To answer that we turned to the new generation of brand consumers, asking 22-year-old writer and Hammond thinker, Oscar Hammond, to revisit these brands in 2018 and see how many make the cut in the new world of retail change, disruption and online branding.
The BE Brands Update
A lot can change in a decade or two. In 2005, while writing his business manifesto Simon Hammond had no concept of YouTube or even the smartphone. Since then the business world has changed significantly and adjusted to the information and technology era.
In the years since its release, the top 20 brands featured in the BE Brands book have proven prophetic to the business world, with all of the top 20 finding success in the years since.
Despite their successes, in recent years some brands have declined, or otherwise left the public conscience. Some declined due to brand stagnation, while others lost their way in the global market, after abandoning their core ideals and beliefs.
Although some have fallen off along the way, most of the top 20 brands have stood the test of time and are working examples of the power of the 3 BE’s. Let’s explore these.
Apple, Google, Harley Davidson, T2, Hillsong.
These brands have seen massive worldwide penetration and continued growth over the past two decades, each reaching different levels of success. Google and Apple completely monopolized the technological business realm in the years since, while brands like T2 exploded onto the global stage. Harley Davidson continues to tick along with its rabid cult following, growing year over year, and Hillsong has opened new churches in dozens of countries with their next opening in Tel Aviv, Israel.
R.M. Williams, Virgin, Rip Curl, Moleskine, The Body Shop, Lush
These brands have been strong over the last 12 years and have continued to dominate the retail market. Retail experiences from Lush, The Body Shop and R.M. Williams even recently topped our 2015 retail survey. Virgin and Rip Curl are in a similar position where they continue to grow and inspire in their own sectors, and Moleskine books continue to dominate journal purchases worldwide with the inclusion of quirky diversification of products consistent with musing over the written word. The Body Shop is the only one here to have come under fire after its 2006 sale to L’Oreal with some saying they betrayed their core beliefs. Despite this, they continue to expand worldwide with over 3000 stores.
The Well Respected
Nudie, Sportsgirl, Australian Geographic, Games Workshop, Kathmandu, Boost, Circus Oz
This lot is scattered throughout the 2005 original list with the highest ranked being Australian Geographic, which was at rank 5. These businesses have all found success since 2005 with the likes of Boost and Nudie growing in the last decade. However, due to either a lack of innovation or recent declines in image or belief, some of these are in a bit of a rut despite remaining financially successful. Kathmandu in our view has become a ‘sale brand’, which has started to erode its substance. Nudie has recently started to rebuild its brand after some years in the wilderness and Boost, while a favorite of ours, continues to battle with the challenge of staying fresh and relevant to the new generations of young people.
Smiggle, Max Brenner
The only two brands from the 2005 list that can be identified as ‘in decline’ are Max Brenner and Smiggle. In recent years Smiggle was sold and has branched out worldwide. To us, it has lost its once great belief of smile & giggle, becoming a cheap looking kids stationary store. Meanwhile, Max Brenner seems to have completely dropped off the face of the earth here in Australia, despite continuing to trade in other countries. The common theme between these two is an identity crisis that has caused a decline.
So, What Does This Mean For The Worlds Top 20 Be Brands? It Means An Update Of Course!
Keeping in mind the prevalence of strong beliefs in branding over the last couple of decades, we’ve looked at the current business world with fresh new eyes, and as well as analysing how effective a brands three BE’s are, we looked at cultural impact and global reach to really differentiate those top dogs with rock solid beliefs.
A lot has changed since 2005, so without further ado HammondThinking would like to present its top Be Brands of 2018.
Uber has a lot going for it. Since it took the world by storm around 8 years ago, they haven’t slowed down, expanding their business and building their identity with every step.
Singlehandedly Uber grew the ride sharing business from nothing by taking on the taxis and public transport. Uber has created a brand new sector of business, one which is set to become one of the biggest in the world in the coming years.
So yes, Uber is a successful brand. More than that, it’s a global juggernaut. But a successful brand isn’t always a BE Brand, so what makes Uber so special in the business world?
A BE brand is a brand that is driven by emotion that unites its customers through a shared connection. Forging this emotional connection can create a bond between consumer and business that is more powerful than advertising could ever be.
In this sense Uber is special among BE Brands, being one of only a handful that drives emotion through innovation. You see this emotional reaction turn to belonging in every city that Uber’s ride sharing app penetrates, where Uber’s business model overthrows the status quo.
Everyone who’s ever used Uber has inadvertently taken part in this growing global connection with the clssic conversation starter “Gee, you guys are just way better than taxis.” Uber excel’s at uprooting the status quo and constantly remind consumers that they’re the best choice with every ride.
This applies to every city Uber has touched, even if they have since been ousted by a newer ride sharing company. They’re the innovators and the outlaws, the ones who shook up the world to make way for those newer companies.
Despite recent bad press, Uber continues to prove that it can drive behaviour and belonging through their brand and no part of their business explains this as well as this part of their mission statement:
“We Make Bold Bets. Sometimes We Fail, But Failure Makes Us Smarter. We Get Back Up, We Make The Next Bet, And We Go!”
At Hammond Thinking we’ve developed a bit of a man crush on this brand and with good reason, Deus oozes cool and they know it.
Like cultural touchstones that came before them, Deus found its voice and leaned into it heavily, taking it along the same path as some of the pasts best ‘too cool for school’ brands like Mambo or Elwood.
Where it has the edge over those other companies is that Deus was started as, and continues to primarily be, a motorcycle brand. This alone solidifies the ‘cool factor’ and almost legitimises the other branches of Deus’ business to customers.
Like all great brands, Deus ties all its parts together with a powerful belief of “building bikes for a purpose” which expresses their core value of individualism that pulsates out to every inch of the business and is expressed through unique stores with amazing design and feel.
“Today Deus Ex Machina Is A Step Bigger Than A Brand: It’s A Culture. Deus Ex Machina Says Simply There’s No ‘Right Way’ To Do Individualism, It’s All The Same Juice.”
Non-clothing brands like Deus do so well in clothing and apparel because they treat their brand like a club and use their products as merchandising. Deus is still relatively small on the world stage but as it grows its merchandising will have as much meaning as a band shirt or a footy club jersey – that’s the power of BE Branding.
Deus nails it when it comes to emotional branding, and to those that feel the emotional connection to the Deus tribe, Deus is much more than a motorcycle brand and much more than a clothing or apparel brand. It’s a club and a way of life.
In many ways Deus exemplifies the philosophy of BE Branding and represents a template for branding in a contemporary and future setting. It’s one of the stepping-stones in the continuing brand revolution.
A recent change of leadership in 2017 could make their global rise interesting, but we still have high hopes for Deus over the next 10 years.
While we couldn’t rate Deus as high as we might have liked because of its relatively minimal global reach (as of 2018), we expect that in visiting this list again in another 10 years, Deus will have climbed the ranks to the very top echelon of cult-like BE Branding.
With this list focusing a little more on global impact alongside the Belief, Belonging and Behaviour of Be Branding, I’d be remise to not put the incredible Cirque Du Soleil among the other top contenders.
Live entertainment, and the Cirque Du Soleil brand in particular have always had a level of intimacy surrounding them yet this relatively small reach brand has touched more people in the world than some of the other top contenders on this list.
Wherever this phenomenon goes, it sells out. Over 180 million people in 300 cities since have been directly influenced by the power of the Cirque since 1984 and there are no signs of this tour de force slowing down.
The impact that Cirque Du Soleil has had on the world can be directly related to its aforementioned intimate and emotive nature, reeling its fans in with seductive honey instead of loud advertising-vinegar. People respond so well to Cirque Du Soleil because it embodies what any good BE Brand strives to and invokes the viewer’s emotion at a primal level.
This is beautifully captured in their belief.
“The Mission Of Cirque Du Soleil Is To Invoke The Imagination, Provoke The Senses And Evoke The Emotions Of People Around The World.”
In truth, this is exactly what Cirque Du Soleil has done for decades and will continue to do into the distant future. They not only perfected their message but also reinvented, and continue to reinvent, the very idea of circus.
Trading in the slapstick for enchanting melodic performance, and the elephants for rings and hoops, Cirque Du Soleil changed the game and did so in a way that spoke to the very core of human nature – and that’s the secret to being a BE Brand.
If you want to learn how to reinvent your industry or your own business and need help discovering the path of your brand in a declining market, look towards Cirque Du Soleil. They’re a shining beacon for branding and demonstrate exactly what successfully harnessing the power of human nature can do.
Vans is a bit different to other brands on this list as it leans more on the last two BE’s of BE Branding, Belonging and Behaviour. That’s not to say they don’t have a belief, in fact their website makes their mission explicit in their very first line.
“Vans Is A State Of Mind. Thinking Differently. Embracing Creative Self-Expression. Authenticity And Progression.”
It’s a great belief and it shapes how their brand operates. Still, as I’ve said, their brand thrives under the scope of community and interconnectivity. It thrives in the tribal behaviour of its customers and the family atmosphere it moulds. Vans packages up California culture and the idea of good vibes and fun, and then they ship this idea around the world.
To continually foster this community they host events, from BMX to Surfing and from Snowboarding to Skating you’ll see vans at the front of it all, finding their audience and understanding what they need.
This type of BE Branding is so simple. It’s simple to understand and it is simple to execute, yet many brands find themselves caught up in minutia of branding and fail to see the big picture quite as well as Vans does.
To further cement their impact, the company is very socially conscious. They run community groups focused on environmental education aptly named ‘The Positive Vibe Warriors’ and preach sustainability. To do this they constantly improve their supply chain, manufacturing, and locations to be environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint.
They have positioned themselves like the cool older brother of business who does cool things but overtly cares about the people and things around him. It’s a really interesting place to be as a business and this helps Vans create a really friendly retail and corporate environment that people can easily belong to and believe in.
With a global reach comparable to any other brand on this list, and a solid score on Hammond Thinking’s Retail Survey of 2015, Vans finds itself in a group of brands that are all so good, any one of them could breach top 10.
Competition gets fierce from here.
Rip Curl is one of the only niche companies on this list to, after 12 years, still hold on to what made it special at that time.
With the founders retaining ownership, the brand is still respected as one of the “big three” in the surf industry (along with quiksliver and billabong). They have long inspired belonging and behaviour in their fans with their strong belief and strong campaigns including their newly relaunched campaign ‘The Search’ which found massive success two decades ago.
Well, to call ‘the search’ a campaign is actually really underselling it. It’s a manifesto that the business built itself on and one that it truly lives every day. Some brands need to look for their beliefs, but some like Rip Curl are born with one.
“The Search Was The Force That Led To The Creation Of Rip Curl In 1969. The Search For Unridden Waves. The Search For Untracked Powder. The Search For Quality And Perfection.”
It’s real, it lives the dream and it exudes its belief through every move it makes. For Rip Curl, the brand is the belief, and it makes believing and doing easy.
Rip Curl is without a doubt still one of Australia’s great brand legends and very much a BE Brand, with all products linked intrinsically by the core belief of ‘the search’.
“Rip Curl Is A Company For, And About, The Crew On The Search. The Products We Make, The Events We Run, The Riders We Support And The People We Reach Globally, Are All Part Of The Search That Rip Curl Is On.”
Among the surfing community rip curl is loved, but their penetration into the global public consciousness is probably not as powerful as other brands that have dominated the world stage over the past decade.
Still, from small beginnings in Torquay, today, Rip Curl products are sold in more than 80 countries worldwide with a major office on every continent. Surfers in even the most remote corners of the planet can be seen using and abusing Rip Curl products.
Their website sums up their whole story beautifully:
“Across The Waves Of Our Waters To The White Wonderlands Of Our Mountains, We’re Searching And Striving For The Best The World Has To Offer.”
Omitting Dove from a top 20 BE Brands list of 2018 would be a huge misstep seeing as the brand has constantly been touted as one of the greatest Belief brands since its huge 2004 campaign ‘Real Beauty’ took off.
What can we say about Dove that you don’t already know?
“We Believe Beauty Should Be A Source Of Confidence, And Not Anxiety. That’s Why We Are Here To Help Women Everywhere Develop A Positive Relationship With The Way They Look, Helping Them Raise Their Self-Esteem And Realize Their Full Potential.”
These are the first lines of their ‘our vision’ section and they’re honestly perfect. As someone who loves to see what a brand believes in I always look for lines like this straight away, and all too often they are either non existent or buried under a heap of useless website. Dove has it right.
The belief itself took the world by storm when it came out and incredibly, after 14 years it continues to be relevant. That’s more staying power in one campaign than most brands can even muster in a lifetime.
Dove identifies their demographic and targets their belief straight at those most effected by the ugly side of the beauty industry. In this brilliant move dove found its voice in the disenfranchised women of the world who had been told by every other beauty company that they could always be better.
Because they so easily identified the consumers who needed them most, Dove built a trust and a community very easily on the back of a very successful campaign.
Ever since its rise to prominence via the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign Dove has had its critics, but sticking to their guns, Dove continues to unapologetically give a voice to the women that the beauty industry historically silenced.
This brand really doesn’t need any more explanation beyond that. Their brand positioning is so simple, yet so brilliant. It instantly resonates with those exposed to it and as such it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Dove on this list.
The Body Shop returns to the BE Brands list after its decade long reign as BE Brand Monarch – the number one BE Brand.
A lot has changed in the year since, both inside of the body shop brand, and in the world around it. Contenders rose and fall yet The Body Shop stuck it out and comes in at number 17 years later.
So what made it so great and how has it upheld its legacy?
As Simon explains in his original book the secret to their brand lay in the inspirational figurehead Anita Roddick, their ability to pack story telling into retail and their ethic-conscious business model that has helped shape the world for the better.
Since Simon wrote that, the world has unfortunately lost Roddick and The Body Shop itself was sold to L’Oreal only a year after BE Brands was written.
Both of these things have been major blows to the image of The Body Shop and things got worse before they got better when their ethics came under question under the supervision of L’Oreal.
Despite all this, and the massive journey they’ve been on over the last ~12 years, The Body Shop has bounced back time and again remaining a consistent haven of the Australian retail experience.
In the Australian Retail Survey of 2015 they scored a perfect 100, showing their absolute consistency across stores, as well as the perfection of the retail experience, which heavily leans on well trained and friendly staff to show customers the passion they truly feel for their brand.
The Body Shop pulls this off by leaning heavily on their belief of ethical treatment for all and their humanitarian projects that helps 40,000 economically vulnerable people around the world and engages 8 million people in their worldwide campaigns.
In their own words from their website:
“We’ve Always Done Things Differently, Broken The Mould, Been Bold, Been Brave. Today, Our Commitment Is Stronger Than Ever; To Enrich, Not Exploit.”
Their website goes on to tell about their story and the influence of the late Anita Roddick, showing that the brand today is still very much the brand it has always been. It would be nicer to rate such a great brand even higher than this but as you’ll see there’s stiff competition ahead.
So we finally come to our first huge Cult of Personality. Further up the list we’ll get more of these to varying degrees, but Virgin is one of the oldest, if not the oldest great Cult of Personality.
Virgin is Richard Branson and in many ways Richard Branson is Virgin. Despite stepping down from many active positions across the Virgin group as of late Branson still holds the same amount of sway over the company and his followers still look to him in much the same way.
Branson has always been a loud personality, and with Billions of dollars, he can afford to be. He’s been on the Simpsons, MTV’s ‘Cribs’ and hosted huge private celebrity soirees because he wants to.
This has always led the man in charge to mix business with adventure, so much so that its not known if he knows the difference. With how influential Branson is to Virgin, this lifestyle echoes through the very core of the business itself, the belief.
From the website:
“Believe In Yourself And Back Yourself To Come Out On Top. A Fulfilling Career Is Waiting For Those Brave Enough To Find It.”
Virgin follows Branson’s personal ideals to a tee, with the very name of the business adding to this. Virgin is new, Virgin is brave and Virgin is adventurous. These are the things that the company projects to the world with all its bravado and bells and whistles.
In recent years I’ve found the technique of Branson echoed through other businesses, using personality and connectivity to launch a cult around a figurehead and rise above other brands. We’ll see this more as we progress down the list and get closer to number one.
If you think of words to describe Richard Branson, those words can usually be used to describe Virgin too. Cheeky, anti-establishment, Adventurous and Un-afraid, this is a cult brand, and Virgin is one of the very finest examples of how to make it work.
Back in 2005 Google was big, but they weren’t this big.
It’s impressive growth when you realize that when Simon Hammond released his list of top BE Brands in 2005, Google was still in its infancy and competing with the likes of Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves, both of which have now fallen into obscurity.
Google, on the other hand, has dominated the Internet. In the years since our first survey, Gmail and Google Maps launched to world breaking success with both revolutionizing their own spheres in their own way. Next came Google Chrome. It quickly became the world’s most used web browser, and soon thereafter Google acquired YouTube.
The number 1 and 2 most visited sites respectively, Google and YouTube are basically the backbones of the current Internet. They are so prolific that young people, like myself, even have a hard time imagining the Internet without them.
Over the last few years Google’s identity has shifted a bit with their corporate philosophy (as of 2015) stating, “do the right thing”. To me, this is a boring way of rephrasing their original philosophy “don’t be evil”. In fact, it is this original philosophy that was commonly misquoted, a mistake we made in the original Be Brands book.
“Do No Evil”
Simple, but beautiful.
However you see it, both iterations tell you exactly what you need to know about this Internet giant. Google is primarily by the people, for the people, built on the back of every website that makes its search engine relevant. Google’s promise to the world is to use this power wisely and to never succumb to corruption – and luckily for us they don’t.
While in recent years Google has been seen to “toe the line”, public opinion is what Google builds it’s brand on, so when they get criticism they take it seriously and work to improve their lot. It must be hard to build a global mega brand over two decades and not succumb to the ‘evil’ that such success can bring. So far Google has upheld its promise, resisting temptation and continuing to live its belief.
Nespresso is one of the brands that truly caught my attention during the Hammond Thinking Retail Brand Survey a couple of years ago. In order to complete the survey we went around incognito to different retail brands to try and experience the full force of their retail experience. During this time, Nespresso blew me away.
Now while I’m not a coffee fan, for some reason I love visiting a Nespresso store. I have absolutely zero interest in their products but their vibe, their look and their store feel seductively draw me in every time I’m within eyesight of the place. It’s like magic!
This is everything a Be Brand should strive to be in the retail environment and it’s actually the weak point of so many other brands competing in the same realm of business. In many ways Nespresso highlights how important physical space is to a brand.
Thats not to say there’s no competition. Higher up on this very list are some killer examples on how to do this right, but for the most part, Nespresso stays head and shoulders above the competition, selling itself primarily on the sublime retail experience which is soaked in charm and effortless cool.
The essence of the brand is beautifully captured with George Clooney as the face of Nespresso who perfectly epitomising the overarching idea of a suave brand. Who better to embody charm and sophistication than the most urbane man in Hollywood?
So once again we find strong Belonging and Behaviour, attributes that are so strong, that as a non-coffee drinker I am an advocate for the brand. What of the Belief?
“Coffee Is At The Heart Of All We Do. Yet Consumer Pleasure Is Why We Do It.”
I can attest to that.
On to number 10!
I found it hard to justify Amazon’s placement on this list, but instinctively I knew it had to be here. The more I thought about Amazon, the higher it rose in the list and deservedly, it sits among the BE Brand giants.
My hesitancy came when I was investigating Amazon, and through all my research I never really found Amazon’s true rallying belief, or at least I never thought I did.
It wasn’t until I really looked at the Belonging and the Behaviour that Amazon commands, particularly in America, that I found the belief I was looking for.
Hidden among corporate speak and company goals that spoke about efficiency and user interconnectivity – not very inspiring language for a company belief – it was there!
“[We Strive] To Be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, Where Customers Can Find And Discover Anything They Might Want To Buy Online, And Endeavors To Offer Its Customers The Lowest Possible Prices.”
I know, it’s not inspiring and it’s not your classic BE Brand Belief, but there must always be an exception to a rule, and it seems that Jeff Bezos and Amazon have found that exception.
While it hasn’t fully penetrated the Australian market yet, Amazon’s reach is slowly overtaking our golden lands. In America and in other places around the world however, Amazon has infiltrated every aspect of millions of people’s lives, and they can’t get enough of it.
For Aussie shoppers Amazon remains the second most popular site, but in America, Amazon has ranked number one in customer satisfaction for several years, turning over 178 billion dollars in 2017. Across the world customer accounts number nearly 400 million. People just love Amazon.
The Verge called Amazon ‘The Ruthless Corporate Juggernaut People Love’ which basically sums up what the company means to BE Branding.
Amazon appeals to people logically, which in turn has connected people emotionally. This approach has lead to one of the worlds largest cult followings and one of the strongest yet strangest example of that tribal belonging and behaviour completely carrying a brand to the very top of a the business world.
To say that Netflix is a game changer would be an understatement. Netflix is a world changer, and it’s changing the world around you whether you like it or not.
The impact of Netflix is widespread. The video streaming service has penetrated a staggering 190 countries, making it one of the truly global brands, perhaps even overtaking the likes of McDonalds and Google.
It’s obvious that anecdotally and evidently the Belonging and Behaviour part of BE Branding is something that Netlfix absolutely nails. Yet, Simon Hammond’s original philosophy states you can’t attract Belonging or Behaviour without first establishing a powerful Belief. So lets dig into that thought.
Being in the top 10 BE Brands of all time might sound weird to some people if you literally describe a BE Brand as having a belief that people want to belong to that in turn influences their behaviour. Netflix doesn’t really make their core beliefs obvious.
Digging deeper, I found a description of their Belief, and it goes as follows:
“Entertainment, Like Friendship, Is A Fundamental Human Need; It Changes How We Feel And Gives Us Common Ground… We Want To Entertain Everyone, And Make The World Smile.”
If you think about it, you’ve probably understood this all along. Netflix doesn’t tell you what it stands for, it lets you feel it.
You might not be able to regurgitate it so eloquently, but the manifesto of Netflix is something that I believe sticks with every user and gives the world a better reason to stay home.
Netflix demonstrates that you don’t need the high end concept stores of Nespresso, or the overt social messaging of Dove. To make your BE Brand a success, you simply have to live the belief and the rest will follow.
Lego has a secret. Look objectively at the brand and you’ll find that it preys off addiction. Now before you get upset, it’s not as bad as it first sounds, it’s all about the psychology.
Lego is an amazing brand that owes half of its success to its incredible products and half to its belief and brand image. As strong as these attributes are, Lego relies on the addictive appeal of building things. Block after block, the sky’s the limit and kids of all ages can’t stop.
Lego appeals to every age group, any gender anywhere in the world, and psychology backs this ip. Studies of the Lego cult have found that that the limitless possibilities are the primary reason for the connection, with one mathematician calculating 915 Million ways to combine six simple eight studded Lego pieces.
For those indoctrinated into the Lego life, the bricks become much more than a toy, and can be a great many number of things to any given person. A creative outlet, a time consuming mantle ornament, an escape, an immersion, a love, art, part of a job or simply a time waster, Lego can be anything for anyone and that’s the beauty of it.
At the heart of it all, Lego want the young and the old to be inspired, to be proud and creative.
I’m not just making this stuff up either; all of this is reflected in the Lego Belief and identity. Their website says this.
“Our Mission Is To Inspire And Develop The Builders Of Tomorrow… For The Joy Of Building. The Pride Of Creation.”
Lego gears themselves towards their core market of children, but they understand their brand. They know people can’t resist building Lego.
Over the last few decades, this brand image in conjunction with genuinely fun and interesting products has helped Lego build a trusted name that adds value to any product carrying that little white L in a red box.
Lego themed video games and Lego themed movies are getting more and more popular because people of all ages are enamoured with the fun little blocks that have literally trillions of combinations. With each new market penetration and product introduction, the company gains trust and it adds to their already sizeable tribal following.
We don’t see Lego slowing down any time soon as new sets, new bricks and new movies continue to sell out.
People just like Ikea. It’s fun, it’s affordable and a visit to the store is often what people most like about shopping there. With their famous meatballs and cinnamon buns, hundreds of Facebook groups pop up dedicated to the Ikea culture, with many 20-somethings holding onto the dream of playing the worlds largest game of hide and seek in an Ikea store.
Ikea’s belief is simply to “create a better everyday life for the many people” and to do so at an affordable cost. As the company puts it:
“Our Vision Also Goes Beyond Home Furnishing. We Want To Create A Better Everyday For All People Impacted By Our Business.”
The Ikea essence is its stores. You can get lost for hours just exploring different sections. Ikea’s design is simple, with a plotted path that keeps you moving and pencils stashed strategically to help you note interesting products, handily labelled in an organised fashion that only the Northern Europeans can pull off.
All of this very purposeful design and atmosphere paints Ikea as the Disneyland of retail stores and really helps to foster their large die hard fan base; people who just go to an Ikea store sometimes as a day out. This fan base includes kids and adults alike who enjoy a retail experience that is both welcoming and adventurous. Subconsciously, as visitors to Ikea, we absorb their core business values.
For many of the people that BElong to the Ikea family, the affordable prices and convenience is really just the icing on the cake. The whole packaged experience is the drawcard and the idea of shopping at other furniture stores becomes blasphemous!
Like most good BE Brands, and certainly every other BE Brand on this list, Ikea is strongly driven by emotion that fosters a connection. Is Ikea furniture the best? No. Is it the cheapest? It’s up there. Is it fun and unique while wearing its heart on its sleeve? Absolutely. This is what makes Ikea great, and makes the big blue and yellow box a bastion of retail fun the world round.
Disney is such a unique brand, even among other unique brands, that it makes it tough to place on this list. Disney’s global reach is immense with Mickey Mouse leading the charge and most studies agreeing that his “recognisability” surpasses that of any other fictional character.
Despite recent controversy over shady business practises and media monopolisation, Disney’s ability to drive their brand through emotional connection is unlike any other in the world.
Think about it – billions of people alive today would have some sort of emotional connection with Disney. Through their century of great original animated movies, their subsidiary of Pixar and their acquisitions of Marvel and Star Wars, Disney has touched many people.
Disney is a master at driving belonging through emotion.
“We Don’t Make Movies To Make Money, We Make Money To Make Movies” – Walt Disney
Scott Derickson, a director of the Marvel series of films, echoed Disney’s sentiment on twitter saying that was how he felt about working with Marvel and Disney. To Derickson, and to many others, it’s easy to feel the love Disney pours into their properties. And it is because of this connection that Disney fans generally trust the company’s integrity and quality.
The word integrity is very important for Disney. Disney values things like integrity, consistency and that very clean brand image they have come to be known for. Sometimes Disney will go to great lengths to protect their image of ‘the most magical brand in the world’.
“We Create Happiness By Providing The Best In Entertainment For People Of All Ages Everywhere.”
Despite some negative criticism about Disney, I believe in the idea that Disney exists to create happiness. This message is strongly portrayed through their parks, stores and movies. So long as Disney holds this belief dear, it’s a company that will continue to attract supporters.
Patagonia is primarily about two things – making great, durable, stylish clothes and environmental conservation.
These are two great core values, but Patagonia found themselves in a corner when they realised they had made their clothes too good.
It’s weird for a company to lament their products being too well designed but Patagonia found that their durable stock just didn’t wear out as much as other clothes so they couldn’t be efficiently recycled. What a dilemma.
Indeed its odd that we find a brand living its core values and backed into a corner.
Embracing this dilemma, Patagonia introduced the ‘worn wear initiative’ where customers can trade in their worn out Patagonia products.
This isn’t the only consumer facing environmentally friendly initiative under the Patagonia banner either. With more environmental initiatives than you can count on two hands these crusaders for a better future have rocketed into the public conscious, building a name with clothing of incredible quality and treating customers like genuine royalty.
Not to mention standing for something pretty incredible, with a belief that sums up their entire business model.
“Build The Best Product, Cause No Unnecessary Harm, Use Business To Inspire And Implement Solutions To The Environmental Crisis.”
This belief, albeit not wildly creative, works because it is Patagonia. It completely sums up what every part of the business is trying to do in no uncertain terms. I actually find it to be one of the most business manifestos out there for its genius simplicity.
As the newest and fastest rising brand on our new top 20 list, I expect great things from Patagonia and I look forward to seeing their drive and business ideal infect successful businesses of the future.
Harley Davidson is emotion. It’s what the company builds and if emotion ever became irrelevant (spoiler: it won’t be), then it’s what will bring the company down too.
Aside from Apple, the only brand to hold a top position on both the old and new BE Brands list, Harley Davidson has clearly tapped into some special staying power with the emotional drive it elicits from its fans.
Harley stands for rebellion, freedom and individuality; but most of all to many, Harley is a way of life. As Richard Teerlink, retired CEO of Harley Davidson puts it:
“The Harley Is About Adventurous Pioneer Spirit, The Wild West, Having Your Own Horse And Going Where You Want To Go – The Motorcycle Takes On Some Attributes Of The Iron Horse. It Suggests Personal Freedom And Independence.”
I’m no Harley fanatic, but when I hear the passion in this belief it makes me want to blast Bon Jovi and ride a Harley off into the sunset.
Harley remains true to itself and its fans. To me that’s what makes Harley and its place on this list so incredible. Keeping a solid position in the top 20 after 13 years, while barely changing at all, is an accomplishment that cannot be understated.
Here’s a brand whose cult I personally belong to and one that’s close to my heart.
From my 4th Christmas when my grandparents brought a classic Nintendo 64 through our front door, to this year, Nintendo has taken centre stage in my heart and my shelf through our long and storied history together.
To me, Nintendo has always been that company in the gaming sphere that really cares about the products it makes and cares for those who come to them for refuge. This isn’t just misplaced nostalgia for my childhood or blind fandom; Nintendo, time and again, shows its love for the Nintendo community while not being afraid to innovate.
Look no further then Nintendo’s core beliefs; they call it their DNA. Nintendo describe this DNA as being Originality, Sincerity and Flexibility. While their originality and flexibility helps them to stay passionate and innovative, it is the sincerity part of their DNA that draws me in.
“Accumulating Trust Can Create Great Change. We Must Never Be Conceited Or Forget To Be Humble, And Always Do Our Best. In Order To Develop, We Try To Learn From Our Experiences Each Day.”
Never be conceited, don’t forget to be humble and always do your best. Amazingly simple.
None carried the torch of Nintendo’s beliefs better than their late CEO, Satoru Iwata, who epitomised the companies humility and passion.
During Nintendo’s poor sales years, around 2011-2014, Iwata was reported to have taken a 50% pay cut in order to support the rest of the business. He shepherded Nintendo, and the gaming industry as a whole, with his love for gaming. Despite his passing, Nintendo has continued to innovate with the passion of Iwata.
While not an actual cult, you’d be hard pressed to find a fandom that is as fiercely protective as Nintendo fans.
Some of this protective attitude could be linked to deep brand connection during childhood, but it’s clear that Nintendo differentiate themselves in the gaming world as a force for fun. This is what nurtures the strong Belonging that Nintendo has created.
Fans see Nintendo as one of the last great gaming bastions that is really in love with what they do, and all Nintendo wants is for you to be in love with games too.
While reflecting on its placement in the previous top 20, what I found most interesting about Apple was that it wasn’t number one. That is, until I realised that in 2005, the year that BE Brands survey was originally published, Apple’s best work was yet to come.
Sure in the early 2000’s Apple was already building a legacy that focused mostly on bringing usability and personality to the personal computer game. Around this time, and propelled by the launch innovative products like the iPod, MacBook and iMac, the company had moved from financial woes to profitability.
Despite it’s rising star with an all-star lineup, in 2005 Apple was still only on the verge of greatness with the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch and other innovations just around the corner – the success of which Simon’s initial belief in the power of BE Branding within Apple confirmed.
“What We’re About Isn’t Making Boxes For People To Get Their Jobs Done. Apple’s Core Value Is That, We Believe People With Passion Can Change The World For The Better.” – Steve Jobs
The two place rise from fourth (on the 2005 list), to second isn’t quite indicative of the enormous journey Apple has taken us on over the past decade.
Apple is still great, has the same belief and retains a passionate cult following, but since the death of Steve Jobs things haven’t felt quite same.
Apple deserves this second place and you can feel just how good they continue to be whenever you enter any one of their stores around the world. The service, design and system all make for an incredible and easy retail experience that is still unmatched by any other business.
To tell you exactly why Apple still deserves respect, read their Belief, straight from the mouth of Steve Jobs as he is introduced the phenomenal ‘Think Differently’ campaign in 1997, more than 20 years ago:
“We Believe That Those People Who Are Crazy Enough To Change The World Are The Ones That Actually Do.”
If your answer to that was ‘well that was 20 years ago and Apple is different now’, then Steve Jobs also has this to say to you:
“Values And Core Values, Those Things Shouldn’t Change. The Things That Apple Believed In At Its Core Are The Same Things That Apple Stands For Today.”
Apple is empowering and comforting. As a product it’s about ease of use. As a company Apple speaks for us. The products still scream creativity and in spite of growing competition, in a lot of ways, Apple remains the original and the best.
Apple has essentially positioned itself as the biggest church in the world.
With good products you can get to the wallets of millions. With innovation you can inspire thousands. With hope you can capture the hearts and minds of the world. SpaceX and Elon Musk have done just that.
SpaceX, Tesla and everything else led by Elon Musk is an extension of Musk himself. Even more so than other visionaries like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos, Musk is the brand.
He was already a billionaire before he was saving the planet. His sincerity is captivating when he talks about going to Mars or turning the motor industry on its head. That’s the magic of the Musk brand and genuine passion is the reason why SpaceX has become the number one BE Brand in the world.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at what Elon has to say about SpaceX
“You Want To Wake Up In The Morning And Think The Future Is Going To Be Great – And That’s What Being A Spacefaring Civilization Is All About. It’s About Believing In The Future And Thinking That The Future Will Be Better Than The Past. And I Can’t Think Of Anything More Exciting Than Going Out There And Being Among The Stars.”
So what makes this brand so special when SpaceX brings in no profit whatsoever. The magic of SpaceX is it’s belief about the future of humanity and human connection. It’s a huge part of this massive and hugely loyal cult of Musk, a cult that can’t decide whether its leader is a visionary, a leader or a messiah.
With the recent success of his reusable rockets, specifically the Falcon Heavy, Musk’s name is everywhere and SpaceX’s cultural impact is enormous. Equipped with a Tesla on it’s nose and live streamed to the world, the Falcon Heavy launch brought tears to the eyes of fans, dreamers and Elon Musk himself, skyrocketing the SpaceX brand to the tippy top of this list.
With a strong and inspiring belief, plus a cult that rivals Apple’s own, I expect a lot to come from SpaceX and Elon Musk in the future.