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

  • How can a 160-year-old financial service come accross as modern and flexible? Click here to find out how Amercan Express did it
  • 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).



Sliding sales and distribution difficulties have made repeated headlines over the past five years as it increasingly lost share to Apple’s iPhone. Nokia’s downfall was cemented by a leaked memo from chief executive Stephen Elop saying the company had “poured gasoline on [its] own burning platform”.

Meanwhile, the once boardroom essential BlackBerry is down 11 places to 25th on the list, with its brand value sliding 20%. This correlates with parent company Research In Motion’s warning in February that profit would be lower than expected for the current quarter. It said the cost of developing and marketing its answer to Apple’s iPad, the Playbook, was to blame, along with lower than expected handset sales and the growing appetite for cheaper phones.

Embracing technology and digital media has helped luxury brands increase their prestige, says Walshe.

Louis Vuitton has moved up three places to 26th, with a 23% increase in brand value to $24.3bn (£14.7bn). Meanwhile, French rival Hermès has risen 15 places to number 71 and has achieved a value of $11.9bn (£7.2bn).

Internet brands are also making their presence felt more than ever. Facebook has registered the highest percentage growth this year, perhaps fuelled by its escalating importance for advertisers and its ever tighter integration into people’s lives. Its value increased 246% to $19.1bn (£11.6bn), and appears for the first time in the BrandZ list at number 35.


BlackBerry PlayBook

Meanwhile, Amazon has jumped the highest number of places - up 47 to 14, while its brand value is up 37% to $37.6bn (£22.7bn). It has also beaten traditional bricks-and-mortar retail brands such as Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour to take the top spot in the retail category, demonstrating the “reach and power of eretailing”, according to Walshe.

Amazon’s brand value is more than three times that of eBay, which grew 15% to $10.7bn (£6.5bn) and enters the Top 100 at 82nd place. Walshe reasons that while the two propositions might have blurred lines, their distinctive identities gives them ample room to grow comfortably without damaging the other too much (see Q&A, at the end of this feature).

Financial brands experienced mixed fortunes. Bank of America is down 55 places to number 92, while Spanish giant Santander fell 46 places to 77. Walshe suspects Santander’s performance is more to do with its exposure to the collapse of the Spanish economy and points out: “Its value might have decreased more if the brand hadn’t been so strong in the first place.”

In sharp contrast, British banking brands have held their own. Barclays is down nine places to 96 and HSBC has dropped five places but still manages to earn fifth place in the financial category with a brand value of $22.5bn (£13.6bn).

Credit card brands do a lot better. Visa is in 20th place, American Express (see Case Study, below) is up 12 places to 40th and MasterCard is at number 60.

Case study: American Express


American Express has adopted a modern and flexible image

By refreshing its products, rewards scheme and marketing strategy in 2009, American Express gave the 160-year-old financial services brand a new lease of life.

Spending more on marketing has contributed to a 33% rise in profits to $1.18bn (£715.7m). However, first quarter results in April revealed a 21% increase in expenses thanks to a greater spend on marketing and rewards programmes.

This has been reflected in its performance in this year’s BrandZ ranking, rising 12 places to 40th and increasing its brand value by 23% to $17.1bn (£10.37bn).

Its 2009 Realise the Potential campaign was its biggest in four years, focusing on the privileges that being a cardholder brings and attempting to come across as more modern and flexible - a move away from old perceptions of it being stuffy and corporate.

The brand ran a campaign last year featuring DJ Mark Ronson, highlighting the special events the brand can give customers access to. It also teamed up with Spotify, The Guardian and LoveFilm to raise awareness of its involvement in film, music and food. This activity featured live music events, celebrity video diaries and cooking demonstrations.

Last year, AmEx hired Laura Kelly, former executive vice-president of global prepaid debit cards at MasterCard, to head up product development and growth opportunities and help the brand reach a wider variety of demographics.

In the BrandZ ranking, AmEx demonstrates a higher value increase than both Visa and MasterCard. Alison Bain, head of international advertising at American Express, says this shows “clear water between us and our competitors”. She claims the Realise the Potential campaign has increased positive consumer buzz, and delivering the message that being an AmEx customer is not just a transactional mechanism, but a lifestyle choice.

Increasing AmEx’s profile in emerging markets is one of the next steps on Bain’s agenda.

“Our business strategy has been carefully planned coming out of the recession. We’re all about driving growth and efficiency and delivering superior service,” she says.

Bain explains that consumer sentiments stemming from the recession around trust and value guided the brand’s new direction. Highlighting the multiple uses and appeal of an AmEx card has been key, she says.

“We aren’t just for business people but we have strong credentials in business and travel because people in the corporate world and people who travel a lot need to rely on brands they can trust. Getting it right for those people is the kind of credential that will help any consumers.”
Another priority has been increasing the amount of merchants that accept AmEx and supporting their in-store marketing to dispel the misconception that distribution is poor.

“Some places don’t take our cards but when we analysed this we found there was a gap in the perception of our coverage and its actual reach,” Bain explains.

“We are running a point-of-sale campaign that has been designed to remind our members they can use their cards in everyday situations like supermarkets or petrol stations, not just for exceptional purchases. In doing this, the rewards will add up.”

Increasing AmEx’s profile in emerging markets is one of the next steps on Bain’s agenda. She says understanding how its core audience of affluent customers behaves in these markets will be fundamental.

“Affluence is well understood in Western markets but in territories such as Brazil, Russia, India and China affluence is perhaps more about status. We will be making sure the value proposition is staged in a relevant way,” she explains.

Brands from emerging markets are also increasingly appearing on the list. This year, 19 come from emerging markets, compared with 13 last year and just two in 2006.

Twelve of the brands come from China alone, the highest placed at ninth being China Mobile, up 9% from last year at $57.3bn (£34.7bn). “It has been driving its brand and has been promoting itself to consumers with good, image-led advertising and is poised for future growth,” says Walshe.

Chinese search engine Baidu is one of this year’s high flyers, jumping 46 positions to 29 and being valued at $22.6bn (£13.7bn). “Baidu has huge brand momentum,” says Walshe. “Although it has been helped by Google’s difficulties in China, the brand offers a fabulous experience and plays to regional differences. It is highly trusted and recommended by its users, so it is inevitable that it will expand outside China - it has certainly already expanded to the Chinese community outside their home country.”


Other Chinese brands to note are China Construction Bank (24), Bank of China (37), Agricultural Bank of China (43), instant messaging programme Tencent/QQ (52), PetroChina (78), China Telecom (91) and China Merchants Bank (97).

Flying the flag for Russia are telecoms brand MTS, worth $10.9bn (£6.6bn) but down eight to 80th place, and Sberbank, debuting at 99 with a value of $8.5bn (£5.1bn).

With a growth of 39% to $13.4bn (£8.1bn), Brazilian oil firm Petrobras is one to watch, according to Walshe. “Brazilians are very proud of this brand,” he says. “It has a certain characteristic, personality and trust allied to it, which puts it in a position to negotiate good deals in the future.”

He also says that Brazilian skincare brand Natura, which has a brand momentum of nine out of 10, is one to keep an eye on.

Twelve of the brands come from China alone, the highest placed at ninth being China Mobile, up 9% from last year at $57.3bn (£34.7bn).

As for brands currently outside the top 100 but with a good chance of entering the list in the future, Walshe predicts that Groupon’s viral nature will see it reach more consumers in more parts of the world. He warns, however, risks to its brand equity include internet censorship in China and the brand becoming too price-led.

The proliferation of mobile money propositions will also see brand become a defining factor in this burgeoning market. As Walshe puts it: “Are you going to do your finances over your mobile with a brand you don’t know?”

Brands that have suffered over the past year or so include BP, which fell 30 places to 64. However, Walshe claims the strength of the brand prevented it falling further.


Clever campaign: Toyota’s wide appeal helped it maintain brand value

A BP spokesperson wouldn’t comment on individual rankings but says: “We fully recognise that earning back the trust of Gulf Coast residents, customers and government leaders and regulators in the US and around the world requires action, not just words.”

The power of brand is demonstrated by Toyota, which in spite of the challenges it has faced in the past 12 months has dropped only one place to 27 and its value rose 11% to $24.2bn (£14.6bn). It is also ranked number one in the car category, ahead of luxury marques BMW and Mercedes. Walshe says this is a “testament to strong brands”.

“We predicted Toyota would bounce back because of the brand’s strength and what it means for consumers,” he adds.

A Toyota spokesperson says: “The company has emerged stronger since the recall. We have much tighter controls and are quicker at getting messages through to Japan. We have strengthened our product quality.” The spokesperson also notes that the brand’s dedication to developing greener motoring technology is also finding favour with the public. He says Toyota will expand roll out of hybrid options to more models over the coming year, as they have become something of a personality and fashion statement to drive.

And with the BrandZ list outperforming the S&P 500 quite dramatically, the power of brands should not be underestimated. As Walshe concludes: “They aren’t just all fluff and emotion, they have real substance.”


Millward Brown creates the BrandZ top 100 global brands list by using insights from more than 1.5 million consumers and professionals in 31 countries to compare 50,000 brands.

Calculations include intangible earnings based on company and analyst reports allocated to each brand by country. Kantar Worldpanel and Bloomberg data is also used to supplement calculations.

Millward Brown then looks at the brand contribution - the proportion of intangible earnings attributed to the brand itself.

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

The three figures are then multiplied together to get a final brand valuation for the year.



Alex Von Schirmeister: vice-president of marketing for Europe, eBay

Marketing Week (MW): What has eBay done to increase its brand value by 15% to $10.73bn (£6.54bn) in this year’s BrandZ ranking?

Alex Von Schirmeister (AVS): The increase is recognition of the fundamental transformation that eBay has been undergoing over the past few years. More people are now visiting the dedicated fashion outlet we launched last year with a big marketing campaign. The fashion campaign has also had a positive effect on the eBay mother brand because they often end up also buying from another category.

MW: How is this different from what eBay used to represent?

AVS: More than 57% of transactions that happen on eBay globally are at a fixed price, mostly sold by professional sellers, or high street retailers who use the site as a distribution channel. That is a far cry from the old eBay that was associated with being an auction platform for rare or used items.


Passion for fashion: Ebay’s fashion campaign has benefited the brand

MW: How well do consumers understand eBay’s evolution?

AVS: Most people still think of eBay as an auction site. But our brand and communication investments emphasise that eBay sells products from retailers, which our brand trackers are picking up. Some of our marketing campaigns, whether digital or above the line, are more explicit about that new positioning.

MW: Amazon has also performed very well, with its brand value increasing 37% to $37.6bn (£22.9bn). How do you plan to differentiate your brand identity further?

AVS: People have many options for where they can spend their money and Amazon is one of those. But our buyers tend to be very different. When you look at the brand character of Amazon compared with eBay, and the attributes of buyers and the loyalty they have towards the site, you’ll notice we are two brands with very different personalities. EBay buyers tend to spend a lot of time on the site - over an hour a month on average - because they are actually enjoying the shopping experience. We don’t represent or sell our own brand so we don’t compete with the brands we work with. In that sense, we are a neutral platform.

MW: How important is the development of your content to this new audience?

AVS: In all our markets we use different social media points, either through our own blogs or on Facebook. We are also partnering with external brands. For example, in the UK last year we had a partnership with Look magazine and in Germany, where we launched the outlet this year, we have strong associations with leading bloggers.


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.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Do your list go past 100? I did not find our company. It might be 2-300?

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  • Historically, I think Apple has done a really great job in terms of external branding. Recently, I was disappointed by my experience at the Apple store when I learned they changed the "business program."

    This was my email to their business team after they requested feedback on my most recent purchase at the Apple store:
    The Mac Mini is the 12th computer I have purchased in my career lifetime. I was very disappointed to learn that I now have to spend $5k to get a business discount. AND, that the $5k credit only is for the past 12 months of purchases. It felt as though Apple really didn't appreciate my 15+ years of brand loyalty.

    This was the business teams' email to me:
    Thank you for your loyalty over the years. I am sorry that the business discount may not be available to you but it is the program we have in place right now. Either way, the business team is not primarily here to provide discounts but to more be relationship managers for you -- someone to come ask questions to when you need assistance.

    Anything sound wrong here to you? Something's missing in terms of understanding and appreciating customer loyalty. Do you really want to completely dismiss a customer of over 15 years?

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  • Considering the contrast between Interbrand’s recent rankings (no brand from China was listed in the top 100) with that of Millward Brown, it would be interesting if both organizations could delineate the value that each brand derives from it’s “home” market vs. its global audience. It’s doubtful that few people outside China have heard of the likes of “Ping An” or “China Construction Bank” but there they sit in the top 100.

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  • ummm...OK so they're telling us that of McDonals enterprise value of $94Bn 86% is attributable to brand value....good 'ol 'marketingmath'...nice one guys.

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  • Although technology is increasingly prevalent in our lives, meaning that technology brands are going to benefit from the frequent exposure and general utility to us, it’s interesting to see that those technology brands that have risen to the top have carved out relevant and emotional brand narratives. Google, Apple and IBM (whose products have arguably less exposure) all conform to the rules of narrative in that they a clear sense of mission from which somebody or something benefits: the world’s information is better organised, everybody’s creativity is more easily unleashed, the planet is made that little bit smarter. In that sense their brands are conceptually bigger than the companies that own them. It also shows that technology brands are equally bound by the need for a story as much as any other type of brand, even though they are all pervasive. As this survey reveals, stories aren't trivial things: they’re extremely valuable.

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  • Orange has done its best and we like it mostly in Africa.Because orange give customers what they deserve,thats why it has captured the whole world.

    Orange you keep us proud and we shall enjoy the services year after year.

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  • nice brand but im still going to go on practical ones..

    Penny Auction

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