8 Brand Strategy Examples And Lessons From The World's Most Valuable Brands

What are the best brand strategy examples to learn from?   

Here's a great place to start.

There's a set of ‘superbrands’ that top the charts.  

34 of them in total.

Read on to find out who they are, with examples that highlight what to focus on when creating brand strategies for your clients or business. 

What are the best brands to study? 

There are three global brand valuation studies (Kantar's BRANDZ, Brand Finance and Interbrand) that identify the world's most valuable brands, producing a top 100 list every year. (Brand Finance do a top 500).

They use different approaches to assess brand value, but some brands successfully appear on every one of these lists. 

There are 34 in total - and while they are very different businesses, when it comes to brand strategy, they have some things in common. 

There are common questions they answer to define what their brands are all about.

And there are some valuable lessons to be learned from their brand strategy stories.  

Here's what 8 of them (BMW, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco, IBM, Louis Vuitton and Starbucks) can teach us about brand strategy.  (And get the whole list of 34 at the bottom of this post).

The world's best brands all answer 'why'

There are four questions all of the world' greatest brands answer.  

And the first one is: Why do we exist?

Brand strategy example 1: BMW

BMW are one of the 34 brands that has consistently reinforced the same idea of WHY they exist for years (over half a century, in fact). They say they exist to provide ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’.   

Even though they have gone through brand identity, leadership and business changes they have maintained the same focus on WHY they exist (what they call their slogan, or brand essence) and have continued to keep it relevant.   

"Sheer Driving Pleasure’ describes the essence of the brand, which is very robust, resilient and future-oriented. The pleasure a person derives from their car has nothing to do with its drive technology – or whether it’s driven autonomously or not. Joy is universal. It is a human emotion that binds us all together. So I think it will remain just as relevant in the future as it is now.”  Joachim Blickhäuser, Head of Corporate and Brand Identity at the BMW Group 

Brand strategy example 2: Meta

Meta, despite being one of the newest brands in the list of 34, is carefully building on a previous brand strategy.  

We all know about the name change at the corporate level from Facebook to Meta.  

But what they didn’t change was their definition of WHY they exist. 

Meta’s mission is exactly the same as Facebook’s was:  Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

Brand strategy example 3: Microsoft

Meta and BMW have retained the same answer to, 'Why do we exist?, despite big business changes.

But sometimes brands change their answer to this question.  

Understanding Microsoft’s story gives us a signal of when it is right to redefine your brand strategy.

 When Satya Nadella took over Microsoft, the internal culture, in his words, was “dire… The company was sick….We needed renewal, a renaissance.”

The two questions that desperately needed answered were:

“Why are we here? Answering this question would be central to defining the company for years to come. The second question was, what do we do next?”

After hearing from hundreds of employees, Satya “defined our mission, worldview, ambition and culture in one page. No small feat for a company that loves massive PowerPoint decks.”  (From ‘Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, Satya Nadella).

This was just the starting point, but a critical step in making the cultural change that was needed to turn the company’s fortunes around.  

In 3 years the company had generated $250bn in market value, stock had soared 90% and they’d achieved 95% approval on Glassdoor. In 2022, Nadella was named #1 CEO in Brand Finance’s Brand Guardianship Index.

This started with the same brand strategy work: identifying WHY the company exists.

And here’s another thing you eagle-eyed folk will have noticed:  

Meta call it a mission. BMW call it a brand essence. (Microsoft call theirs a mission, Accenture call it a purpose, IKEA call it a vision... you get the point).

It doesn’t matter what you call things in a brand strategy.  Just answer the questions!

The world's best brands are clear on their culture

The next two questions every great brand answers are: 'Who are we?' and 'How do we do things?'

These answers are typically called values and behaviours, but are also called things like beliefs, spirit or principles.

Just like the example above, don't get stuck on the label.  

What matters in brand strategy work is that you answer the questions.

Brand strategy example 4: Amazon

Amazon answered these two questions from the beginning - and called them their 'Leadership Principles.'  Many of them – like ‘Customer Obsession’ were in place from the start.

Other Leadership Principles were introduced over time, such as 'Learn and Be Curious', which was added in 2015.

And on July 1, 2021, just before retiring as CEO, Jeff Bezos added the last 2:

Strive to be Earth's Best Employer.


Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility.

On the first one, Jeff Bezos explained:

"It's clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success".  In the same Shareholder letter he wrote,

"Smart action on climate change will not only stop bad things from happening, it will also make our economy more efficient, help drive technological change, and reduce risks".

He said that the coming decade would be decisive, and Amazon will be at the heart of the change, making progress toward the goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025. 

Hence adding one further principle: Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility.

Amazon's definition of 'who we are and how we do things' has carefully grown over the years.  But they knew from the start that answering these questions were key to building the right sort of culture to support the other parts of their brand strategy - like their 'why' ('To be Earth’s most customer-centric company').

Brand strategy example 5: Cisco

CISCO are very conscious about the importance of building and nursing their culture as they talk about here. 

Just like Amazon, they define some core principles to explain who they are and to guide how they act every day.  

Then write them using a clever balance of 'give and take' - 3 principles talk about what they give, and three on what to take:

Give your best

Show that desire to be at your best, connect with others to share quickly with whoever needs it; open your mind to ideas from everywhere and anywhere - and use them to build on the possibilities to pour a little drop of love into our customers’ worlds.

Give something of yourself

A simple smile or “hi” every day is worth its weight in gold, so don’t hide it away. Show care and consideration to your colleagues, our customers, our communities, our partners and the world we all share. Be worthy of trust. Be an inspiration. Be delightful to everyone. Even if you don’t like them.

Give your ego the day off

It’s the best solution our customers need, not the best-protected Cisco turf, so support that solution, whatever the background of the person or team who came up with it. Have the debate and have a backbone. Make your point, then commit to what’s been agreed and deliver it with agility and pace.

Take accountability

Whatever comes your way, understand it and be personally accountable for its success. Assume the answer’s “yes” and that you don’t need to wait in line for permission. Check the data but don’t let that slow down taking responsibility. And ... deliver.

Take difference to heart

We become bigger as individuals and more powerful as a collective when we respect and value what makes us so special - our unique, personal differences. Inclusion will always beat exclusion.

Take a bold step

Whatever your position, show leadership and courage when it comes to innovating and disrupting. If it doesn’t feel safe, be secure in the knowledge that shooting for the stars will always be a part of who we are. Together we can figure out how to get there so let’s dream big.

The best brands build on heritage to fuel the future

For any brand that has been around a while, identifying their brand strategy - answering those core questions - is a balance between understanding the heritage and culture that has made them successful to this point, while identifying what will keep them moving forward. 

Brand strategy example 6: IBM

IBM have rooted their brand for over a century in some core beliefs - particularly the idea of progress.

In 1962, reflecting on what 50 years in business had taught the company, IBM’s Chairman at the time, Thomas Watson Jr. said,

“I firmly believe that any organization, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions. Next, I believe that the most important single factor in corporate success is faithful adherence to those beliefs. And finally, I believe that if an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.”

Fast forward almost 60 years, and in Arvind Krishna’s ‘reintroduction' to IBM open letter in November 2021, he started with the same idea:

“IBM has always believed in the fundamental promise of technologythat when we apply innovation to real-world problems, we drive progress, for both business and society. And as the nature of those problems has changed over time, so too has IBM, repeatedly reinventing itself to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of that progress…We don’t just drive business value, we drive progress. I believe IBM is uniquely suited to be the catalyst of that progress for decades to come. This is today’s IBM.

Brand strategy example 7: Louis Vuitton

The Louis Vuitton brand was born from Louis’ insight in 1854 that luggage would become more important thanks to the revolution in transport.  

From that point on, the brand has always represented an aspirational lifestyle, and has consistently been focused on the art of travel and a pioneering spirit.  

Take a recent digital initiative, 'Louis The Game', an adventure through six imaginary worlds, where players explore the spirit of LV, collect fashion accessories and seek out one of 30 NFTs - just one of many celebratory experiences to mark the bicentennial of Louis birthday.  

Brand Strategy example 8: Starbucks

Starbucks recently evolved their mission (why they exist) and tell this story here

In 2008, they unveiled this mission: “To nurture and inspire the human spirit – one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.”

In 2014, Starbucks mission’s guiding principles were updated with a set of values underscored by a commitment to be “performance-driven through the lens of humanity.”

Then in March 2023, the new CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, after a six-month immersion, unveiled a new mission, "that serves as an homage to Starbucks past, while evolving toward a new future. The mission is simple: “With every cup, with every conversation, with every community – we nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection.”

As their website states:

This new mission recognizes that connection is a fundamental human need. Study after study indicates high rates of loneliness as a public health concern, and there’s a desperate need for togetherness. Now, human connection is expressly part of the company’s mission. It also expands its sphere from “neighborhoods” to “communities,” inviting people in both stores and digital spaces to be part of the conversation.

An homage to the past - while evolving toward a new future.  The careful balancing act great brands perform when they look to rearticulate all, or parts, of their brand strategy.

Brand lessons from the leaders

In summary - here are the some of the lessons from the world's best brands that you need to keep in mind when creating a brand strategy:


Understand that there are some core questions every brand has to answer.  These start with identifying why you exist, who you are and how you do things. (Other core questions are here).


It doesn’t matter what you call things in a brand strategy.  Just answer the questions!


Don’t change your brand strategy for change sake.  It’s hard enough to build a strong sense of what you want to stand for in the minds of your customers. A change of leadership and even a change in business direction does not also require a change in brand strategy.


If your company is ‘sick’, then it is the right time to relook at both your brand and business strategy.  Redefining WHY you exist can be a powerful way to reenergise employees and begin the process of cultural change.  Then keep it simple – if your strategy can’t fit on one page you need to relook at it!


Understand and build on the values, principles or beliefs that have driven the company forward.  Know how to embrace heritage within a brand strategy and what to add to ensure you keep moving forward with the times.

If you want more examples and stories like these, you’ll find a ton in Brand Strategy Academy.

Brand Strategy Academy doesn't just teach you what brand strategy is, it teaches you exactly HOW to do it - with all of the practical tools and process you need to ensure you can create a great brand strategy for any business, again and again.

If you want to dive deeper into the world's best brands – here’s the list of the 34 most valuable brands this year. 

The world's most valuable brands in 2023:

In alphabetical order:

  1. Accenture
  2. Amazon
  3. American Express
  4. Apple
  5. BMW
  6. Chanel
  7. Cisco
  8. Coca-Cola
  9. Disney
  10. Facebook 
  11. FedEx
  12. Google
  13. Huawei
  14. IBM
  15. Instagram
  16. Intel
  17. JP Morgan
  18. Louis Vuitton 
  19. Mastercard 
  20. McDonald's
  21. Mercedes-Benz
  22. Microsoft
  23. Netflix
  24. Nike
  25. Salesforce
  26. Samsung
  27. SAP
  28. Siemens 
  29. Starbucks
  30. Tesla
  31. Toyota
  32. UPS
  33. Visa
  34. YouTube   

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