Identity value: Maja Pawinska looks into the first ever global survey into corporate branding

It is widely accepted around the world that effective management of a corporate brand can lead to greater market share, bigger profits, happier employees and satisfied customers. Until now, however, there has been little solid research into how important the corporate brand is in a commercial and communications context, and how a strong corporate brand can be achieved.

It is widely accepted around the world that effective management of

a corporate brand can lead to greater market share, bigger profits,

happier employees and satisfied customers. Until now, however, there has

been little solid research into how important the corporate brand is in

a commercial and communications context, and how a strong corporate

brand can be achieved.



Now, however, market research agency Opinion Research Corporation

International (ORC) has undertaken the first global survey into

corporate branding, made available exclusively to PR Week.



In a bid to add meaningful substance to the debate, ORC conducted

in-depth interviews with 100 senior communications managers in Europe,

the US, and the Asia-Pacific region. The companies were drawn from the

FTSE 100, the Fortune 500 and the Hang Seng index, and represent some of

the strongest household brand names in the world.



The interviewees were asked a series of questions about their company

and its corporate brand, covering areas such as the commitment of the

CEO to corporate branding, measurement methods, and internal

communications.



’There is no doubt that the issue has now accelerated up the management

agenda and is not restricted purely to the confines of corporate

communications,’ says project director Milorad Ajder.



The results of the research - presented in a report entitled Global 100:

Attitudes to Corporate Branding - make interesting reading, particularly

as the companies represented were seen to be examples of best practice

which smaller businesses could learn from.



One of the most forceful and positive results of the recession was the

obvious belief in a direct link between strong corporate branding and

performance criteria was one of the most forceful and positive results

of the research. Globally, 82 per cent said there was a link between

corporate branding and market share; 61 per cent said there was a link

with a high share price; 88 per cent said there was a direct link with

customer loyalty; 82 per cent said employee commitment was linked with

corporate branding; and 66 per cent said it influenced

profitability.



However this realisation of the impact of corporate branding has not

translated sufficiently into commitment at CEO level. While only one per

cent of respondents said their CEO did not believe in the concept of

corporate branding, showing how ubiquitous the idea has become, only 57

per cent globally said the CEO was completely committed to corporate

branding.



The remainder said the CEO did recognise the importance of corporate

branding, but believed there were other more important marketing and

communications issues.



’This shows a substantial minority who are not committed to the brand.

There is still a way to go in winning over the CEO’s commitment - and if

commitment to the brand is not demonstrated at the highest level, then

it becomes corporate wallpaper,’ says Ajder.



Another important finding related to the level of buy-in by employees to

the idea of the corporate brand. Overall, 13 per cent of respondents

said most of the employees in their company did not know what the brand

mission, values and vision were. The report states: ’If employees are

indeed the ambassadors of the brand, too many organisations are

tolerating a situation where employees do not understand the culture and

brand environment in which they operate.’



Globally, 47 per cent said the brand mission, vision and values of their

company were understood by all employees, most of whom believed in them

strongly. This sunk to 36 per cent in Europe, and was highest - 60 per

cent - in the Asia-Pacific companies.



This was echoed by the number who said that only a few senior employees

understood the brand values, and were not effective in disseminating

them. The problem was worst in Europe, where 36 per cent agreed with the

statement. In the US, 27 per cent agreed.



’Talking to 100 leading companies, we were surprised to see the degree

of ignorance of what the corporate brand stood for to individual

employees in organisations. If employees in best practice companies are

not aware of what they stand for, that’s a cause for concern,’ says

Ajder.



Another worrying finding of the report was the low level of measurement

and evaluation of the corporate brand (see chart). Only 63 of the

respondents felt able to provide examples of corporate brand

measurement, despite the importance now attached to this issue.

Measurement of the corporate brand is focused on a variety of market

research methods which place the emphasis on external audiences.



’The amount of measurement going on was low, particularly if you

consider that the interviewees were saying that a strong corporate brand

is linked to profitability and other performance criteria. It’s a

concern if corporate branding is to achieve its rightful place at the

strategic table. It has to be measured and tangible,’ says Ajder.



In all cases, the conviction that corporate branding had a direct effect

on the bottom line was even stronger in the US than other parts of the

world.



Generally there was a great deal of consistency in the answers given by

companies in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific region. One of the only

contrasts of note was that companies in the Asia-Pacific region were

more paternalistic in their attitude. Respondents from this area were

the only ones to say that contribution to social welfare was one of the

most important factors in maintaining a strong corporate brand.

Globally, consistency, commitment of employees, and quality products and

services were seen as key factors.



Communications issues were also quoted as among the biggest risks to the

continuing strength of the corporate brand, with damaging events -

relating to crisis management and negative media - being top of the list

world-wide.



Ajder believes the findings of the Global 100 study could be of real

value to PR agencies as well as in-house guardians of the brand. ’The

opportunity for a PR consultancy to be a strategic partner with client

companies is to be seized. PR agencies at the top are not just working

with corporate affairs - their work needs to penetrate all levels of the

company. There is a pluralisation of the PR process going on as it

becomes more embedded in the organisational structure,’ he says.



’More and more directors of corporate affairs are making it onto the

board and they need help to educate their colleagues about the

importance of strong corporate branding - anything that helps the

process has to be a good thing.’



- For a copy of the report, telephone 0171 675 1000.



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