No one ever made a ‘best of’ brand list by following what others do


Source: Unsplash/LinkedIn Sales Solutions.

A recent article here on SmartCompany highlighted the findings of a “Breakthrough Brand” list. 

Put together by agency Interbrand, the list included a grab bag of companies they like, chosen using an approach that reflects their brand world view. So far, no big deal. There are plenty of best of brand surveys and lists out there. 

The big daddy is another Interbrand vehicle called “Best Brands”, which focuses on publicly traded companies and uses market capitalisation as part of the rating. Readers Digest also jumps into the fray with their Trusted Brands survey.

I’m sure the companies featured are happy for the profile bump. It’s also pretty good publicity for those putting out the lists. Promoting worthy stuff others are doing is a good thing, even when what’s worthy is somewhat subjective.

Unfortunately, the people compiling the lists don’t stop there. They add a layer of broader commentary about trends others might follow based on the businesses of their chosen winners.

For example, in Breakthrough Brands, Interbrand advises businesses they should be adding the dimension of wellness to their marketing to create a powerful and distinctive story in-market, asking “what brand could resist the allure of wellness?”.

Along the way, the report casts wellness as a space almost any organisation can tack onto who they are. Now we have a problem, because nothing good happens when organisations go identity shopping.

Sure, wellness is a perfect space to play… if you’re a wellness-related company. After all, products and services touting how they can help you ‘be better’ are everywhere. And the sector is turbo-charged by social influencers prancing around in the latest gear, gobbling the recent food or drink trend, and finding themselves with meditation apps.

Suggesting that people should trade on wellness (or the other trends of “substitutes” and “empowerment”) for attention might work for marketing. But it irks me when that masquerades as advice to enterprises about what matters most. 

The irony of any input based on who is on a list is no one gets there by following the crowd. It reminds me of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian. 

Standing on a balcony, Brian says to the crowd below, “You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody… you’re all individuals”. The crowd chants back, “We’re all individuals”. Brian continues, “You’re all different,” the crowd chants, “We’re all different”. Then a lone voice says, “I’m not”. 

Be that guy. Ignore the brand pageants of ‘best this’, ‘breakthrough’ or ‘trusted that’. Take a peek if you’re curious. Then dig below the opinion into what those enterprises are genuinely up to.

There might be lessons you can take from what they do and how they do it. Not so many in who they are and what matters most to them. Only you can figure out what you stand for.


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