NEW YORK: Brand owners must pursue strategies which are simple, differentiated and easily repeatable to continually out-perform their competitors, a study has argued.

Bain & Co, the management consultancy, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research group, polled 377 executives from a range of industries in Asia, Europe and the US.

"Market leaders consistently do three things better than their competition - they focus, they simplify and they adapt," said Chris Zook, co-head of Bain's global strategy practice.

In all, 70% of contributors agreed future success would rest on the ability to "sense" and adapt to change faster than rival players, and 64% cited achieving scale more rapidly than the norm.

Over 80% of the firms with the strongest revenue growth and profitability had built models that could simply be copied in new countries and sectors, and more than 70% believed they possessed a unique set of capabilities.

Unilever, the FMCG giant, targeted such objectives in 2010 with Project Compass, covering areas like innovation, marketing and talent management, and has since unveiled ambitious sustainability goals and swapped a regional for category-led structure.

"We are making good progress in the complex challenge of changing the culture of Unilever," Paul Polman, its CEO, said last month. "Our people are more externally focused and aware of how critical the consumer and customer are to our success."

Exactly 65% of the leading firms in the Bain/EIU study also used a small list of guiding principles to inform decisions, effectively transferred best practices between divisions and had a frontline "fully in support" of board-level priorities.

Last week, Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble's CEO, said: "Simplification is a critical driver of productivity improvement ... We're working to simplify the business and the processes that support the business."

Elsewhere, 74% of high-growth operators sought "continuous improvement" across all their functions, and 65% spent time with key customers to understand emerging needs and desires.

LinkedIn, the business-orientated social network, recently invested in a recommendation engine to suggest possible connections for members, and added tools so recruiters can hire directly from its pages, offering revenue-generating opportunities.

"I think ... data is an enormous asset for us and a competitive advantage because it enables us to create greater relevancy and that comes first and foremost to our members," said Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO.

Data sourced from Bain & Co, Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff