BrandZ, the exclusive research report compiled by Millward Brown Optimor, a WPP company, ranks the Top 100 most valuable global brands. In its fifth year of publication, the Top 100 global brands, measured in 17 different categories, have exceeded $2 trillion in total value for the first time. The report has become a key tool in evaluating new brand strategies and marketing initiatives.
The report suggests that brands account for about one-third of shareholder value, on average, and that brands can help keep business up when times are tough. Over the past five years, the study shows that the value of the Top 100 portfolio has grown by 18.5 percent, versus a decline of 11.5 percent for the S&P 500.
"The positive performance of the BrandZ brands portfolio provides corroborating evidence that strong brands are resilient," the study reports. "They not only maintain their value, but can appreciate significantly in value, even during the most trying economic circumstances."
BrandZ implies that consumers are genuinely putting their trust in brands (consideration of brand in the purchase decision has risen by 20 percent since 2005), but that there has been an important evolution in the way
A new honesty in brand communication and collaboration with consumers about wider issues is now de rigueur. Sustainability, social responsibility, health, trust and personalization were all identified as issues about which brands have to make their case. For example, fast food brands changed their menus, technology companies offered personalization and car brands promoted their low-energy alternatives.
Consumers are skeptical and stressed and welcome the signposts of quality that brands provide. But the badge of a brand is also about how responsible the product is and not just what it costs. BrandZ concludes that the movement toward responsible products may not be incremental, but it will be inexorable, and brand leaders will want to be first.
The other profound change in brand communication, the study reports, is brought about by social media. Brand positioning is transparent in the face of the relatively new world of social media, and BrandZ acknowledges that leading brands are working to strengthen their identities in online communities. Social media has already proved highly effective, but only when it is in tune with the brand. Starbucks is praised, for example, for its use of Facebook (it has 6 million "friends") and its iPhone app that allows customers to update their loyalty cards and get free Wi-Fi. The implication is that brands must let go a little now, in order to retain their power. The challenge is in knowing how much.
Icici Bank, India's largest bank, is the first Indian brand ever to make it into the Top 100. In all, 13 emerging market brands made it into the Top 100 (compared to only one in 2005), as a salient reminder that not only do the BRIC nations and the N-11 (the next eleven) represent the global powers of the future, but that international brands now face strong competition from upcoming domestic brands. Seven of the Top 100 are Chinese brands, two are from Brazil and two are from Russia. The Mexican telecom brand Telcel enters at No. 69. Notably, most of these emerging market brands are from industries associated with infrastructure—telecom and finance, for example.
Of the top 20 risers in the list this year, half are technology-related and include Samsung (buoyed by demand for mobile handsets and flat-screen TVs), mobile operator Verizon and Apple. Although there should be no surprise that technology brands have experienced sharp growth, the rate of increase is striking.
The biggest increase in brand value was Samsung, which increased by 80 percent to $11.4 billion. The second-largest riser was Baidu, which increased by 62 percent, and the third-largest riser was MasterCard, increasing by 57 percent.
BlackBerry, for example, which wasn't in the ranking five years ago, is now at No. 14, with a brand value of $30.7 billion.
In five years, Amazon moved up 63 places in the BrandZ ranking, from No. 78 to No. 15, reflecting a 46 percent CAGR that drove brand value to $27.5 billion. Apple moved up 26 places from No. 29 to No. 3, with a brand value of $83.2 billion, a 51 percent CAGR.
Google is the No. 1 brand by far, with a value of $114 billion, and four of the top five brands are technology brands. They are: No. 2 IBM, with a value of $86.4 billion; No. 3. Apple, $83.2 billion; No. 4 Microsoft, $76.3 billion; and No. 5 Coca-Cola, $68.0 billion.
Apparel brand values declined by 4 percent in total, and a sector usually fueled by the purchasing power of youth experienced a relatively chilly year. Esprit, Adidas and Puma fell in brand value, for example, while others such as Nike, H&M and Zara showed only slight growth. U.K. fashion chain Next experienced the only remarkable leap, with a 54 percent increase in brand value to $2.5 billion, a hike attributed to reducing the amount of time it took to identify trends and get products to store.
BrandZ concludes that brands that stuck to their core messages did best—for example, Nike's focus on health and wellness or Gap's heritage and core jeans offering.
Its forecast for the next 18 months suggests consumers may begin to shop again after a period of sacrifice, but that price will be more of a concern than logo and that fast fashion will continue to do well. A real challenge remains for youth apparel brands serving a whole generation of young people finishing their education with huge debts and worrying employment prospects.
The retail category saw its total brand value decrease by 1 percent. And the challenges are clear: Consumers have started using mobile phones for price comparison and purchasing, and they are shopping more online, so now retailers must prioritize the challenge of "inline," or multi-channel functionality and brand experience. And at the same time, consumers are still fulfilling needs over wants, prompting retailers such as Tesco to focus on quality-value labels. Over the next few months, the report suggests, consumers will continue to need reasons to justify their purchases. And successful retail brands will provide reasons.
The most valuable retail brand in the Top 100 is Walmart, and it slipped out of the top 10 to No. 13 in this year's report, with a brand value of $39.4 billion. Amazon's brand value grew by 29 percent to $27.5 billion, and ranked No. 15, while Tesco, which grew by 12 percent to $25.7 billion, ranked No. 17. BrandZ's conclusion for retail brands states, "It could have been worse."
One to Watch: Baidu
Chinese search engine Baidu increased in brand value by 62 percent to $9.4 billion and entered the ranking at No. 75, reflecting its dominance in China. Reportedly, 70 percent of China's estimated 400 million Internet users prefer Baidu to Google. It is particularly well adapted to searching in Chinese characters.
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