The most valuable brands in the world

Innovation has helped Apple overtake Google to become the world’s most valuable brand. MaryLou Costa picks over the winners and losers in the annual rankings compiled by BrandZ.

The BrandZ top 100 most valuable brands – click here to see the full list

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  • eBay vice-president of marketing for Europe tells us how they differenciate themselves from other e-tailers, click here to read
  • Prolific Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson gives us his opinion on the other well-known brand strength rankings

What is a brand worth? Marketers and business directors all want to understand the financial significance of consumer preference for one brand over another.

According to the annual BrandZ global valuation ranking by Millward Brown, household brands such as Apple, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are literally worth billions.


More valuable brands command heightened premiums, desire and excitement, all through a compelling and quality brand experience, says Peter Walshe, Millward Brown’s BrandZ director.

This is demonstrated by the world’s top three brands, Apple, Google and IBM, the jewels in the crown of the list. Each is valued at more than $100bn (£60.5bn). Added to this, brands in the top 100 have grown in financial value by nearly 36% since the portfolio was put together in 2006, outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500, which experienced an overall fall of 1.1% (see Linking Brand Value To Sparkling Business, below).

“Apple has built its whole brand on a promise it lives up to. The BrandZ Top 100 are not only more trusted and recommended but are more valued – people are prepared to pay what they’re worth,” says Walshe. In fact, all of the brands in the list are worth upwards of $8bn (£4.8bn).

It is the contribution of the brand itself, combined with financial results and a number of other measures that makes these global marques so successful (see Method, below). While this year’s top 10 is still dominated by technology giants, including Microsoft, IBM and China Mobile, there has been some shift in the order.

AT&T jumps into the top 10 at number seven, up 15 places from last year, and there are interesting stories from the emerging markets, luxury brands and internet businesses such as Facebook, which breaks into the top 100 for the first time.

While it may not come as any surprise that Apple comes top with a brand value of $153.3bn (£93bn), what might raise a few eyebrows is the fact its brand value is up 859% since BrandZ was first published in 2006. On its own, Apple accounts for 6.4% of the top 100’s total value – the highest of any brand, claims Walshe.

“Apple plays a good profit story and by sticking to its pricing, it affirms its desirability,” he says.

And it pips Google, which claimed top spot last year, with a brand valuation of $153.3bn (£93bn) – an increase of 84% on last year. Its value this year is more than $40bn (£24.4bn) higher than Google’s, which has been knocked off the top spot for the first time since 2007.

The top 100 list affirms the growing strength of technology brands, Walshe notes. Refreshed computer brand Microsoft sits two places beneath IBM, valued at $78.2bn (£47.4bn), an increase of 2%.

Walshe says technology brands now make up a third of the ranking and account for half of its value, up from a third when BrandZ first began.

“It’s hard to hide behind those statistics,” says Walshe. “We are becoming more and more dependent on technology, and this interdependence of brands’ fortunes with technology and platforms is inescapable.”

However, not every technology brand in this year’s BrandZ list tells a success story. Once dominant mobile brand Nokia clings on to its top 100 status at 85th place, down 38 places from last year, while its brand value has fallen 28% to $10.7bn (£6.5bn).

Mark Ritson

Mark Ritson
Marketing Week columnist and associate professor of marketing

BrandZ is one of the three well-known rankings of brand strength. Here is your two-minute Ritson guide to the ’big three’.

Interbrand – the heritage brand
Top Brand: Coca-Cola (2010)
Due out in August, Interbrand can rightly claim the honours as the founding firm of brand valuation and one of the first true brand consulting firms. Its Top 100 is based on the opinion of experts across Interbrand’s global offices. They rank all the brands on 10 variables that Interbrand deems essential to brand health and the results feed the subsequent valuations.

BrandZ – the superior product
Top Brand: Apple
The reason BrandZ can claim superiority over all-comers is the fact that its top 100 is based on enormous amounts of data. Unlike other valuations that put very gross estimates on brand strength, BrandZ interviews more than 1.5 million people in 31 countries about 50,000 brands. In the game of marketing, good data wins every time and the sheer scale of data that goes into BrandZ makes it, in my opinion, the best of the bunch.

Superbrands – close, but no cigar
Top Brand: Mercedes Benz (UK)
Built from a method that defies logic, Superbrands continues to get its results covered across the British media. Only Superbrands can claim (as it did in its 2011 list) that Wedgwood is twice as strong a brand as WH Smith and that Encyclopaedia Britannica is a bigger brand than Audi, Adidas and Sony. Madness.



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