Apple Watch is big news -- but iPhone 6 has been Apple’s brand engine. At $247 billion, representing a 67% rise versus 2014, Apple has the catbird seat in the new 2015 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands from WPP and Millward Brown.
Google, with a 9% value increase to $173.7 billion, is second. Microsoft -- worth $115.5 billion -- is number three, having risen one position or 28 percentage points in brand value. The total brand value of the Top 100 now stands at $3.3 trillion, a 14% increase on 2014 and a 126% growth over the 10 years since the ranking was launched.
As Nigel Hollis, EVP and chief global analyst at Millward Brown, explains, the ranking of the Top 100 Brands is based on a proprietary alchemy of earnings traced back to a specific brand (versus the corporate name), and comprehensive survey-based research measuring the strength of the consumer relationship with that brand. Hollis tells Marketing Daily that the metrics are strongly predictive of whether a consumer will actually buy that brand. Another key element in brand valuation is differentiation, or whether the brand is setting a trend in its category. “The classic example is iPhone. In the luxury category, Burberry stands out,” he says. Another driver is saliency. “How quickly does it come to mind?”
Technology is, in fact, the fastest-growing category, per the study -- up over 24% in the last year with tech brands in the top 100 worth more than $1 trillion. That makes them a third of total brand value in the study, with Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft the top four brands.
Facebook was the fastest-growing brand, with 99% growth from acquisition of apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, and monetizing its platforms. E-commerce is also gaining from brands like Alibaba in China, which is new to the ranking and entering above Amazon. The Chinese e-commerce company entered the retail ranking at $66.4 billion. The study says that position helped grow the retail category ranking by 24%. A reflection of the power of e-commerce over traditional retail is that Alibaba also bests Walmart in the ranking.
Chinese brands, of which there are 14 in the Top 100 -- up from just one in 2006 -- are pushing out European brands. Those brands dropped 9.3% in the last year to 24 brands from 35 in 2006. The study said the value of U.S brands grew by 137% in the last 10 years.
Hollis says the long-term trend shows major shifts in terms of where the value is derived from. “Technology is making up a huge part of all our lives. A flashy phone means more than a flashy car these days. And it's more than consumer-oriented brands that have been shifting.” He says the retail industry has seen some huge changes in terms of shift away from big-box grocery toward online retail. “They are lacking the same brand attraction they had 10 years ago. Brands like Alibaba in China, and Amazon are the ones people are looking to.”
He adds that the brands that can grow are ones that can adapt to use technology in their business. “The ones who have done that tend to recognize that it’s not about the pipes and plumbing, but in the real value technology can deliver. It’s not about being sexy and interesting but technology, when leveraged effectively, allows brands to develop a more compelling experience.”