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Business Superbrands?

Today saw the release of Superbrands' 2011 report on the UK's Strongest B2B Brands.

While the selection process behind it is robust enough, I found myself challenging the results. In what kind of business world can eBay be ranked higher than Barclays or Wickes trump Sir Robert McAlpine as the go-to construction brand? And since when can Office Angels be deemed a more essential resource than CapGemini or Black & Decker rate higher than Balfour Beatty?

The definition of ‘business’ being applied is clearly a broad one. The same can be said of the judgment criteria – quality, reliability and distinction – which obviously favour brands with a strong consumer profile.

Looking at the report, it feels like brands have moved on, while the way they are ranked has not. It would be more appropriate to judge today’s business brands by more dynamic criteria such as speed, flexibility and innovation. 

How responsive are they to changing market conditions? In what ways do they demonstrate an ability to adapt their brands and businesses to meet emerging needs and opportunities? Do they pioneer innovative practices and embrace new channels?

In today’s complex and competitive world, the brands that champion these qualities – we call them ‘active brands’ – are most likely to create business advantage. Being able to evolve and adapt a brand over time is now paramount to success.  Looking down the Top 100, it’s names like BlackBerry, Apple, Visa, Virgin Atlantic, O2, Panasonic, Lloyds TSB and Xerox that do this best.

Curiously, one brand category that is dismally under-represented in this year’s report is the media. More often than not, it is access to information and insight that powers innovation and adaptation. Yet the FT, The Economist and the BBC – all of which have made their content available through new channels such as the iPhone and iPad – are nowhere to be seen. No FT, no comment.