Insights from BrandZ: How Volkswagen and Facebook have survived crises and thrived


Some brands that hit the headlines for the wrong reasons disappear, others seem to miraculously bounce back. Peter Walshe, Global BrandZ Strategy Director, explains how brands can earn staying power.

There are brands that die when things go wrong and there are those that bounce back. Volkswagen is a case in point. Many thought the emissions scandal would seriously damage the German auto giant. But after an absence of two years, the brand returned to the BrandZ Most Valuable Automotive ranking, taking the number 10 spot with a brand value of around $6 billion.

What helped it recover was the power of the VW brand. Years of consumers having positive experiences of owning and driving a VW, as well as strong communications to its target audiences, ensured that brand recommendation and brand trust scores were never dented.

Readers might also be forgiven for thinking this has been a brutal year for Facebook, given the long string of global scandals. Nevertheless, Facebook remains a must-have digital utility around the world. Trust scores for Facebook are 113, well above the average brand score of 100.

The ability of consumer trust to insulate brands from their actions extends to every sector. Shell, for example, which has worked hard to build consumer trust, has seen its brand value grow 34% in the past eight years. Other global players in the oil and gas industry, excluding Shell, have decreased 16%.

The fast food story is very similar. High trust brands such as McDonalds, KFC and Dominos have seen their value rise 26%, while low trust ones are down 6%.

Building trust is a long-term process but what drives growth in trust is the experience that consumers have with the brand, whether it’s a vehicle brand, a digital-only service, a retail fuel supplier or a fast food chain. Because a quality experience, beautifully communicated, is directly linked to rising trust in a brand.

When we rank average trust scores for the 192 brands featured in the 2018 BrandZ Global Top 100 report and compare them to their experience scores we see a direct correlation.

Those delivering a brand experience that consumers perceive as good have a trust score of 117, where 100 is the average brand, those delivering an average experience score 105, while those delivering a poor experience manage just 98. Those brands among the 192 perceived as delivering high experience have an average value of $50bn compared to just $14bn for those with a poor experience.

Of course, some brands have always delivered an amazing experience. It’s at the core of the Amazon proposition, for example. But others have taken dramatic steps to improve their experience in recent years and the impact on consumer trust has been dramatic.

Let’s take 10 brands that have made smart improvements to consumer experience in the years we’ve been tracking their performance: Alibaba, Apple, Chanel, Facebook, Gucci, Ikea, Lidl, Netflix, Nike and Starbucks.

Average experience scores for these 10 brands are now 121, compared to the 111 average across the BrandZ Global Top 100. Trust scores have risen 16 points to 114 from an average of 98 when we first started tracking them.

As a result, they’ve also grown their brand value faster than rivals. Average annual growth for these 10 brands has been 70%, compared to the 17% averaged by the top 100.

The steps that build positive experiences will, of course, be different for every brand. Chanel and Gucci have taken greater control of their licensing, ensuring customers only get the real thing, for example. Starbucks has redeveloped its whole offer to reinforce the premium barista promise.

These actions should be designed to deliver on three key fronts, ensuring the product or service meets needs, it stands for something unique in the eyes of the consumer, and is able to deliver that experience online as well as offline.

When brands deliver on all three they build a positive experience and hence trust. The reason why this is so powerful is that consumers fundamentally don’t like change. A brand that delivers on experience can be trusted and remains a safe choice, often at a level that is not even conscious.

That experience and the trust it builds keeps consumers coming back, even when the company is facing a crisis. High consumer trust is an insurance policy that ensures companies get the time they need to change tack when things go wrong.

Because without trust they simply disappear. Consumer trust means VW and Facebook will survive where Northern Rock, MySpace and Compaq did not.

This article first appeared in

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