A combination of innovation, efficiency, scalability and quality can set any corporation ahead of the competition, however it takes more than this to become a world-leading brand. Nigel Hollis, author of The Global Brand, believes there are in fact, five additional components required to achieve successful global branding, these are brand experience, clear and consistent positioning, a sense of dynamism, a sense of authenticity and a strong corporate culture.
Below we take a look at 10 of the most successful brands in North America, and ask how they capture the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers’ year on year.
When it comes to branding, it is hard to write an article without mentioning the powerhouse that is Apple. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the tech company in 1976 with the aim of developing and selling personal computers. Today the brand is best known for its hardware products including the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, as well as consumer software solutions such as the OS X and iOS operating systems.
In 2008, the technology firm was named the most admired company in the United States by Forbes magazine and held the title until 2012. In 2013, Apple overtook Coca Coal to become the world’s most valuable brand according to Omnicom Group’s ‘Best Global Brands’ report and in 2014 it is still going strong holding 6th place on the Fortune 500 list.
The Apple brand is synonymous with innovation and has been credited time and time again with leading the way when it comes to product and concept development. The Apple brand is clear and consistent, its products are authentic and what’s more the company has created a strong corporate culture that not only extends to its employees but its users too.
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So here’s the thing, Google has managed to create a global brand almost without anybody noticing and has done so by focusing almost solely on the quality of its service offering. Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the multinational corporation in January 1996 as part of a research project when they were both PhD students at Stanford University. Since then, the Internet based brand has sky rocketed, reporting revenues hitting $50 billion in 2012.
So, what made this little know advertising and page ranking company - which didn’t launch an advert for its products until 26th May 2011 (Google Chrome: Dear Hollie) - achieve global prominence in a saturated market?
Google, from day one has been dedicated to providing the best possible search outcome for its users. It has spent billions trying to perfect its algorithm and continues to do so, it doesn’t (where possible) block or indeed promote content without ranking merit and finally it has managed to create a tool in the form of Adwords, that not only drives profit for the company, but also helps million of businesses achieve recognition on a daily basis. Google has never changed its mission statement, which is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful” – and it’s that consistent and unwavering focus that has seen the brand reap success year-in year-out.
Every corporation experiences good times and bad – some can weather the storm, while others will fall at the first hurdle. What is remarkable about Microsoft is its staying power, its ability to remain current decade after decade. As Forbeswriter Greg Satell says, “While at any given time the fortunes of a company can wax and wane, Microsoft has maintained a superior business for over three decades. No tech company can match its track record.”
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in April 1975 and began by developing BASIC Interpreters for Altair 8800 - by the mid 80s the company has risen to prominence with its personal computer operating system MS-DOS. Today the firm develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells countless products and services, some of the most notable being Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Xbox and Microsoft Surface.
The brand has achieved such phenomenal success for a number of reasons; firstly it has never made any serious business mistakes – yes every company has its ups and downs, but in terms of strategic management, Microsoft has always remained watertight. Secondly, Gates and his management team have always committed $9 billion to R&D per annum, allowing the brand and its products to develop, and thirdly, the company has been able to partner with external companies effectively, thus diversifying its product offering and audience.
Wal-Mart has come a long way since Sam Walton opened the first discount store in Rogers, Arkansas, 50 years ago. To put its success into perspective – if Wal-Mart was a country, it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with the global grocery giant registering sales of $466.1 billion in 2012. According to Fortune Global 500 list in 2013, Wal-Mart is the second largest public corporation in the world and the biggest employer with more than two million members of staff; it is also the world’s largest retailer.
Unlike the technology companies featured on this list, Wal-Mart has developed its brand almost solely through business efficiency and exemplary strategic planning. Take for example that when you Google: “What makes Wal-Mart so successful?” the top eight responses are related to the efficacy of its supply chain. When it comes to consumer demand within the grocery sector, end price plays a huge role – Wal-Mart has been able to drive down the price of its products through streamlined operations and meticulous waste management and thus attracts more customers.
The International Business Machines Corporation (most commonly known as IBM) began life in 1911. The computing giant is my no means the longest running company in the world, however it is certainly one of the longest (if not the longest) running technology company in existence today – no mean feat considering the fast paced, ever changing nature of the industry.
According to an article published in The Economist, “IBM's secret is that it is built around an idea that transcends any particular product or technology. Its strategy is to package technology for use by businesses. Building a company around an idea, rather than a specific technology, makes it easier to adapt when industry “platform shifts” occur.”
IBM’s business model is such that is can change, react and adapt to the times and business trends. Having said that, the company has managed to achieve success by combining this adaptability with a strong corporate image. Often referred to as Big Blue IMB has developed a consistent brand from which it can promote its products and services.
General Electric, or GE is an American multi-national with specialties in four fields: Energy, Technology Infrastructure, Capital Finance and Consumer and Industrial. The company has won bucket loads of accolades for its business acumen, from being named the fourth largest company in America by Fortune Global 2000, to taking the number seven spot on Forbes coveted ‘leaders’ list. So, what makes GE more notable, successful and ultimately profitable than its counterparts.
According to Josh Bersin, writing for Forbes, at the epicenter of GE’s success is expert management. “Successful businesses today are run by experts,” he says. New leaders at GE are expected to develop a ‘deep expertise’ – a complete and total understanding of the business and its different facets. The day of the General Manager is gone, says Bersin. In order to achieve global success in today’s business environment, you need specialist leaders with deep pools of knowledge.
Amazon began life as on online bookstore and has developed to become the world’s largest online retailer. It started by riding the dot com bubble and was one of the very few online retailers to survive when the bubble burst. According to George Parker, writing for Business Insider, a lot of Amazon’s success to date comes down to the mindset of its CEO Jeff Bezos and his utter disregard for convention when it comes to building a multi-national brand.
Amazon led the way in terms of customer service and had a unique approach to building a lasting business model. For example, it pioneered 24/7/365 shopping, while refusing to use robots in its warehouses to make up for the demand. This level of flexibility allows the company to maximize warehouse storage while keeping operating costs to a minimum. As with so many of the leading brands in America, the CEO – in this instance Jeff Bezos – has been instrumental to the success of the company. His strong leadership and unwavering conviction in the business model has driven success.
Coca-Cola is one of North America’s most iconic brands and has dominated the beverage industry on a global scale for more than 125 years - no mean feat in the cut-throat business world. So how has the company managed to remain at the top of its game for such a long time? Marianne Bickle, a contributor to Forbes magazine, puts it down to Coca-Cola’s dedication to corporate responsibility.
“What I believed would be a simple bottling tour,” she wrote about her experience visiting the Coke museum in Atlanta, GA, “turned into the realization that Coca-Cola embraced the world, social responsibility, and was a cultural phenomenon.” Bickle even went on to say that she believes: “Coke as a company continues to ask the question – “Are we doing enough?” Their response is always the same – No. They always look for improvements.”
Bickle’s view of the brand is extremely interesting. Primarily it goes to show that corporate social responsibility does play a role in brand development, but secondly it highlights that marketing, product development, product design and brand philosophy all need to be continually reviewed and improved to keep a company fresh, exciting and ultimately profitable.
Verizon Communications began life as Bell Atlantic in 1983 – based in New York City, the company provided telecommunication services up until 2000, when it merged with independent phone company GTE and adopted the name Verizon. Today the company is the largest network provider in North America, an achievement Nancy Stark, a Verizon Wireless spokesperson puts down to customer loyalty.
“Verizon Wireless has the largest, most reliable voice and data network in the US, a key factor in customer loyalty,” she said. “That is because, whether sophisticated or basic, devices and applications are only as good as the network they're on. This reputation for network quality, coupled with our wide choice of smartphones, operating systems and exclusive apps like NFL Mobile and Skype Mobile all contribute to earning our customers' loyalty.”
Verizon is proud of its dedication to customer service, just going to show that when it comes to an everyday service offering, reliability, open communication and customer care cannot be underestimated.
Similarly to Verizon, AT&T is a telecommunications powerhouse – in fact, as of 2013, it was labeled the 21st largest mobile telecom operator in the world with over 107.9 million mobile customers.
When it comes to management and corporate strategy, recruitment is high on the agenda at AT&T. The company has produced a feed of career fairs and job opportunities on their app and their site also features photos of actual employees, and ‘day-in-the-life’ posts that show potential candidates the hiring process, and corporate culture, highlights RecruiterBox.
From day one, the corporate identity is extremely important at AT&T and de-facto every employee in-store, on the phone or in the head office is promoting the same corporate message. Its this cultural strength that AT&T owes a lot of its success.