LONDON: Brands are becoming less important to investors than strong customer relationships, a new analysis has suggested.

In Brand Britain, Markables, a trademark valuation firm, observed that a decade ago brands were the single most important asset in takeovers in the UK, accounting for 25% of enterprise value in 2005. But by 2014 that figure had dropped to 13%.

The picture was reversed when considering the value of customer relations over the same period, as this rose from 12% to 24%.

"With the tools we have today in marketing it is easier to drive an increased value on customers than on brands," according to Christof Binder, managing partner of Trademark Comparables AG, Markables' parent company.

"That is why investors today look for businesses that incorporate more such direct customer relations than anonymous brands relations with their customers," he told Marketing.

And he said that while brand valuations themselves were not currently declining, it was only "a matter of time" before that happened, with subsequent effects on values, prices and purchase considerations.

Brand valuations are in any case a contentious area, as was evident during a debate at last year's Festival of Marketing event in London, when an incredulous Mark Ritson demanded to know the reasons for the "outrageous differences" in the figures brand valuers could attribute to the same brand.

Management Today highlighted some possible reasons, including massaging clients' egos and creating false value. Binder added that valuations were "hypothetical much of the time and used to enable businesses to add extra percentages to royalty rates".

The value of customer relationships may be based on firmer ground, since a financial transaction is involved and the digital revolution has made it easier to track interactions with a company and its products or services.

The Markables report noted that purely British brands were not especially attractive from an investor's point of view unless they were able to translate onto an international stage.

Data sourced from Marketing, Management Today; additional content by Warc staff