Exclusive: the world's top agencies reveal how they develop new brands

Harley-Davidson has it. Apple and Linux have it. Netflix listened to its users and has risen in the ranks; Yahoo!, well, just hasn't got it. The best brands know you can't buy loyalty with clever marketing messages or one-way corporate communication. In today's competitive landscape it's all about emotional engagement: connection, meaning and differentiation are everything. In short, it's all about strategy.

So how do the industry's leading design firms tackle this, the ultimate dark art of branding? For many, strategy forms the backbone of their practice, with designers playing anthropologist, sociologist, artist and engineer to distil the essence of a brand, and help craft cult-level loyalty between clients and their consumers.

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.