Technology: Is the Next Big Thing already here?

Posted: May 29, 2013

A global study identifying the world’s most culturally relevant brands lists six technology brands in the top 10 after polling more than 62 000 respondents in 10 countries during the latter quarter of last year.

Leading the Cultural Traction™ 2013 list, compiled by brand development and marketing insight consultancy, Added Value, is Google. Also featured in the Top 10 on a global basis are Apple (2nd), Samsung (3rd), IKEA (4th), Microsoft (5th), Sony (6th), BMW (7th), Audi (8th), Coca-Cola (9th) and eBay (10th).

The list ranks brands according to their cultural vibrancy. Added Value’s brand VIBE score is a composite of four factors, statistically culled from dozens of attributes that reflect cultural relevancy:

  • Visionary – Leading the way and getting our attention
  • Inspiring – Have a point of view and stand for something I want to be a part of
  • Bold – Have swagger with substance
  • Exciting – Are disruptive and have momentum

Commenting on 2013 report, Added Value South Africa’s Dr Inka Crosswaite said measuring and understanding cultural relevance is vital for a brand’s success because only culture can tell whether the brand has got it or lost it.

“Brand equity measures brand health today, an important metric for any brand. But Added Value’s VIBE provides a third dimension, a view on the strength of the brand’s momentum for tomorrow.

“Culture is the currency of all our conversations and it is in a constant state of flux. Great brands know this and invest in marketing to stay ahead of the conversation.”

Crosswaite added that it’s one thing to be a culturally vibrant brand in one part of the world; it’s another to radiate that vibrancy at high amplitude across the world. This means the brand has not only tapped into global shifts in values and attitudes, but also expressed itself and engaged people in ways that resonate culturally on a local level.

In 2012, she said, the battle between Apple and Samsung took place on a global stage, both inside and outside of courtrooms.

What makes this turf fight particularly interesting is the dependency these two titans have on one another. After all, Samsung is Apple’s biggest parts supplier, yet its fiercest competitor in the smartphone market. By year’s end, Apple was victorious on the legal front, but Samsung won on the main stage, with consumers.

Apple was the world’s No1 company by market value, but Samsung was the world’s largest technology company by sales. This same, ‘Yes, but…’ phenomenon is also reflected in the brands’ cultural vibrancy.

The graphics below show that Apple’s global VIBE is stronger overall, but Samsung’s VIBE – just behind Apple’s – is more stable across countries. Apple’s VIBE is being pulled into the stratosphere by the devotion it has earned in the USA, Western Europe and Australia. It’s a bumpier road for the brand in Asia, and more tempered in Brazil too.

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Apple has, in effect, more distortion in its VIBE score. This spikes higher and lower across the globe in how Visionary, Inspiring, Bold and Exciting it is seen. Samsung’s VIBE has more similarity across components as well as across countries.

What is particularly intriguing and positive for Samsung is that, while Apple is more strongly felt to be Visionary, Bold and Exciting, the brands are viewed equally as Inspiring (Is a brand I’m proud to be associated with, I’d follow into a totally different category, Is committed to making the world a better place) – that is, the dimension that most directly speaks to consumers’ personal connection to the brand.

Also of note is that Apple has witnessed a slight drop in its VIBE in the USA, where we’ve been measuring the phenomenon for a few years. This loss of ‘Cultural Traction™’ (the change in VIBE over time) is primarily driven by a drop in Inspiring.

In addition, Leading Edge consumers are picking up on Samsung’s VIBE way ahead of everyone else, foreshadowing a further tightening of the race as the brand mainstreams.

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Said Crosswaite: “So, in Cultural Traction™ 2013, Apple continues to lead the way among the hardware brands but its position is under threat, and never more so than by the rise and rise of Samsung.

“For 30 years, Apple set the pace for cool, creative technology. It made life on Planet Earth work better and Apple users feel one step ahead. Now, its signature minimalist identity has been adopted by the entire industry. Where it once embodied all that was creative and progressive, over time Apple has become the Establishment it set out to over-turn.

“Samsung has boldly declared itself the ‘heir apparent’. It has excelled in bringing entirely new innovations to market. Its products reveal a mindfulness of the cultural trends which seem to drive a brand’s VIBE. And it has positioned itself as the smart, understanding innovator, easing tension between humans and machines.

“Perhaps what Samsung is proclaiming in its global marketing campaign is true: The Next Big Thing Is Here.”

The online study for Cultural Traction™ 2013 was executed on behalf of Added Value by Lightspeed Research. The full Apple-Samsung case study can be viewed on http://www.culturaltraction.com/case-studies/apple-vs-samsung-frenemies-at-the-gate/ while the full results of Cultural Traction™ 2013 can be viewed at www.added-value.com/culturaltraction.

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