The top 100 most valuable global brands

The top 100 global brands shows Apple increasing its lead and the top brands getting younger, while businesses that have a purpose beyond profit – and women on the board – thrive.

Top 10 most valuable global brands

The message that shines out from this year’s results of the most valuable brands in the world is: marketing is vital. The companies that are growing fastest in value have strong brands at their core, according to Millward Brown’s seventh annual BrandZ report.

It’s a message that has clearly filtered down to Apple, which has stretched its lead at the top for the second year in a row.

Those businesses that can communicate they are “meaningfully different” are the stars in this year’s list, according to Peter Walshe, Millward Brown’s global BrandZ director.

Brand has become more influential in people’s purchasing decisions. Making a decision to buy on price alone has declined in the past 10 years from 16% to 7%, while deciding to buy on brand alone has increased from 43% to 59%.

Crystal clear strategy: Apple tops the rankings by a large margin

This year’s top 100 brands reflect the economic turmoil that most of the globe is facing in that there is only a marginal increase in their overall value. Collectively they are worth $2.4tn (£1.5tn), only increasing by 0.3% since last year.

“It is the finances that are holding up some of these brands rather than the brand itself, but the strength of the brand enables businesses to punch above their weight,” says Walshe.

As consumers are faced with an increasing choice of purchase alternatives, they are “relying on, trusting, believing and acting on brand,” to help them make the right decision, adds Walshe.

Companies looking to cut corners by removing budgets from the marketing department could damage the business, warns Walshe. “If you cut your marketing spend you might have a short-term gain but you will have a medium and long-term loss.

“If the brand is still strong, the business is going to recover. The real worry is when your brand is not so strong, then that’s much harder to recover from.”

Apple has increased its value by 19% to $182.9bn (£115.7bn). The ability of the technology company to lead the way by managing to define categories such as smartphones and MP3 players has enabled it to dominate the top spot. Recent YouGov data demonstrates this point further. More than a quarter (26%) say they intend to buy a smart television from Apple, even though it is yet to launch one, pointing to the power of the brand.

Meanwhile, second position is now held by IBM, up from third position, which leapfrogged Google to get there. Google took the top spot in the 2010 list but was beaten into second place by Apple in 2011. It now ranks at number three. While Google’s overall value is still impressive at $107.8bn (£68.1bn), Walshe says it has not yet made the most of its Android mobile platform, meaning it has dropped down the list.

MS Clothes Exchange
M&S’s ethical Plan A strategy helped it come in 10th in the top UK brands

IBM’s commitment to a cause beyond profit has helped the business grow in size. Its Let’s Build a Smarter Planet strategy has resonated with people, and plays into a wider trend of brands that commit to a purpose beyond profit growing in value by 87% over five years, compared to 43% for others. “IBM has a purpose beyond profit and this is really delivering for the business. It embodies its value,” says Walshe.

Twenty-one ‘responsible’ businesses feature in the top 100 and they “have greater growth rates and are more desirable,” according to Walshe. These brands have been identified in Jim Stengel’s book Grow, which details the top 50 businesses with a purpose, (see Beyond Profit, below).

In contrast, technology company Hewlett-Packard has had the “stuffing taking out of it”, says Walshe, even though it had started to “do an IBM” by focusing on environmental issues. The business has fallen eight places to 26 and its brand valuation is down by 35%. Sales of printers, one of its core products, are in decline and its responsibility message doesn’t seem to be as “sticky” as IBM’s, he suggests.

BlackBerry has fallen out of favour, too, tumbling out of the top 100 from 25th position in 2011. Likewise, Nokia has left the top 100, from 81st position last year.

Coke’s success is partly down to keeping the brand fresh as well its 126-year heritage

Apple and IBM are also indicative of a wider trend that the strong brands are growing stronger: the top 10 have grown 118% since 2006 compared to 66% for the rest of the top 100.

Apple’s design-led leadership helped it stay in the top position

The value of the top 10 brands has risen from $409bn (£222bn) in 2006, when the measurement began, to $892bn (£560bn). This contrasts with the bottom 10 brands, which have increased in value at a much slower rate. Back in 2006 their value was calculated at $46bn (£25bn). This year, the bottom 10 are worth $83bn (£52bn).

One business that is climbing the table at a rapid rate is Facebook. Bolstered by its $104bn (£65.7bn) stock market flotation, it is the top brand value riser, moving up 16 places to 19th position, rising 74% in value to $33.2bn (£21bn). The social media brand’s growing strength points to a wider theme borne out in this study, which is brands that create more buzz do better.

There is a strong correlation between buzz and overall value. The measure looks at social and traditional means of buzz – such as word of mouth – and three-quarters of the buzz is social, taken from Facebook pages and other social media such as blogs (but doesn’t involve Twitter). It is likely that buzz scores are underestimated, because only public-facing Facebook pages are analysed.

Facebook as a brand has the highest buzz measurement, according to BrandZ’s index. The Mark Zuckerberg business is hot on the heels of Google, the number three brand overall, and first-placed Apple.

While these technology brands dominate, emerging market brands are making it into the top 100 at record-breaking levels. Africa has got its first brand in the top 100 – mobile phone brand MTN, positioned at number 88. “It’s clearly benefiting from expansion in Africa where you don’t have lots of infrastructure for fixed lines,” explains Walshe.

Apple and IBM are also indicative of a wider trend that the strong brands are growing stronger

Twenty per cent of the top 100 brands are from emerging markets compared with just the two brands that featured in the list in 2006. The fast pace in which these brands are arriving on the BrandZ list is both a testament to the innovation in the BRIC countries and also a warning sign to western businesses – if they don’t respond, they will get left behind.

Burberry is one such brand embracing change and is using technology to provide something useful that will benefit the health of its business in the long term. By using social media and even allowing its consumers to customise its iconic trench coat online, it is “democratising luxury through technology,” says Walshe.

Walmart has shown that technology can help a business to recover. It has finally adopted a multi-channel approach, which has helped it to a large extent through a tough climate for grocery retailers. The US retailer is in 17th position, worth $34.4bn (£21.7bn) and although it slips two places, it makes it the most valuable retail brand in the world, rising above online retailer Amazon.

“Walmart was slow to adapt to the digital world but it is beginning to pay off. It’s about making technology your friend and making people’s lives easier,” says Walshe.

Credit card brands are also doing a good job of making people’s lives easier. Visa is top of the list, at 15 with a brand valuation of $38.2bn (£24.1bn), followed by MasterCard which rose 31 places to 29th position (see its case study, below).

Priceless experiences: MasterCard offers its customers after-hours tours of the Natural History Museum

Even fast-food brands are using technology to their advantage. Domino’s is succeeding because “the fact you can very easily order its food over the internet shows it is embracing technology for the benefit of the consumer”. The pizza business is in 9th position on the top risers list.

It is clear that brands which are doing well are embracing technology and social media. This is reflected in the age of the brands too. Top brands are getting younger. In 2006, the average age of a brand was 84 years old but now it is down to 68 years old.

Heritage is still useful but it’s how you use it. Walshe says using your age can be powerful but you have to “refresh it and keep it relevant”.

Even though Coca-Cola is a heritage brand – 126 years old – “it has the most youthful demeanour” says Walshe. Its Open Happiness strategy has taken it beyond “just a fizzy drink”, he adds. The business is the number six brand in the world.

Perhaps its strong position is also down to female representation in the boardroom. Those businesses that have women on the board grew by 66% over a five-year period, with an average value of $27.1bn (£17bn) whereas brands without grew by 6%, with an average of $13.2bn (£8.2bn).

But ultimately the strongest message from the BrandZ top 100 is the importance of maintaining a powerful brand, says Walshe.

“Marketers are really important people when it comes to the health of corporations because they’re the ones who understand what a brand is. They can make a brand win or lose.”

This article first appeared in Marketing Week:


The Millward Brown BrandZ top 100 is calculated by taking the financial value of a corporation multiplied by the brand contribution. This results in a brand valuation.

The financial value is created by generating profits or earnings.

It also looks at market valuations, growth potential and customer loyalty data which makes up the brand multiple.

Millward Brown talks to more than 2 million people, across thirty countries to find out their attitudes towards products and services to understand what proportion of the financial value can attributed to the brand.

The questions try to replicate how consumers purchase a product to find out whether they buy a product because of the brand or because of other factors such as price.

Brand highlights


Apple stays at number one and increases its lead

Facebook is the fastest brand value riser – it is now in the top 20, at number 19

The first African brand has reached the top 100. Mobile brand MTN is in 88th position

Luxury brand Hermes is the brand that has gained most places, up 39 places to 32

Fast growing markets now account for 20 of the top 100, up from just 2 in 2006

The total value of the top 100 has only increased by 0.3% but is up 66% since 2006


49 brands have lost value since last year. Nearly all the losses are driven by financials and not brand

11 brands are new to the top 100 including KFC, Ikea and Volkswagen

Result highlights

The strong grow stronger. The top 10 have grown by 118% since 2006 compared to a 66% increase for the rest of the top 100.

Responsible brands grow. Those brands that have a purpose beyond profit have increased in value by 87% over five years. In stark contrast, those which are not ideals-driven have grown only half as much – by 43%.

The more buzz a brand generates, the more value it has too. The top 10 buzz brands are worth $511bn compared to the bottom 10 buzz brands, which are worth $112bn.

Top brands are more trusted in most categories. Banks, however, have lost trust. Despite this, strong performing banking brands are also more trusted.

Top brands are getting younger. In 2006, they were on average 84 years old but now they are 68 years old, highlighting the rise of younger social media brands and those making the top 100 from emerging markets.

Brands with women on the board do better. Over five years, those boards with women had an average five-year growth of 66% and without female directors, growth was only 6%. All of the top 10 UK brands have women on the board.

Olympic sponsor brands start with a huge advantage. The reputation of these brands is far higher than those that are not associated with the 2012 Games.

Brand has become more influential. Buying for price alone has declined from 16% to 7% over 10 years. Buying a product or service because of the brand alone has increased from 43% to 59%.

Beyond profit

Putting people first: consumers increasingly expect brands to behave in an ethical manner

Businesses that have purpose beyond profit are growing at double the rate of other brands, according to the 2012 BrandZ list. But that comes as no surprise to Jim Stengel, former global chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble.

Stengel, who now runs his own consultancy, spent three years tracking 50,000 companies to find out the secrets to long-term success. Along with Millward Brown, he identified the top 50 companies that are “ideals driven” in his book Grow.

Twenty-one of these top 50 companies are in this year’s BrandZ list. ‘Grow’ brands have increased in value by 87% over five years. This compares to 43% for the other brands included in the top 100 list. According to Stengel, his top 50 brands out perform the market threefold.

Brands as diverse as IBM, Starbucks, MasterCard and Dove (see below) make Stengel’s top 50. But Stengel says, “they all have commonalities”.

“When you go in and strip away differences in language and culture, you find that they ask similar questions. IBM and Innocent, for example, are very different, but the way they think about their ideals has similarities.”

Other companies are starting to notice the success of those businesses that have a purpose beyond profit, he adds. “There’s a growing awareness that this is the right way to do business because it has a really big impact on why people buy things.”

Benoit Garbe, vice-president at Millward Brown, which worked on the Grow research project using a variety of methods including neuroscience, says brands that improve people’s lives will also have a healthier bottom line. “We looked at the brands that have built a deep relationship with consumers and how each of them has grown in the past 10 years. Then we asked, did that relationship turn into stronger financial growth? For the most part what we found was that these companies were ideals driven.

“When brands create these ideals, they create a better relationship with consumers. Your marketing is more meaningful and people buy into what you stand for.”

Marks & Spencer, which is number 10 in the top UK brands, has made a commitment to its Plan A sustainability programme. Marketing director Steve Sharp says the share­holder-owned business needs to demonstrate that it is doing more for the planet.

He says: “Increasingly people are looking behind what companies really stand for and using their spending power to back those they agree with. Companies will have to behave better if they’re going to attract customers because it’s becoming more and more important to people’s buying decisions.”

Despite a difficult economic climate, Sharp believes its customers still want to see a commitment beyond profit from the retailer. He says: “It’s difficult during a recession [but] recessions will come and go so we think it’s particularly important to carry on during difficult times. In difficult times, it seems obvious to be more thrifty and more careful and not so wasteful.”

Millward Brown’s Garbe agrees, and adds that businesses which commit to their ideals will make more money: “Those companies that evaluate what they stand for, what their higher meaning and purpose is, know down the road that they will eventually create a higher profit.”


Keith Weed

Keith Weed
Chief marketing officer

Too often there is an association solely with environment when people talk about sustainability. However, when we talk about sustainability, we’re talking about social elements as well as environment.

Part of our social benefit programme is based around self-esteem. It can have a huge impact on people and I’m encouraged that in my daughter’s school they use Dove as an example in a self-esteem class and show the Dove evolution film and discuss it.

They do the same in the US. What’s striking about this is that Dove can become an example for a more positive view around beauty, and a more ‘real beauty’ than the more cosmetic artificial beauty. If Dove can make people feel good about themselves then that’s a positive thing.


You won’t be surprised to hear that Dove is a strong and growing brand around the world, no matter what society or ‘norms’ there are. The different take on beauty has real resonance among our customers.

I’ve watched a remarkable online film where women are interviewed in the street and they never list things they like about themselves but list many things they hate. Their friends, however, are able to list eight positive things about them.

What is striking is that we are so self critical but other people can see positives. How do we change the way people consider themselves? Dove has played a key role in setting this agenda and it will continue this dialogue.

Rising up the BrandZ Rankings: MasterCard


In the name of maintaining MasterCard’s ‘Priceless’ brand strategy, Paul Trueman, the company’s head of marketing in the UK and Ireland, has impersonated a tree in front of a select number of cardholders at London’s Natural History Museum.

The after-hours event at the Natural History Museum, allowing 150 of its customers to roam the museum free of other visitors and with a glass of bubbly in hand, is just one of many experiences on offer to its cardholders.

As part of the “education and entertainment” package at the museum, members are treated to talks, one of which Trueman gamely took part in.

He explains how he became part of the exhibition during one of these talks: “I got pulled out of the crowd to be Benjamin Franklin’s tree to help explain to the audience how electricity came about,” he says with a smile.

Developing experiences like these is a challenge, admits Trueman, but after 15 years of running with this strategy, the results speak for themselves. “Priceless is our greatest asset but it makes us work really hard because as soon as you say we’re going to make your experience priceless, you set yourself a high bar.

“It is focused around consumer passions – so it involves theatres and restaurants, sport and music. We try to find something we can add that is different for everything we do, [including] engaging consumers and getting memories and experiences,” he adds.

It is this attention to the brand that has helped MasterCard storm up the Millward Brown BrandZ rankings, up 31 places to number 29 – just ahead of American Express. Its brand makes a significant contribution to its overall brand value, rated four out of a possible five. Meanwhile its brand ‘momentum’ measure, which indicates a brand’s short-term growth rate, is eight out of 10, meaning that its ‘Priceless’ brand strategy is integral to its success.

The company’s healthy first-quarter results also demonstrate that the business is riding high. Total revenue was $1.72bn, up 20%, beating analysts’ predictions for seven quarters in a row.

Millward Brown’s BrandZ director Peter Walshe says the business is still benefiting from the “halo effect” of the IPO five years ago, and Trueman agrees that the flotation has enabled the company to “be a nimble business”.

Walshe adds that it is the “smart technology” that the business offers which is allowing the brand to punch above the other brands in its category. While the financial sector remains flat overall in the BrandZ index, MasterCard has a healthy brand value, increasing 53% to $20.8bn.

Trueman adds that there is a massive growth opportunity. “Behind it all, we are still a business, so we want people to have more affinity with the card and to use it more. At the moment, 15% of transactions happen on card and 85% of transactions still happen in cash,” he says.

One way in which MasterCard is hoping to take a greater percentage of transactions is by introducing technology to make payments easier. It recently launched a digital payment tool, Paypass Wallet, that it says will connect digital wallets from other brands to “simplify” the shopping experience and accelerate the take-up of digital payments.

“We think of ourselves as a technology company. It comes down to being simple, convenient and secure, and asking how we can make things easy for consumers.”

And it’s this desire that is driving the business forward, with its ‘Priceless’ strategy keeping customers loyal.



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