Insight: The Leading Edge and Hotwire team up to reveal what makes a brand truly great

The Leading Edge, insight and strategy consultancy, has conducted research into what makes a brand great. In partnership with its sister agency, global communications outfit, Hotwire, The Leading Edge has found that how a brand behaves, rather than what it makes or says, is what makes them great.

The two agencies have created a report that reveals the findings and gives a clear steer on how brands can implement key strategies, activate and communicate them, in order to become truly great.

The Leading Edge surveyed 1,200 people in the UK and Australia (alongside qualitative group conversations), asking respondents to identify brands they considered ‘great’, ‘not good’ and those that ‘used to be great’ and exploring the differences between them. Results revealed a new way to think about brand building and marketing activity, fuelling an exciting evolution in how to build great brands.

“Our study shows that what consumers want from brands has changed,” says Daniela Fernandez, Managing Partner at The Leading Edge. “They want brands that are much more than just good quality, distinct and trustworthy; they want great brands. These great brands are caring, enduring, socially responsible – sustainable in every sense of the word. This is what makes our research so fascinating, people want brands to do more, be more.”

The findings reveal that great brands have five distinct qualities:

  1. Passionate Vision: they are true visionaries that challenge the status quo
  2. Connected Care: they care about the people they are connected to, employees, suppliers and customers
  3. Active Social Change: their social responsibility echoes across everything they do and is much more than just lip-service
  4. Celebrating Origins: they applaud originality, are consistent and remain true to their roots
  5. Human Inspiration: they encourage and enable us to be better humans

Results also reveal that brands considered great have several commercial advantages:

  • A higher level of customer loyalty and are bought for longer (59% of people buy great brands for 5+ years, whereas only 40% of people will stick to a brand long-term if it is not considered great)
  • 82% of great brands are seen as having forward momentum (vs. 17% of those not considered great), giving consumers a sense that they are going somewhere and they want to be along for the ride
  • And finally, people engage more with brands they considered great, they talk about them more, engage with them on social media, among other things (74% of people engage with brands they consider great, vs only 13% for those they don’t)

The report identified that becoming a great brand requires focus, discipline and bravery from marketers and requires businesses to change their mindset to a ‘constant pursuit of greatness’.

“Greatness is a pursuit that brands and businesses need to constantly work at it, and it requires a long-term mentality,” says Fernandez. “But this pursuit has amazing benefits: it helps brands transcend their category and creates a bond between the business (employees and stakeholders) and their customers, the local community, and our planet. So in essence, everybody wins from it.”

However, it’s not just a shift in mindset that businesses need to adopt. The report also highlights the huge dominance the public plays in dictating their expectations of brands today, and is something marketers need to pay particular attention to.

Matt Cross, UK MD at Hotwire says: “The findings from The Leading Edge’s research highlight that brands come under increasing scrutiny from all angles from the public on what they expect from a ‘great’ brand, thanks to the always-on world we’re in. Social media and internet accessibility have driven a new level of responsibility and accountability on brands (and by proxy, their investors) because they can (and more often than not should) be called out on their behaviour and actions at any minute by the public at large.” He continues, “Whether you agree or not with the rights or validity of “social-mob-think”, the impact that this has on the choice of coffee we drink, the way we vote, the cars we drive and the provenance of our organic root vegetables is huge.”

The report also includes frameworks to help marketers self-evaluate where their brand(s) might sit on the journey to becoming great and how to identify the traits to hone within their teams to foster a mindset for ‘the constant pursuit of greatness’.

Some interesting facts revealed by the research:

  • Great brands are more commonly found in the Food & Beverage, Tech and Sport sectors,
  • The top ten brands most commonly mentioned as great were: Nike, Apple, Heinz, Coca Cola, Samsung, Adidas, Cadbury, Amazon, M&S and Sony.
  • Millennials are considerably more involved with brands than other generations, with 58% of them saying they are deeply involved, compared to just 43% of Generation X, and only a third of Baby Boomers.

To download a copy of the report, visit


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