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
’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
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
The remainder said the CEO did recognise the importance of corporate
branding, but believed there were other more important marketing and
’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
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
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
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.