By Mike O’Brien


Since 2011, Google and Apple have been competing to be the most valuable, according to Millward Brown Digital’s annual report. This year, Google is back on top.

For the last 11 years, Millward Brown Digital, the market research division of London agency WPP, has been analyzing financial and market data, in addition to interviews with customers, to determine the world’s most valuable brand.

In 2006, the first-ever BrandZ Top 100 ranking, that brand was Microsoft. Google was ranked seventh, skyrocketing to first place the following year and staying there until 2011. Since then, it’s been back and forth between Apple and Google, which just reclaimed the top spot.

Last year, Apple was valued at nearly $247 billion, up 67% from the previous year, while Google only jumped 9% to $173 billion. Apple’s value has since decreased 8% to $228 billion. Meanwhile, Google has had a resurgence in value, propelling 32% to $229 billion.

Microsoft remained in third place, though the next spot has seen a significant shakeup. Like Apple, IBM’s value decreased 8% year-over-year, dropping from fourth place to tenth. It’s not a significant decline; it’s just that other brands have experienced particularly explosive growth since 2015.

“The brands that thrive, regardless of sector, are those that behave like challengers and and adopt disruptor models and mindsets,” says David Roth, chief executive (CEO), EMEA and Asia, of The Store WPP. “They’re shaking up other categories with innovation that goes beyond new products or technologies, transforming the way a service is delivered, enhancing the consumer experience or changing a format.”

For example, Amazon upped its delivery offerings and started creating its own content, while Facebook began hosting publishers’ original content. Facebook and Amazon – the value of which grew by a respective 44% and 59% – both made the top 10 for the first time. Facebook placed fifth; Amazon, seventh.

“By stretching their brands in innovative ways and expanding into new categories, the strongest brands in the Top 100 are increasing their penetration and their relevance in people’s day-to-day lives,” says Doreen Wang, Millward Brown’s Global Head of BrandZ.

Like Amazon and Facebook, Starbucks saw a big spike. Its value is up 49%, jumping from 28th on the list to 21st, in part because of its recent focus on ecommerce. Rounding out the top 10 were AT&T, Visa, Verizon and McDonald’s, all four of which maintained their spots from last year.

Since then, Google has invested heavily in video and mobile, making Android increasingly more competitive with the iPhone. At its recent I/O conference, the search giant also announced a greater focus on artificial intelligence, an area Apple hasn’t improved much upon since the initial launch of Siri. (Though that may change soon.)

Once again, tech and telecommunications dominated the top of Millward Brown’s list. However, apparel is the fastest-growing industry. Since last year, the sector has grown 14% to $114 billion. Nike was the highest-valued apparel brand, ranking 24th; last year, the sportswear giant placed 28th.

Another bit of history repeating itself was the increasing value of Chinese brands. There was only one Chinese brand listed during the initial study, a number that has gone up significantly over the past few years.

While no Chinese brands made the top 10, there were three in this year’s top 20: Tencent, China Mobile and Alibaba. Three of the list’s seven newcomers – alcohol brand Moutai, insurance company AIA and electronics retailer – also hail from China.

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