What Makes a Brand Influential?

Last week I attended the ICA’s Advertising and Marketing week (#FFWD2016) in Toronto. At the conference I had the opportunity to attend an excellent presentation given by Steve Levy from Ipsos on the Most Influential Brands in Canada.

So what makes a brand influential? According to Levy, “…brands are more than just corporate logos. They have meaning, personality and even attitude. When it comes to asking which brand is the most trustworthy, has the most presence or is most engaging - the answer can be a very personal one for many of us. This is because we increasingly identify with, relate to and define ourselves by them - which gives brands something we can measure: influence”.


Influence matters. The companies with the most influential brands have beat average market returns on the DOW/NASDAQ for the past five years running. Each year Ipsos performs a comprehensive global study of brands (6100 in 2015), evaluating them on the following 5 dimensions of influence:

  • Trustworthy
  • Engagement
  • Leading Edge
  • Corporate Citizenship
  • Presence

It’s no surprise then, based on this criteria, that the top 5 brands in Canada are technology companies.

The only Canadian company that made the top 10 is Tim Horton’s, a fast food restaurant known for coffee and doughnuts. (The top 20 list can be found below).

Brand influence varies by age and level of happiness. Happier people are more positive about brands. As it turns out 91% of Canadians report being consistently happy, with 26% reporting that they are very happy. The happiest people of all are the highest earners with the lowest commute time.

Does brand influence only apply to big technology companies? Not at all. Think about your favourite brands that influence how you dress and interact with people. Can you think back to a time when you were young and you absolutely “had to have” a product, style of clothing or a toy?

Even back in the 80’s and 90’s (before the Internet) trends in fashion drove behaviour. I recall people lining up down the street and around the block to purchase a Roots brand sweatshirt. There was the Cabbage Patch Kids craze where stories of employee bribery, shopping brawls resulting in broken bones, and store owners with baseball bats surfaced over the course of the holiday season. 

These days people stand in line for hours, even days, to get the latest iPhone. Just this year (not expecting one of the warmest winters on record), I bought a Canada Goose parka. Every time I see someone on the street with the distinct Canada Goose patch on their arm I feel like I’m part of an exclusive club (people who hate the cold).

With big data providing unparalleled insights into consumer behaviour brands are becoming more savvy than ever in identifying their customers and knowing what to provide them.

I am a dedicated wearer of Lucky Brand jeans. I don’t wear any other brand. Last time I was in the store I purchased a couple pairs of jeans and two shirts. One had a Fender logo and the other a Triumph logo. As I was paying I mentioned to the cashier that I played a Fender guitar and rode a Triumph motorcycle. We both laughed and she proclaimed me the “Poster” girl for Lucky jeans. “You’re right”, I said as I pulled out my iPhone 6 to check the latest updates on Twitter.

*Top 20 Most Influential Brands in Canada (Ipsos)

  1. Google 
  2. Apple
  3. Microsoft
  4. Facebook
  5. YouTube
  6. Visa
  7. Walmart
  8. Tim Hortons
  9. Amazon
  10. Samsung
  11. CBC
  12. Pay Pal
  13. President's Choice
  14. Android
  15. Netflix
  16. The Weather Network
  17. MasterCard
  18. Air Miles
  19. Shoppers Drug Mart
  20. eBay