What can SME’s learn from the super brands?

Mercedes has been revealed as the UK’s number one consumer superbrand in the 12th annual survey by the Centre for Brand Analysis, toppling last year’s winner Microsoft, which dropped into 6th place. This is the first time in five years that Microsoft or Google have not topped the list.

Mercedes-Benz has performed well  over the last five years, with the brand featuring in the top ten since 2006, finally claiming the top spot on their 125 year anniversary.  The TBCA poll, carried out by the Centre of Brand Analysis, placed the car firm ahead of luxury watchmaker Rolex, which maintained its position from last year, whilst the BBC came in third, having placed in the top five for the last five years.

So what factors are considered when crowning the UK’s top consumer brand? The survey defines a Superbrand as having established “the finest reputation in its field”. Such a brand is deemed to offer “significant emotional and/or tangible advantages over other brands, which customers want and recognise”. The survey asked 2,000 consumers to assess the following:

  • Quality – Does the brand provide quality products and services to its consumers?
  • Reliability – Can the brand be trusted to deliver consistently against its promises and maintain product and service standards at all customer touch points?
  • Distinction – Does the brand offer unique services and products to its consumers? Is it a well known brand that stands out from its competitors?

So how has Mercedes claimed the top spot? The premium brand attributes its success to investing in innovation and building on its 125-year heritage. “We haven’t chased volume sales in the downturn, but last year we increased our market share to 3.4% – a significant figure for a luxury brand. Everybody in the company is absolutely committed to delivering exceptional levels of customer service, and this survey result shows that these efforts are paying off,” says a spokesman for the brand.

Heritage proved to be a key trend in the Consumer survey, with most of the brands having had a longer life span than the average consumer, for example Rolex, British Airways and Jaguar.

So what can SMEs learn from this to help build their brands?

Well, focusing on the 3 attributes of ‘quality’, ‘reliability’ and ‘distinction’ when assessing your business, seems a sensible place to start.

Whilst cutting costs, and corners in the process, might seem appealing in this challenging economic times, it is clear that compromising on quality will severely damage your reputation and potentially long-term profitability.

Reliability and consistency are critical factors to have in place, whether you sell products or deliver services. It is vital that you maintain, if not improve, the levels of service and quality that your customers expect. The challenge for businesses is that customer expectations are not static, they keep increasing, so what might have been perceived as outstanding in the past, might be deemed expected as a minimum, in the present. Ensuring you have effective CRM and delivery systems and managing customer expectations will help maintain the excellent levels of service / quality your customers have come to expect.

Being distinct from your competitors is equally important. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, occupying a distinct and competitive position from your competitors will help your target audience understand how you differ from the other options open to them and most importantly, how they will benefit from your UNIQUE position. It may be challenging, but make sure your business has a USP. Without it, you are just another business amongst many, indistinct and indiscernible from the multitude of options out there. Having trouble coming up with your USP? Take a look at the competition. You may find it is staring you in the face.

Ensuring your business puts ‘quality’, ‘reliability’ and ‘distinction’ at the forefront of its values, gives you a chance of becoming one of the ‘Superbrands’ of the future.

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