• Transform magazine
  • June 21, 2024

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Brands as acts of leadership

Christian Headshot

Christian Purser, CEO at Interbrand London, argues purpose (or brand leadership) should become a key consideration for brands seeking future success.

This year, against a backdrop of increased economic uncertainty, the cumulative value of the world’s 100 Best Global Brands surpasses $3trillion for the first time—up 16% year on year; proof that strong brands have greater resilience in challenging times. We also see the fastest rate of brand value growth ever recorded, demonstrating the growing contribution a company’s brand has in driving its economic success. 

With greater economic uncertainty comes tougher decisions, and what we are seeing from world leading brands is they are becoming more uncompromising in their ethics. Leading brands are adept at balancing purpose and profit, both creating value for shareholders and creating a more equitable society, in service of a range of stakeholder communities and issues. 

The brands who have the potential to thrive in this Decade of Possibility will balance exceptional experience and unparalleled integrity, in order to drive sustainable revenue growth and profit.  These signals help consumers understand where and when they share common values with a brand—and how and where the brand fits into their own meaning systems, driving deeper relevance and emotional connection. This notion goes beyond what we have come to call purpose. It’s a higher order of brand leadership, underpinned by flawless interactions and fearless actions. 

When applied in a context of perpetual change, these actions have clear potential to accelerate a business’s ability to make informed, timely and relevant decisions — and in turn deliver deeper, more meaningful, and more powerful customer relationships. 

The new brand leaders are unafraid to take sides on the most critical debates of our times, from Apple’s pledge to privacy to Nike’s stances on inclusion, to many companies’ outspoken protection of their employees’ rights. This is a radical shift from the times when brands were consistently advised to steer well clear of controversy and focus on commerce. Extraordinary times reward bold moves, not fearful silences. Once seen as the safe way to healthily grow, neutrality today is seen as a failure of leadership. As a result, today’s most relevant and valuable brands are those that seem to effortlessly balance their power and their responsibilities beyond commerce. 

When we have a strong functional, emotional and moral connection with a brand, when this brand delivers exceptional products, unequalled experiences, and acts with uncompromising integrity, we want to spend more time with that brand; we want it to succeed; and we want it to play a bigger role in our lives. 

We’re also more likely to trust them as they enter new spaces. We welcome them to ask, ‘What else can I do for you’?