We The Italians | Italian report: Italian brands prove the power of strong brand equity

Italian report: Italian brands prove the power of strong brand equity

Italian report: Italian brands prove the power of strong brand equity

  • WTI Magazine #139 May 22, 2021
  • 87

The Kantar BrandZ™ Most Valuable Italian Brands 2021 have a combined value of $114,586 million. Despite seismic shifts in consumer behavior, an 8.9 % drop in the country’s GDP and serious interruptions to supply chains, travel, retail, and hospitality, the Top 30 brands have managed not only to survive, but thrive. They have collectively risen in value by 11 %, coming close to doubling the previous year’s growth. Since 2018, the Top 30 has grown in value by 34 %. 

Rise proves resilience of strong brands 

The increase in the value of Italy’s leading brands this year – despite the enormous challenges they have faced – shows how investment in brand equity over many years pays long-term dividends, especially in times of crisis. This year, 17 brands from the Top 30 increased in value (by an average of 24 %), nine brands declined in value (by an average of 10 %) and there were four new entrants to the ranking. Strong brands tend to suffer less than their competitors when trading conditions are challenging, and they recover faster when the market picks up; the 2021 ranking provides further evidence of this. See page 26 for more on the value of investing in brands. 

Gucci tops ranking and leads growing luxury sector 

The BrandZ™ Most Valuable Italian brand in 2021 is Gucci, which has seen its brand value rise by 12 % in the past year to $33,838 million. Luxury is the largest category in the Italian Top 30, accounting for 42 % of the ranking’s total brand value. The sector has been relatively well insulated against the effects of the pandemic; Italian luxury brands tend to generate most of their sales from outside of Italy, and demand has remained strong in the US and much of Asia throughout the past year. This is not a category without challenges, however, and many heritage brands are working hard to make connections with the next generation of consumers – with mixed results. In the pages ahead, we look at how two Italian luxury brands have claimed a place among the BrandZ™ Top 5 fastest risers this year. 

Fastest risers span range of categories 

In a year in which some business sectors have faced extreme hardship – travel and tourism, for instance – and others have found the pandemic has provided opportunities to reach more consumers than ever (e-commerce, food, and drink), it is tempting to assume that the rises and falls in brand value over the past year are entirely category-dependent and linked to COVID-19. Yet the BrandZ™ Top 30 show that across categories, there have been both winners and losers. Our conclusion: brands have engineered their own “luck”. The fastest risers in the Top 30 are led by brands from four different categories. They are: Bottega Veneta, Aperol, Fendi, Enel and Ferrari. 

Global vision fuels strongest growth

The Italian brands with the highest international exposure are those that have turbo-charged their brand value growth this year. By promoting themselves internationally, they have managed to make the most of opportunities in fast-growing global markets where demand is strong for Italian goods and services, particularly when they relate to luxury goods, automotive, food, drinks, and energy. They have not only explored international opportunities, especially in the US and Asia, but have also built themselves a buffer that protects them from declines in domestic demand. This overseas exposure will be a key driver of recovery for brands post-pandemic.

Leaders demonstrate the impact of Meaning 

The most valuable brands in Italy – and the fastest-growing smaller brands – clearly demonstrate the benefits of being Meaningful, Different and Salient in consumers’ minds. Those that stand out against others in their category in ways that are relevant and important to people have posted significantly stronger performances this year than those that don’t. In addition to being Meaningfully Different, the best brands also ensure they have Salience, that is they spring readily to mind when someone has a need or thinks of a category. BrandZ™ analysis shows that Italian brands tend to lag behind others in Europe on being Meaningful; this is an area where additional focus could help Italian brands bolster their equity growth. 

Bright sparks are leading the way 

Innovation is the attribute most strongly linked with growth in Italy; those brands perceived to be the most innovative have grown their value the most, and the reverse is also true. When people think of innovation, often it’s technology brands that spring to mind, but the BrandZ™ measure of innovation combines a brand’s performance on creativity, how a brand disrupts a category, and leadership. Innovation can therefore be recognized across a range of business sectors, and some of Italy’s most innovative brands are in non-tech categories: Nutella, Enel and Kinder. 

Focus on purpose shows importance of sustainability 

Brands have always needed to have a purpose beyond simply making sales and delivering to shareholders, but consumers’ expectations of purpose have been growing, and the pandemic has proved a strong catalyst for increased scrutiny of the brands people deal with. Purpose and corporate reputation are now increasingly important brand assets, and a brand’s performance on sustainability issues is a key success factor. Brands as diverse as Enel and Fendi are demonstrating the value of caring for employees, the environment and the community.