The New Futurelab 100: Have the Brand Gods Gone Crazy?

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by: Alain Thys

Not so long ago, David Armano suggested that someone forgot to send me the memo that Social Media weren’t what I made them out to be. But when I look at the Futurelab 100 which we’re publishing today, I think I’ve completely lost my in-tray. The first time I looked at it, I thought … OK, interesting. But when Stefan came up with one extra piece of information, I was simply blown away.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I should perhaps start by saying that we have a habit at Futurelab to "mash-up" Interbrand’s listing of the world’s 100 most important brands, each time it gets published. Rather than on their value, we focus on the " online relevance" of the brands, for which we consider things like: the number of times the brand pops up in Google, how high it peaks on Blogpulse, whether people "love" the brand in the comments they make, or whether they simply say "it sucks".

So, when IB’s new list hit the web, Stefan and Alex went to work and produced the latest version which you can find summarized here. And while our exploits are not exact science, like last time we found very little correlation between the way a brand performs at Interbrand and its relevance online (any suggestions are very welcome!).

In its own right, this is already interesting food for debate. After all, if there is no relationship, does that mean that online relevance adds no or only indirect value to a brand (and is the Futurelab 100 an exercise in futility)? Or is something missing from Interbrand’s perspective of what adds value? Are things like word-of-mouth irrelevant? Is Reichheld’s NPS really just much ado about nothing?

But then, Stefan made a joke which turned our Futurelab 100 experience up-side-down.  Mainly in jest he suggested to include Futurelab as a brand in our calculations. This so we could calculate how many centuries it would take us to hit the top 100. As the Pinot Grigio was good, we gave it a whirl and then simply sat in stunned silence when we looked at the results. While appearing in the "lower 90s", Futurelab as a brand was of equal relevance than some of the world’s 100 most valuable brands. After the giddiness waned, the gravity of what we just uncovered hit us. Big time.

If a puny, insignificant and low-budget brand like Futurelab, with virtually no marketing resources can outrun brands like Danone, Duracell, Moët & Chandon, something is seriously wrong in the land of digital marketing.

OK, granted, we claim to have a better than average understanding of what it takes to "make" a brand online, but the fact of us actually making it to the hitparade imho says more about the "bottom 50" brands than it says about us. We simply don’t belong.

We haven’t yet looked into the why’s, though I have a point of view. But we’d also like to call on the thinkers in the blogosphere. Ilya, David, Jackie, Karl, Ann, Joseph, John, and anyone else who has an opinion … what are your thoughts on this?

Why do some major brands continue to place comparatively low prominence on the internet, disregarding millions of consumer’s actual behaviour of spending large amounts of time surfing, chatting, communicating, and "being" online.

I just don’t get it.