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The five factors of growth: Measures of a Breakthrough Brand

There are ten key factors to building and growing great brands over the long term, all of which are equally important and represent defining characteristics of the world’s most successful brands—and the Best Global Brands. However, the brands featured in this report are breaking through the growth barrier—they are the ones that will impact future generations, define progress, and change their markets and categories. To do so, these up-and-comers necessarily need to focus on five key factors—the ones that are essential to building a brand and growing a business in the Age of You: clarity, relevance, differentiation, presence, and engagement.

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Breakthrough Brands are top performers in each of these five focus areas. It’s what’s enabled them to introduce a solid business platform, build a brand on top of it, and deliver an experience that’s closely connected to the core concept and widely resonant. By developing a forensic understanding of themselves, their audiences, and their markets, and generating the creative fuel that will lead to long-term growth, these brands have broken into the spotlight, staked claim in audiences’ ecosystems, and secured a spot in our inaugural report.


Great brands start from within. Organizations need to develop internal clarity, not only about what the brand stands for—its values, positioning, and proposition—but also about its target audiences and what drives them. This is particularly important for growing companies, which can and should use their brand’s values, mission, and proposition to inform business decisions.

Understanding what drives target audiences allows brands to more efficiently focus their efforts on appealing to them. It’s about more than just analyzing traditional demographic stats and psychographic data; in order to be clear about who their customers are and how they plan to engage them, brands need to develop a deeper, more intimate understanding of their audiences. Furthermore, in an age in which employees—particularly younger ones—want to work for organizations that are building toward the future with a clear purpose, clarity becomes vital for talent acquisition and retention.


Growth starts with a smart business model. Whether disrupting an existing market, creating a new category, or entering a new market, a brand cannot sell a product or service if it does not align with consumer needs and desires. These brands are convincing customers that something new or different is relevant: that it will make their lives easier, more enjoyable, more comfortable, more secure—in a word, better.

While successful emerging brands can satisfy an existing need or desire, the most impressive ones create new needs or desires to which their products and services cater. By generating demand instead of displacing it, these brands are creating the categories of the future. Instead of scrambling to stay ahead, they will shape the landscape and create relevance.


Brands need to drive choice in order to grow. Even if a company’s products or services are relevant, it’s a unique proposition and distinct brand experience that convinces audiences to choose one brand over others.

This is particularly important for the growth of emerging brands, which are competing first to be noticed, then to be chosen over the competition. Without a unique selling point, consumers have no reason to switch from an existing brand that they are loyal to or to experiment with something new that they didn’t know existed—or didn’t know they wanted or needed. It is often this unique proposition, and experience a brand delivers on top of that, that builds consumer perception and, if done right, will drive demand. The brands that clearly communicate their distinct stories are the ones that stand out—and break through.


In the customer-centric Age of You, brands need to be everywhere its audiences are. If a brand is not omnipresent in the mind of consumers—and talked about and perceived positively—then it is going to be difficult to break through and become a successful business. A brand’s clarity of values, proposition, and purpose; its relevance to consumers; and its differentiated offerings—all of this needs to be communicated to audiences and reinforced across multiple channels and touchpoints.

It used to be that being present in traditional media would be enough. But by investing in traditional media alone, emerging brands may miss out on crucial audiences. Nontraditional, digital media is essential for emerging brands: it often has a lower barrier to entry and offers access to younger, broader audiences. By maintaining a digital presence, brands and their marketers can react in real time to events and engage in direct conversations with their desired audiences.

Which leads us to our final growth factor for these emerging brands:


A brand can have clarity and be relevant, differentiated, and ultra-present, but if consumers don’t show a deep understanding of, active participation in, and a strong sense of identification with the brand, the rest doesn’t matter.

Engaging audiences is not about one-way conversations—today’s consumers don’t want to be talked at, they want brands to see them eye to eye and to be able to communicate their needs back to the brands. Often, they want to feel as if they have a say in the direction of the business or, at least, feel like their thoughts, feedback, and concerns are being heard. Holding two-way conversations is how the emerging and successful brands of the future will build a loyal customer base and drive up their margins. Mutual engagement creates a feedback loop, providing even greater clarity about audiences’ needs and desires—and about customers’ perception of the brand—allowing growing brands to continuously refine their products, messages, and experiences.

There is more to building a successful business than the above, and there will be additional considerations as emerging brands begin to mature. Still, these five factors are crucial for building a successful brand that will not just break through, but will stand the test of time and do what all of the best global brands do: drive choice, engender loyalty, and command a premium.


Senior Consultant, Strategy
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