Given the plethora of choice now available to consumers, the winning formula for brands is now less about what they offer, and more about the customer centricity and market responsiveness surrounding that core offering, two experts advise.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, From Lego to Apple: The new era of brand building is ecosystem-driven growth, Victoria Sakal and Dr Emmanuel Probst, both from Kantar, explain that building a brand ecosystem has rather different parameters than customary brand-building.

“The most effective ecosystems are defined not by costs and defending of market share,” they say, “but by revenues and creation of new markets altogether which better satisfy real human needs.”

Brands operating in this way have therefore moved away from price to focus on better quality, convenience, speed, and relevance which in turns translates to deeply-connected and long-lasting relationships.

While some brands have simply followed a brand extension route – think easyGroup – others have become smarter about expanding their reach through a set of coherent products and services.

“Some become lifestyle brands, centered around the attitudes and aspirations of their target audience,” observe Sakal and Probst.

“The most successful ones go to the next level – they become ecosystems, offering an interconnected set of services that enables users to fulfill a wide range of needs in one integrated experience.”

Digital brands are the best exponents of this approach – three of the five most valuable brands in the world (Google, Microsoft and Amazon) are ecosystems – but Lego and Disney show how offline brands can also deliver on this front.

Lego’s movies, in-store experiences, amusement parks, videogames, and even social networks addressed a number of peripheral needs around its core one of play.

“This creates more numerous and more powerful synapses which not only forge stronger connections with consequently more satisfied customers, but also equip brands with critical insight and ammunition to continue feeding the flywheel,” the authors state.

And they identify three competitive advantages that stand out with such ecosystem brands: they excel at delivering personalisation; they deliver long-term loyalty; they enjoy greater return on ad spend than any other brands.

Sourced from WARC