They are consistent, not schizophrenic. They are innovative, trustworthy, forward-looking, agile. They do not stretch too far. But above all, Superbrands need to fight hard to retain their positions.
So says the 12-man judging panel for Consumer Superbrands 2003, launched today (Thursday) by The Brand Council and previewed exclusively by Marketing. The book explores the history, development and achievements of many of the strongest brands in Britain, examining how they have made it to the top and how they have managed to stay there.
Many of the 74 brands that are featured in the book are stalwarts of its pages, proving that they can evolve to withstand consumer flux, market downturns and bitter competition to retain their positions. But 22 are new entrants, having come to the attention of the judges by pushing their way to the top of their sector on the strength of sales, innovative thinking and ground-breaking marketing.
Here, we examine three brands that continue to grace the pages of Consumer Superbrands - M&S and Persil have featured since 1995 and Virgin since 2001 - and three new entrants.
MARKS & SPENCER:SUPERBRAND SINCE 1995
Marks & Spencer has fought back from a difficult period to regain a hold on the high street. In November 2002, it posted a 7.9% jump in overall sales and a 41.1% rise in operating profit. Chairman Luc Vandevelde said it had "moved from securing to sustaining the recovery".
M&S began to falter at the end of the 90s, when for the first time it felt the pressure of intensifying competition.
Vandevelde's recovery strategy operated on a number of fronts. At a corporate level, the company disposed of its loss-making operations.
A restructured balance sheet enabled it to return £2bn to shareholders, while laying the groundwork for future growth.
M&S also turned to George Davies, the man behind Next, to tempt younger customers with his Per Una range. Yasmin Yusuf was brought in from Warehouse as head of clothing design.
Another key aspect was the 'Perfect' campaign, which promoted the chain's high-quality, everyday wardrobe staples while stressing their affordability.
In line with the activity, the company worked on improving the fit of its clothing, based on a survey of 2500 female customers.
M&S began to revive its stores, presenting a more contemporary face.
In 2002, David Beckham agreed to lend his name and image to DB07, a clothes range for four- to 16-year-old boys.
The company has also piloted a food store format, Simply Food, taking its quality and convenience food to the high street. The first two outlets opened in July 2001, followed by three more at mainline railway stations in a joint venture with Compass Group. M&S plans to open 150 Simply Food outlets over the next three years.
- M&S sells more than 20 million pairs of knickers every year.
- One in five men own an M&S suit; one in six own an M&S shirt.
- During the festive season, shoppers buy 28 million mince pies.
PERSIL: SUPERBRAND SINCE 1995
Seventeen million washes are carried out in the UK every day - that's almost seven wash loads a week for the average UK household. More than one-quarter of these are done with Lever Faberge's Persil, the UK's top laundry brand, with nearly 30% of the market.
Its place in the country's cupboards has been maintained by continuous innovation throughout its 94-year history.
Persil was the first brand to bring tablets onto the market and now leads the sector. Persil Capsules, which was actually third to market, now leads the capsules sector, with sales worth more than £28.1m in its first eight months. After its first year, one in five people in the UK had bought Persil Capsules, with the product outselling its nearest competitor by two to one.
Persil was the first detergent to be advertised in the press, in 1910, and was also the first detergent to be advertised on television, in 1955.
Today, Persil focuses on creating relationships with its consumers. In September 2002, the brand unveiled the world's biggest picture mosaic - the culmination of a three-month-long drawing programme in schools and playgroups - to mark the start of its 'Get Creative' initiative.
More than half of all primary schools have registered to the scheme, which lets parents help their child's school get a share of at least £7m worth of free art and craft classroom kits by collecting 'Persil Stars'.
The brand has been a key partner of Comic Relief in 1999 and 2001, and at last week's Red Nose Day 2003, it continued the tie-up, pledging £400,000 to Comic Relief's good causes.
- Persil was the first detergent to show a man doing the washing in its TV ads.
- The Persil Careline takes all sorts of calls - one was from a farmer who added Persil to his sheep dip to make his sheep whiter.
- Before the launch of Persil in 1909, soap bars were used to wash clothes.
VIRGIN: SUPERBRAND SINCE 2001
The Virgin brand is famous the world over for being prepared to take on established businesses and win. Virgin positions itself as a consumer champion, challenging big players in the sectors in which it operates by offering customers better value and service than the competition.
Owing to Richard Branson's high profile - built up by stunts from his around-the-world balloon trips to dressing up as a bride to launch Virgin Bride - and the innovative nature of the products and services, Virgin has always had high levels of brand recognition.
The founder's activities have made such an impact that they resonate across the whole group and every sub-brand benefits. Branson's autobiography, Losing My Virginity, published by Virgin Books, has been one of the best-selling business books in the world.
Branson's career began at the age of 17 with the launch of Student magazine in 1968. Two years later he set up a small mail-order record retailer that undercut the big stores' prices. In 1971, Branson and his cousin, Simon Draper, established Virgin Records.
In 1972, at least one store opened every month and by the end of the year there were 14 outlets. Virgin Records rapidly became the biggest independent record company in the country, signing acts such as the Sex Pistols.
Branson sold the company to Thorn EMI in 1992 to free funds for investment in other markets. Today there are more than 200 Virgin-branded companies trading around the world, employing 30,000 people and spanning sectors as diverse as banking and bridal services.
The Virgin logo was first drawn on the back of a napkin by graphic designer Trevor Key.
- Every week 175,000 people walk through Oxford Street's Virgin Megastore, buying a total of 55,000 items.
- The Paris Megastore is the city's second-most visited tourist site, after the Louvre.
SPECSAVERS OPTICIANS: SUPERBRAND IN 2003
Specsavers has revolutionised the optical market through its joint venture strategy and transparent approach to pricing. Its stores are owned and run by the opticians themselves.
Specsavers' own lens manufacturing laboratories - two of the biggest in Europe - mean that it can supply the latest high-tech lenses at high volume and low cost.
Established in 1984, Specsavers Opticians has 500 stores in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands and is the fifth-biggest optician in the world.
With projected sales in 2002 of £500m, Specsavers' has achieved continuous and sustained organic growth, despite a slowdown in the retail economy.
The current market for eyecare products and services is estimated at more than £2bn, with just under half provided by small independent opticians.
Specsavers was the first optician to advertise its products and services on television and still spends more on TV than any competitor - more than £14.5m in 2002 (ACNielsen Media Research). Specsavers' campaigns, produced by an in-house creative team, regularly appear in Marketing's Adwatch.
Its in-store magazine, View, which is published in-house twice a year, is available free in all stores and is mailed to 600,000 customers.
The company also sends out more than 220,000 letters a week reminding people that they are due for a sight test or that their contact lenses are ready for collection, and informing them of current and forthcoming offers.
The latest campaign, Specsavers' 'Look of 2003' modelling competition, which aims to find the sexiest glasses wearer, is in its eighth year and attracts thousands of entrants, emphasising the idea that glasses are a fashion accessory as well as an optical necessity. The company recently added designer ranges by Storm and fcuk.
- Specsavers sells a pair of glasses every six seconds.
- If all the glasses Specsavers had ever sold were laid end to end they would wrap around the world nearly three times.
A Specsavers' retail outlet opens in the UK or the rest of Europe every week.
JACK DANIEL'S: SUPERBRAND IN 2003
Jack Daniel's focuses a tremendous amount of its promotional activity around September - the month Jack Daniel was born - with teasers in August.
In 2002, poster ads proclaimed: 'Jack's Birthday Celebrations: starting 1st of the month, 7pm till late (late September that is)'. The strategy aims to communicate that Jack Daniel's is about style, rather than fashion.
First registered in 1866, the distillery continues to craft old-time Tennessee whiskey the way Mr Jack did 140 years ago and remains true to its founder's straightforward motto: 'Each day we make it, we will make it the best we can'.
Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee sour mash whiskey, owned by US company Brown-Forman, is the leading imported whiskey brand in the UK, both in terms of volume and value.
Between 1997 and 2001, consumption of blended whiskies fell by 7%, from 35% to 28% of adults, while consumption of premium malts fell by 3%, from 21% to 18% of adults, according to BMRB and Mintel.
Consumption of imported whiskies such as Jack Daniel's, meanwhile, has remained constant at 11% over the past four years.
Recent buoyant sales of imported whiskies have been largely spurred by the success of brands such as Jack Daniel's and its appeal to younger drinkers. The typical Jack Daniel's drinker is a man in his mid-20s, and the brand targets 18- to 24-year-old male students and young workers. This highly social group expects a lot from life and has a 'live for today' attitude.
The brand is also redoubling its efforts to retain 25- to 44-year-olds.
- Seventy per cent of Jack Daniel's consumers are male.
- The brand's first black-and-white ad appeared in the October 18, 1954 issue of Time.
- Jack Daniel's first used paper labels in 1895.
MULLER: SUPERBRAND IN 2003
Last year UK consumers spooned their way through a record two billion pots of yoghurt - enough to fill more than 200 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Sales leapt £36m to £698m in 2001, making yoghurt one of the fastest-growing food sectors, according to ACNielsen.
Muller, the third-biggest grocery brand in the UK, currently holds a 40% share of the yoghurt market. Since its introduction to the UK in 1987, Muller has built retail sales in excess of £300m, with 17 different product lines and 65 product variants.
In one record day in 2001, the brand sold 4.7 million pots of yoghurt - exactly equal to its first full-year sales 14 years ago. In the same year, Muller invested £55m in a state-of-the-art extension to its Market Drayton factory in Shropshire to double production capacity to more than two billion pots a year.
In keeping with the brand's philosophy of innovation, Muller launched a number of products in 2002. The most recent was Muller Corner Squeezers, the twin-tube format containing Muller Corner yoghurt and fruit sauce, in September 2002. It is aimed at children and teenagers and allows the product to be eaten on the move.
Consistent price promotions and ongoing product innovation have traditionally helped drive the brand forward. But in 2001, the brand took a new approach to its marketing and promotion, launching 'Mullerlove', the first umbrella campaign to support its growing portfolio of products. The campaign continued throughout 2002, with a budget of £12m.
- More than 50,000 Muller Corners are consumed every hour in the UK.
- Muller uses 500,000 litres of milk every day, all of it sourced from within a 35-mile radius of its Shropshire factory.
- The Muller brand now has 71% penetration of all UK households (ACNielsen).
Black & Decker
Marks & Spencer
Pret A Manger
The National Lottery