BrandZ’s (www.brandz.com/wpp) Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study is often cited and referred to in the marketing industry. I, for one, love turning to research and studies to make my points, and this is no exception. What the findings have done, and continue to do, is provide me with a number of key learnings about what it takes to be a great brand. More importantly, it has shared what it takes to be a valuable brand.The Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands is WPP’s yearly report on the valuation of brands, endorsed by 3 million consumers (as well as Bloomberg and Kantar) across 100,000 brands in 400 categories, spanning 50 markets and 4.5 billion data points. To say it is robust would be underplaying its depth. Without a doubt, if you are involved with brands you we should all be familiar this study. Less so for the mind-boggling valuations (I don’t know how many noughts a billion Dollars has, let alone a trillion…) but more for the insights the study sheds on the evolving nature of brands and, critically, the demonstrable evidence that companies that invest in brand, win.My colleague, Andrew Welch, shared his views too on the report. And this is what he took away from it:Strong brands = strong returnsIn the past 10 years, BrandZ’s Top 100 brands grew by 102.6% in financial value. The S&P only grew by 63% in the same period (if you buy stocks, you should obsessively follow BrandZ…!). These top 100 brands have grown in value from $1.4 trillion in 2005 to $3.3 trillion in 2015 (14% year on year growth). The strongest brands are proven to deliver the largest shareholder returns.Innovation drives successIt’s easy to pounce on Apple, but there’s an undeniable reason it occupies the No1 spot in the Top 100 study – innovation. It is remarkable creativity and constant ingenuity has altered our behaviour and our lives, no question. And we can’t get enough of it. That’s why Apple is valued at $247 billion (that’s the GDP of Ireland!). Outstanding when you come to realize that just 10 years ago, Apple didn’t feature in BrandZ’s Top 100…The value of loveBrands that are authentic, that care, that have meaning in our lives and that have a purpose beyond profit, are the brands we most want to love. And brands that are most loved deliver value through growth. Think Chipotle, a 44% rise in its 2015 financial valuation, attributed to its growth underpinned by a philosophy steeped in environmental sustainability.Difference makes the differenceHard to achieve. Even harder to sustain. But those brands that strive to offer something that is meaningfully and genuinely different (this is not difference for difference sake!) command a premium – and that in turn drives brand value. Audi has never stopped nurturing its undeniable distinctiveness and has seen its brand valuation soar by 43% (unprecedented in the auto category) in 2015. .You can’t cut your way to growthIn a recessionary /post-recession world, the pressure on CFOs and Procurement to curb and control expenditure is well recorded. But insufficient emphasis on investment to drive revenue growth, market share and profitability is wrong-headed and counter-productive. Marketing needs to raise its voice and demonstrate once more that, brands that invest… win.The US does it bestThe top 10 most valuable brands are all born in the USA. Whatever we may think, no one builds brands – and brand value – like the Americans. We’d do well to take a leaf out of their book. Don’t believe me? Here’s the Top 10: Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Visa, AT&T, Verizon, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Malboro… and that excludes Facebook, itself the fastest riser in value in the Top 100 with a 99% value growth on 2014 and, quite extraordinarily, a 1187% value growth since 2010.Tick Tock TechDespite fears of a bubble burst, Tech remains the fastest growth category in this study at 24% ($1 trillion in value as a category). Not bad in a disruptive and uncertain global economic climate… Of the Top 10 most valuable brands, 6 are technology brands. Tech itself may need a new definition, as the highest new entry in the BrandZ study at number 13 is Alibaba – a data company? E-commerce? Tech? Retailer? Regardless, Alibaba, launched by Jack Ma (now China’s top billionaire) took on Silicon Valley and won (there’s that innovation again…) overtaking Amazon and Walmart to the top retail brand spot.Inevitably… China10 years ago, there was only 1 Chinese brand in the BrandZ study. Today, 14 brands of the Top 100 are Chinese brands. If you hadn’t heard of Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, ICBC and China Mobile, you are certainly going to (China Mobile, astonishingly, has a subscriber base bigger than the population of the European Union). Chinese brands are on the march, outpacing the average value growth of BrandZ Top 100.So what does all this mean for us?Simple: “We’re in the right business. We build brands. We do so through creativity. We do so to create or maintain a customer. And that builds value, especially financial value. And we can prove it. We need to help clients learn what the most valuable brands do and, perhaps, clients can start to resist the all-too-predictable tendency to cut, cut, cut… Building a brand takes years of creative ingenuity, repeated effort and consistent investment. And even then, at best, a brand’s value is fragile (Tesco’s brand value has just been surpassed by Aldi… unthinkable just a few years back!). But one thing we all know categorically to be true: building brands makes business sense,” says Andrew.As it relates to Botswana, we at Hotwire, cannot endorse enough the need to get Botswana brands to start taking bold steps. Too often we see our arms tied back with tight budgets, conservative thinking and myopic ambitions for business. To build a brand, as can be seen by this study, requires people to get out of their comfort zones and explore a little, take a few risks and fail a couple times. We need to differentiate with meaningful service/functional offers.What is certain is that the rewards for trying are greater than the rewards for not. If Botswana is to move forward we need to start thinking differently. What worked before will not guarantee our future… We need to take our future in our own hands and dictate it.Too often, we let things happen and not make things happen… Botswana is more than capable of having a global brand explore out of it.