Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Dissension in the Rankings

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Dissension in the Rankings

Article excerpt

Superbrands' Top 500 has been all over the news, but why is the list so seemingly inconsistent?

Imagine a world where the Ordnance Survey is a bigger brand than Disney Not crazy enough for you? OK, how about the idea that the Royal Albert Hall's brand is twice as powerful as VW in the UK? Or how would you react if I told you that Mercedes Trucks' brand is twice as good as Tiffany? Still not convinced? Would you believe me that Royal Doulton is a more powerful brand in Britain than Tesco?

These are all part of the latest results from Superbrands, which released its annual Top 500 brands last week. To my mind they are utterly baffling. Can you guess the hot new brand that did not even make it into the Top 500 last year but entered it this year in 10th place? You guessed it - Encyclopaedia Britannica. Obviously, it's been a good year for encyclopaedias in the UK, because Superbrands rates it as twice as powerful as YouTube.

In my view, there are so many things wrong with the Superbrands rating that it is hard to know where to begin. A drunken bingo caller with a personality disorder might have come up with a more logical ranking. Perhaps this is not surprising, given the methodology that Superbrands uses to come up with its rankings.

First, a list of leading brands is compiled from secondary material and a shortlist of 1400 brands created. Then, an expert panel of marketers meets and ranks each brand on a score from one to 10 based on a definition of a 'superbrand given to them by Superbrands'. The highest-scoring 900 brands are then 'voted on' by 2100 British consumers and the 500 most popular are published as Superbrands' 'definitive' list of Britain's top brands.

One of the best tests of any research method is consistency. If you ask a representative sample of consumers for their opinions and then repeat the research again the next day, the results should be more or less identical, at least within the bounds of statistical significance. Repeat that research after one year, as Superbrands does with its annual ranking, and you would expect to see some changes in the relative scores of the brands in question. However, you would not anticipate the kind of wild variations between the 2008 and 2009 rankings.

Both HSBC and Vodafone, for example, have had very good commercial years in the UK and yet have managed to slip more than 100 places in the Superbrands ranking this year and lose almost half their power, according to the list's ratings. …

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