had become the indispensable tool of the 21st century and, in addition, created an industry that, today, moves millions of dollars.
It has not all been successes on Apple´s path. In 2010, Apple launched iTunes Ping, often known only as Ping; It was Apple´s attempt to create a social network in order to compete with Facebook and MySpace, which led the market at the time. It starts with a million members in 2010 but failed to keep them for a long time. In this case, the product could not be matched in relevance with its competitors.
Google, the tech giant, was born in response to the impoverished experience offered by primitive search engines, such as AltaVista and Lycos. The success was so resounding that just one year after its launch, in June 2000, Google was already the largest search engine in the world.
But the moves did not end there, in revolutionizing the use of the internet forever; They still had to mark inflection points in several industries. First, the advertising, with the launch of Google Adwords, a pioneering service in the extreme personalization of services and that enjoyed for some time the lack of competition.
However, if we have to point out the most relevant Iconic Move™ made by Google, the one that has really boosted its brand value up to 167,713 million dollars and the second position in Best Global Brands, we will say that it has been Google´s ability to create an “ecosystem” of interconnected services that have been impregnated in the daily life of the user: Google Maps, Gmail, Google Translator, Google Drive, YouTube, Google Play… Google really does listen to the needs of their 1.000 million visitors per day.
In order for the path to take us to success, we must learn from our attempts. Such was the case of Google Glasses, a product that found no accommodation in consumer demand. In any case, innovation is part of the brand´s DNA and the news parades another on after another with the aim of enriching the user experience and creating new needs, such as the recent beta launch of Live View for Google Maps. Through the camera of mobile phones, it allows the user to visualize their real environment with 360º vision with virtual indications to guide them in their itinerary.
Digitization opened the door to immediacy in numerous aspects for Amazon, worth 125,263 million dollars, increasing by +24% compared to last year. One of the aspects, related to the time that passes between the online purchase and the arrival of the product at the user´s home. If there is any brand that has managed to satisfy that need, it has been Amazon, which happened in just 10 years of being a virtual bookstore to sell all kinds of items.
Only with the creation of a global and virtual bookstore was already a momentous movement for the brand and the industry. Jeff Bezos understood before anyone else the paradigm shift we are experiencing, in which sectors and categories die, because the big brands become categories themselves. Therefore, Amazon today is a reference platform not only to buy products from others, but has also developed its own products (Kindle, Amazon Echo…) and, at the same time, has become a global entertainment actor, that competes with Netflix and HBO. Let´s not forget, their business of web services for companies, a vital business line for Amazon.
And all this without forgetting Amazon Prime. Bezos realized that when buying in one online store or another, or in a physical store, shipping costs and waiting time were a decisive factor. With the creation of its Prime program, Amazon anticipated the desire of many people to enjoy their virtual online purchase instantly and without shipping costs. After its launch, its annual revenues went from 8,500 million dollars in 2005 to 10,700 million in 2006. Currently, it has more than 90 million subscribers.
But that is not all. Against all odds, Amazon entered retail, the retail of the future. Amazon Go is designed to exponentially improve the experience and shopping time in a supermarket through the latest technology. Again, Amazon exceeds consumer expectations with a unique and innovative service. According to Forbes, Amazon shares rose 2.5% the same week that their supermarkets were launched, proving that Amazon Go is another major milestone in Amazon´s history.
In 2000, Amazon invested 60 million dollars in Kozmo.com, a service that provided DVDs, food, books and Starbucks coffee without shipping costs and shipping instantly. However, Kozmo.com did not have the success that Bezos was hoping for and nearly 1 year later, in 2001 Amazon stopped offering Kozmo.com.
Microsoft, worth 108, 847 million dollars, has managed to remain relevant throughout the last decades thanks to an active listening of the market and its audiences. From the development of MS-DOS (1981), though the ubiquitous Office package to the great Iconic Move™ of the company that was the development of the Windows 95 operating system, which basically managed to monopolize the experience that billions of user have had and that their successive versions still have. Its success was based on the same ingredients that made Apple Macintosh a bestseller: the ability to respond to the needs of many users with an easy-to-use product.
However, the decade that is about to end has not been a piece of cake for the technology brand. It was in danger, in front of other competitors, of losing relevance. But their CEO, Satya Nadella, knew how to understand the context and the current market, and promoted a strategic turn that has given Microsoft many joys. Currently, the company has positioned itself as a nerve center of the business cloud, with multiple services available online and looking for strategic growth with over 230 acquisitions such as LinkedIn, Skype, among others. The results indicate that, for the moment, Microsoft is going in the right direction.
For Microsoft, the road to success was not easy, but they knew how to overcome and learn from their attempts. In 2006, Microsoft developed Zune, a similar product to the iPod in order to conquer the music market and unseat Apple. However, this product arrived too late since the iPod was positioned as a leader and Zune did not offer any innovation against it and therefore, in June 2012 it came to an end. Microsoft reported in 2006 that the launch of Zune had an 11% decrease in its revenue.
So far, we have dug into four brands that were born and grown between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. However, we cannot forget that the fifth most valuable brand in the world, with a value of 63,365 million dollars, has 127 years of history. The world changes and industries too, but the strength and relevance of the Coca-Cola brand is unrivaled. Its iconic character has been achieved by a few brands and we will see if the technology companies that succeed now position themselves in the consumer´s mind as Coca-Cola has done. Over the past 20 years, Microsoft and Coca-Cola are the only brands that have retained the top 10.
We could say that Coca-Cola starred in the first Iconic Move™ of the last century. In 1923, with the invention of the six-pack, they took the opportunity to offer a more practical way to transport several bottles. Almost 100 years ago, the observation, listening and understanding of the client have formed the most effective way to boost the brand and its business.
Another revolution, marked by the spirit of the times, was Coca-Cola Light, launched in 1982. A success that achieved a temporary monopoly by offering its customers a unique and seemingly innovative product. Something similar happened in 2005, with a new movement by the company: Coca-Cola Zero arrived, a product that offered the same attributes as its famous Coca-Cola Light, but with the same flavor as the traditional Coca-Cola.
The advantage of being a best global brand is the innate ability to get ahead of competitors, and Coca-Cola has proved it once again with its policies in favor of the environment. In 2009, they launched their first 100% recyclable container, before any other competitor in the market did. A decade later, the brand´s challenge is to manufacture bottles with recycled plastics from the ocean, maintaining themselves ahead of the curve.
However, to become one of the most recognized brands worldwide, Coca-Cola has also had business strategies that did not work, but knew how to overcome them and turn the situation around. In the early 1980s, Coca-Cola was losing ground in front of Pepsi. In response, Coca-Cola tried to create a product that tasted more like Pepsi, called New Coke. However, Coca-Cola abandoned this product a few weeks after its launch after sensing weak signals and returned to its former product. Coca-Cola never disclosed how much money they lost with the launch of New Coke, but the New York Times estimates that in addition to the USD 4 million spent on marketing for its product, the company lost around USD 30 million.
After reviewing the top 5 Best Global Brands, we can answer this question: what is the key to your success? The answer is that, today, consumers are exposed to an excess of options and this, added to the speed with which innovations are implanted, is affecting loyalty.
The most relevant brands in the world have understood that, to remain in the minds of consumers and, therefore, retain their loyalty, change and progressive improvement are not enough. Movements and actions that suppose a “small earthquake” in industries are necessary to be able to anticipate what consumers expect and thus again a competitive advantage in the market. The formula to cultivate continuous change includes bravery in terms of leadership and speed of adoption.
These “small earthquakes” are the Iconic Moves™, as we have described from Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Coca-Cola: new strategies, products or services that have created a desire in the consumer and, which, due to their avant-garde nature, derive in a small temporary monopoly that generates extraordinary results for the company.
As Charles Trevail, CEO of Interbrand Group, said, “For decades, the entire discipline of brand-building was based on the concept of brand positioning, but in today´s accelerating markets, customer expectations outstrip static brand positions. Brands can no longer be considered separate to businesses and will be judged on what they do, not just what they say; it is about trust, not just delivery.”
Iconic Moves™ are gamechangers in the day to day life of the consumers and that as a result, change history forever. Not everything works, but we can learn from experiences. Now more than ever, companies need true leadership who understands that the consumer is who moves the organization and that the people in it need to be aligned with the culture of “always on”. The market is hypercompetitive, and society is hyper saturated, which is why consumers´ expectations go faster than the businesses themselves.