Editor's Note: Introduction to SuperBrands 2010
By Todd Wasserman
Think about your favorite brand. Chances are you've had a positive experience with it, find the advertising speaks to you in a somewhat flattering fashion and are attracted to the aura around the brand in such a way that you desire some sort of association. Beyond that, though, there's a factor that's more subliminal. Change. In general, we want our brands to evolve along with us, even to challenge us in some ways. If it's a car, we want the new model to look different—better—than last year. If it's a sneaker, we want it to be lighter or prettier. If it's a detergent, we want to know that the company behind it will stop at nothing until the formula gets clothes cleaner than anything else. Otherwise, who cares about your detergent brand? Why not just buy private label instead?
This dynamic nature of brands bolsters the metaphor that they are living, breathing things. The Coca-Cola of 2004 is different in important ways than the one in 2008 and so forth.
Such is the thinking behind Superbrands, our annual look at the top consumer brands. In the following report, compiled by the staff of Brandweek, we look at some of the top brands in the top categories and the challenges they are facing in 2010. For each category, we also pick a "Brand to Watch," that is, a brand that has the power to change the game by its insurgency or by its potential downfall. (Note: Half of these 20 stories appear in print in this issue; the other half will run only on brandweek.com, along with our list of the top 2,000 brands, which is free to subscribers.)
Superficially, many of the marketing challenges appear to be economy-driven, but on a deeper level, success is dictated by how well a brand rolls with the times. If you're the guy who runs marketing at, say, Budweiser, how do you advance the Budweiser story in a way that's of-the-moment and yet is in keeping with the brand's ethos? It's trickier than it sounds, especially in today's social media happy environment. But, as Anheuser-Busch vp, marketing Keith Levy says, paraphrasing Woody Allen in Annie Hall, a brand is like a shark—if it doesn't move forward, it will die. And nobody wants a dead shark on their hands.