Can you guess the second biggest global retail brand that does not have a single shop front?

I was discussing brands this week with some of my clients this week and was interested to learn that Amazon has now crept into number two global retail brand position without a single shop front.

Many technology brands are now entering the Global top 100 list issued by Millward Brown. and this demonstrates the power of the internet and technology to transform our buying habits and our lives. Samsung leapt up 80% powered by our desire for sleek LED flat screen TVs and whizzy mobiles and Baidu the Chinese search engine increased its value by 62%. Other brands performing well in 2010 report included IBM, Google, Apple, HP and Sony with the brand value of the technology sector increasing 6% in a relatively flat market.

Even the brand agencies like Millward Brown are now proclaiming that brands cannot ignore social media but it has to be delivering a customer experience that is in keeping with the brand values. I notice that young people are now using their mobiles to price check for items before buying them as useful mobile applications proliferate. Multi channel marketing is here to stay meaning that agencies have to work closely together on client accounts or confusion reigns.

Some brands (especially FMCG manufacturers with no retail outlets of their own) are finally discovering the value of social media as a great new product development asset as they can directly communicate with their most loyal customers to test new products and are now starting to sell directly online. Given the threat from retailers’ own label product, this is no surprise.

The next interesting trend will be to see how brands start to personalise their customer experience using social media and mobile applications to deliver relevant brand experiences at the right time and place. Location based applications are likely to drive this trend and I can see how group buying of products with friends on applications like Facebook will be an interesting development to watch with manufacturers keen to target their chosen customer groups. We’ve already seen the model used in travel with Priceline so I’m just waiting for the opportunity to get a great deal on some bicycle gear with some cycling friends. As the marketplace gets tougher with cuts to curb the deficit is this the point at which brands start engaging with online communities of interest? The technology is ready and waiting so watch this space.

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