On the list, which disclosed the 10 most culturally vibrant brands, are Apple in the top position, followed by Google in second spot and Amazon third, with Sony (4), Microsoft (5), Facebook (6) and Samsung (7) following closely behind.
Only positions 8, 9 and 10 are occupied by brands that don’t operate in the technology sector – Harley-Davidson, Ikea and Subway respectively.
To produce the results, Added Value’s American office studied 50 brands across nine broad sectors including apparel, automotive, beer and technology to provide a quantitative understanding of a brand’s relevance in a market’s cultural zeitgeist.
According to Added Value’s Dr Inka Crosswaite, although the study was conducted in the US, it certainly has relevance for local brand managers.
Working out of Added Value’s Cape Town office, Dr Crosswaite is a cultural insight and semiotics specialist with a doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Cape Town. She was also a lecturer at Stellenbosch University.
“The purpose of the survey, Cultural Traction™, is to measure cultural relevance as an early indicator of brand success,” said Dr Crosswaite.
“The ‘vibrancy’ of each brand is measured across four dimensions, each of which represents a statistical clustering of culturally significant attributes that describe how Visionary, Inspiring, Bold and Exciting (VIBE) a brand is perceived to be by consumers. The degree to which this ‘VIBE’ score changes year-on-year provides a quantitative view of a brand’s Cultural Traction™ in a market, and this Cultural Traction™ in turn provides an indicator of a brand’s future growth potential by measuring whether a brand is gaining or losing traction in a market. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, brands that are continually executed in a culturally relevant and vibrant way have the best chance of carving out a dominant position in the minds of today’s consumers.”
“Although the study is still in its infancy and the data set [is] limited to 50 brands, many of whom aren’t publically traded, we have begun to see a correlation between a brand’s VIBE and its year-on-year growth in revenue. This supports our belief that a positive shift of a brand’s VIBE score year-on-year is an early indicator of future success for that brand."
Dr Crosswaite highlighted that the important take out for South African brand owners and managers is that the results of this year’s study have been driven by three key shifts in culture. These shifts, she said, are not unique to the US market but are gaining momentum in South Africa and other countries around the world.
The first is a shift in a brand’s ability to enable people to share and connect around the topics that excite them, the second is a shift in the way brands invite people to participate in the creation and delivery of the brand experience and the third is a shift in the total value brands create and the purpose they serve for people and the planet.
“What makes the top brands in this study more vibrant and the bottom brands not?” she asked.
“The answer lies in how these brands anticipate or drive changes in the cultural landscape, and use or create emergent cultural content to stay fresh and relevant. For example, late in 2011 Added Value identified 10 global mega trends that would shape shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours in 2012 - ‘autonomy’, ‘recognition’, ‘freedom and discovery’, ‘belonging’, ‘more global, more local’, ‘identity blur’, ‘new consciousness’, ‘vitality’, ‘wired world’ and ‘take a stand’."
“So it comes as no surprise that the technology brands that truly connect with consumers are gaining traction (‘wired world’), as are brands like Subway, which are tapping into the health and well-being (‘new consciousness’), and 17th
on the list, Ford (more global, more local’).
“Both Ford and Budweiser (45) wear their legacies proudly but Ford’s VIBE is hot, and Bud’s is on ice. Why? Consumers expect authenticity, and count on consistency. But from Ford they also expect, and get, evolution. It’s part of the brand’s DNA. It’s what they now flaunt. Its VIBE reflects this vitality.
“Given that five of the 10 mega trends we identified have particular relevance to South Africa – ‘freedom and discovery’, ‘more global, more local’, ‘identity blur’, ‘wired world’ and ‘take a stand’ – I’d expect global brands active in the local market to rank well here.
“Samsung, for example, was listed first on the top technology brands in the 2011 Sunday Times Top Brands
study. This brand offers South Africans affordable, trendy alternatives to the iPad and iPhone (‘wired world’), they sponsor local sports and artists (‘more global, more local’), and have a strong CSI programme in South Africa (‘take a stand’).
“Coca-Cola also ranks well in the Cultural Traction Study
in the US, although not in the top 10. Locally, it’s a strongly resonant brand. It shares its happiness with South Africans wherever it can, from larger CSI projects such as RAIN, or Replenish Africa, which aims to distribute fresh water to South African township schools, to smaller projects such as distributing shoes for school children in Diepkloof.
“The superior results of these two brands confirm that brands with VIBE react to cultural shifts. A recent survey from Ogilvy Earth Cape Town shows that an estimated 91% of South Africans want big brands to keep them up-to-date with the positive contributions they are making to society.
“For brand owners, being able to measure whether a brand is gaining or losing Cultural Traction
™ provides a tool to diagnose issues and make their activation, positioning, communication and innovation strategies more culturally vibrant.”
For complete case study details or more information on Added Value’s 2011 Cultural Traction
™ survey, please visit www.added-value.com/culturaltraction