In a world where a strong majority (62 percent) of the public cares more about companies’ practices and policies today than it did ten years ago and four in 10 people globally say they have decided not to buy a company’s products because they didn’t agree with the companies’ practices or policies, global public affairs firm APCO Worldwide has identified 50 “Champion Brands” that have best aligned their business strategy, vision and values with the shared interests of their stakeholders.

According to Margery Kraus, founder and CEO of APCO: “It’s clear that having quality products or services is no longer enough. Today’s most successful brands—Champion Brands—are creating enduring relationships with their stakeholders by creating societal value while also delivering corporate value.”

APCO has released a new Champion Brand Index, based on a global study that measures the brand strength of nearly 600 of the world’s largest public and private companies, identifying those brands that are performing best against the firm’s new proprietary approach for evaluating and building corporate brands.

The firm’s research found that a solid majority (60 percent) now believes that companies now serve some functions in society that were previously reserved only for the government. And the belief that companies are playing a bigger and bigger role in society—and have broader obligations as a result—is strongest in the developed world. For example, 81 percent of those in developing economies agree to the statement “when evaluating companies, it is as important for me to know how the company operates as it is to know what it sells” compared to 57 percent in developed economies.

The expanding interest in corporate practices and policies has given rise to a new set of influencers, which the firm calls “stakebrokers,” a group of highly engaged individuals who act and think in ways that differentiate them from traditional influencers. Stakebrokers are even more likely than others in society to not buy products because of a company’s policies (74 percent vs. 37 percent), talk to friends and family about companies practices and policies (83 percent vs. 37 percent) and publically express their views about corporate behavior through traditional and/or social media (60 percent vs. 12 percent).

“Stakebrokers are fully invested in the success of companies, and connecting with stakebrokers is a company’s surest path to becoming a Champion Brand,” says Robert Schooling, president of APCO’s Americas region. “In terms of future-proofing a corporate brand, these are the people—generationally and geographically—to whom the company needs to pay attention.”

The research findings inform a new approach to brand-building, based around four factors:
• Alignment: meeting stakeholders’ most important expectations
• Authenticity: acting in a way that is consistent with what a company says
• Attachment: the extent to which stakeholders connect emotionally with a company
• Advocacy: advocating on behalf of stakeholders’ interests, applying unique expertise and assets to add value to society

“The study demonstrated that excellence on each attribute is increasingly difficult to achieve, but as companies advance through each dimension they do more than simply build product brand value,” says Bryan Dumont, president of APCO Insight. “Companies that perform well against all of the 4As move from being good corporate brands to becoming Champion Brands, and Champion Brands are winning in this new environment.”

The list of Champion Brands includes:
3M Company
BMW Group
Colgate-Palmolive Company
Costco Wholesale Corporation
Deere & Company
Discovery Communications
Ford Motor Company
HJ Heinz Company
The Hershey Company
Home Depot
Honda Motor
IKEA Systems
Intel Corporation
International Business Machines
Johnson & Johnson
Levi Strauss & Co
LG Electronics
Philips Electronics
Procter & Gamble
SC Johnson & Son
Sharp Electronics Corporation
Sony Corporation
Stanley Black & Decker
The Coca-Cola Company
Volkswagen Group