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Global brands report offers key lessons from leading players

Interbrand's 2013 Best Global Brands Report prompted great interest, with Coca-Cola ceding its number-one spot for the first time in the survey's history to Apple.

Neil Duffy: managing director of Interbrand London

Neil Duffy: managing director of Interbrand London

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While compelling in itself, it served as a signifier of the extent to which technology brands have surged in recent years in the rankings.

In 2013, four out of the top-five risers have been tech: Facebook (#52, +43%); Google (#2, +34%); Apple (#1, +28%), and Amazon (#19, +27%). Even Prada (#72, +30%) as a "retail" brand saw much of its increase in value being attributable to its ability to embrace the modern world while retaining its Italian luxury heritage.

So, what are the key lessons from this?

The really successful tech brands continue to follow the model of all world-changing brands – they anticipate need and transform desire. Equally, those who fail to do so are punished by the market.

Samsung doesn’t always get the same coverage as Apple, but has taken significant market share through understanding consumers’ desire for greater sharing and accessibility and meeting this through products such as the Galaxy S4. Meanwhile, the delayed launch of the BlackBerry 10 felt like too little too late as this brand fell out of the rankings.

The best tech brands also generated involvement and participation, talking to, not at, their customers. Although defined as a retail brand, Burberry mitigated a slowdown in the China market, driving website traffic on its Chinese website up by 70% and increasing digital integration in its stores.

The most successful brands have a strong core idea, but are able to flex its expression. Cisco positions itself as "The Internet of Everything", which has allowed it to pursue a significant and complex acquisition strategy, while maintaining its compelling status with CIOs who seek leadership in a new era of interconnected devices, data and systems.

A common theme across truly world-changing brands, exemplified by the best technology companies, is their ability to evolve in a dramatically changing world. It will be interesting in the years ahead to measure the success of Microsoft as it moves into a new era of hardware and continues to try to innovate with huge R&D spend all under its "One Microsoft" banner.

As companies like Nintendo have found, brands that become perceived as static can struggle to find their relevance in today’s market.

For me, the most interesting observation from the 2013 survey is the continuing erosion of the strict sector definitions that brands represent. The recent announcement of Angela Ahrendts' impending move from Burberry to Apple is a signifier of this. In 2013 is Burberry a retailer, given that much of its success relates to its mastery of technology? Is Apple a tech company when its physical sales per square foot in its stores provoke the envy of traditional retailers?

Finally, the last few years have seen greater volatility in the Best Global Brands ranking. Well-managed brands engender long-term loyalty and the real long-term winners in the years ahead, tech or trad, will be those that are able to achieve this.   

Neil Duffy is managing director of Interbrand London

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