COVID-19 appears to be subsidized in some parts of the world. But even in these places, some of the pandemic’s damaging consequences are only now being assessed and understood.
A new variant may yet trigger another chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic, and societies must be prepared to respond if and when that happens. As the world emerges from a painful pandemic, sales and profits for the world’s largest companies are higher, but many companies continue to face economic challenges related to bottlenecks in the supply chain and a surge in inflation. BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands 2020 reveals that the total brand value of the world’s most valuable brands has increased by 5.9%, despite COVID-19. The world’s most valuable brands have seen their total brand value increase by 5.9% despite the economic, social, and personal impacts of COVID-19. The total brand value of the Top 100 global brands reached US$5 trillion. It has increased by 245% since 2006 when the total brand value first reached US$1 trillion.
As compared to the during the global economic crisis of 2008-9, the top 100 most valuable brands have shown they are more resilient and less volatile in the current calamity, adding an additional US$277 billion of brand value growth over the past year.
The BrandZ strong brands portfolios continued to outperform the market, including the S&P 500 and MSCI World Index, and even in the current crisis dipped less than the global average. The ranking uses valuations data incorporating stock price performance from April 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, those companies that have consistently invested in longer-term marketing and in building strong brands have managed to stave off the worst of the crisis. Prior to the global pandemic, the total brand value of the Top 100 brands was set to increase by 9%.
Over the last 12 months, the 2,000 companies on the list have seen their collective market capitalization dip of 4% to $76.5 trillion, while their collective sales rose 20% to $47.8 trillion and their profits doubled to $5 trillion. (Asset values, the fourth part of our composite scores, are up 5% to $234 trillion. All numbers are as of April 22).
This year’s global 2000 showcases many companies that have seen a reversal of fortune from the early months of 2020. Giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron ranked in the 300s last year, but now have jumped to the 15th, 16th, and 26th spots, respectively, on this year’s list. Airlines experienced similar rebounds, the most notable being Southwest Airlines, which jumped 227 spots to land at No. 630 this year. All figures are consolidated and in US dollars and as of April 22, 2022; heavily relying on the databases for all data, as well as the latest financial period available for the rankings. Many factors play into which financial period of data is available for the companies and used in our rankings: the timeliness of our data collection/screening and company reporting policies, country-specific reporting policies, and the lag time between when a company releases its financial data and when the databases capture it for screening/ranking.
Technology brands continued to dominate the top of the ranking, representing over a third (37%) of brand value in the Top 100 and growing overall by 10%. Apple maintained its position as the second most valuable global brand (+14%, $352.2bn) while Microsoft regained the no. 3 position (+30%, $326.5bn) ahead of Google (+5%, $323.6bn) at no. 4, due to the growth of its cloud-enabled workplace ecosystem that incorporates Office365 and Microsoft Teams, allowing people to maintain their ‘business as usual during the lockdown. Amazon maintained its position as the world’s most valuable brand, growing 32% to US$415.9bn. Having first entered the BrandZ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands ranking in 2006, Amazon’s value grew by almost $100bn this year and accounts for a third of the Top 100’s total growth.
Asian brands represented a quarter of the top 100 brands, including 17 Chinese brands. Alibaba (+16%, no. 6, $152.5bn) was the most valuable Chinese brand with Internet services giant, Tencent (+15%, no. 7, $151bn) one place behind. This year’s BrandZ Top 100 showed that innovation and creativity are key drivers of growth as people spend more time online. This is seen not only in companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google – the tech giants that keep on innovating – but also in one of the most exciting new brands, short video-sharing social network TikTok (no. 79, $16.9bn). TikTok was the highest new entry this year, offering light-hearted, entertaining user-generated content.
The retail sector showed strong performance, growing the fastest (21%) in brand value driven by the major e-commerce players. Retail e-commerce brands Amazon, Alibaba, and JD (+24%, no. 52, $25.5bn) demonstrated innovation and agility during difficult times, along with more traditional retailers like Walmart (+24%, no. 27, $45.8bn), which has invested in its e-commerce capabilities. Unsurprisingly given our new lockdown lifestyles, over half of brands in the media and entertainment category appeared in the top 20 risers, including Netflix (+34%, $45.9bn), up eight places to no. 26, Instagram (+47%, $41.5bn) up 15 places to no. 29, LinkedIn (+31%, no. 43, $29.9bn), and Xbox (+18%, $19.6bn), up 22 places to no. 65.
Brands have also found new and creative ways to engage with consumers, build trust and create a level of intimacy, particularly in health and wellness. Athleisure brand Lululemon (+40%, $9.7bn) was one of the fastest risers, having shifted its focus from yoga-inspired wear to work-appropriate leisurewear, as well as offering online classes for people at home. US brands represented more than half of the Top 100 brands. Asian brands represented a quarter of the Top 100 brands, with 17 from China (including Alibaba and Tencent in the top 10) and two from Japan (Toyota and NTT). MasterCard entered the Top 10 for the first time this year, due to strong financial performance, supported by growing brand equity, especially in engaging consumers: successfully fitting into the ‘ecosystem’ of their everyday lives and gaining a close emotional connection through its purposeful positioning.
Five new entrants appear in the top 100, led by Chinese entertainment brand TikTok, followed by United Healthcare (no. 86, $15.8bn), Bank of China (no. 97, $13.7bn), Lancôme (no. 98, $13.6bn) and Pepsi (no. 99, $13.3bn). Sustainability is a new luxury. The younger consumers expect the qualities associated with luxury, but with sustainable materials and less packaging. Four luxury brands made the Top 100 this year, led by Louis Vuitton (+10%, no. 19, $51.8bn). Building ecology has become a trend in the global business community. Haier (no. 68, $18.7bn) is the leading IoT ecosystem brand for the second year running.
Tech remains the most valuable industry, while second-ranked retail crosses the US$1 trillion mark following 46% brand value growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple holds on to the world’s most valuable brand title with a record valuation of more than US$355 billion, followed by Amazon and Google. New entrant TikTok was named the world’s fastest-growing brand, up 215%, leading a global revolution in media consumption. WeChat was named the world’s strongest brand for a second consecutive year with the top score of 93.3 out of 100 and an elite AAA+ rating
US and China continue to dominate claiming 2/3 of brand value in ranking, while India sees the fastest growth over course of the pandemic among top nations, up 42%. Apple has retained the title of the world’s most valuable brand following a 35% increase to US$355.1 billion – the highest brand value ever recorded in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking.
Overall, media brands account for the top 3 fastest-growing brands in the ranking – with another social media app Snapchat (brand value up 184% to US$6.6 billion), and South Korean internet brand Kakao (brand value up 161% to US$4.7 billion) following closely behind TikTok. Snapchat saw increased daily usage and revenues grow by 77% in the first 9 months of 2021, with the popularity of its short-form video feature, Spotlight, being a key driver. Other notable performers from the media sector include those that offer streaming services, with Disney (brand value up 11% to US$57.0 billion), Netflix (brand value up 18% US$29.4 billion), YouTube (brand value up 38% to US$23.9 billion), and Spotify (brand value up 13% to US$6.3 billion) all seeing increases. In stark contrast, traditional media brands have seen a continued decline, with people favoring social media platforms and on-demand streaming in their place. Warner Bros is among the fastest-falling brands in the ranking this year (brand value down 33% to US$6.8 billion), and this trend is even more apparent when comparing this year with pre-pandemic valuations. Looking at brand value change over the last two years of COVID-19, three media brands feature among the five fastest-falling brands – Warner Bros saw the biggest brand value loss at 40%, with NBC (brand value US$9.4 billion) and CBS (brand value US$7.4 billion) seeing losses of 38% and 36% respectively.
The tech sector is once again the most valuable in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, with a cumulative brand value of close to US$1.3 trillion. Technology and tech brands have become of ever-increasing importance in the modern world, a trend that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 50 tech brands feature in the ranking, however, the brand value is largely attributable to three big players, with Apple, Microsoft (brand value US$184.2 billion), and Samsung Group (brand value US$107.3 billion) together accounting for more than 50% of the total brand value in the sector. Closely behind them, Huawei managed to reclaim its place among the top 10 most valuable brands in the world, following 29% growth to US$71.2 billion. Huawei’s smartphone business was hit hard by US sanctions, but it reacted positively by heavily stepping up investment in both domestic technology companies and R&D, as well as turning its focus to cloud services. The tech sector is also home to two of the five fastest-growing brands in the ranking, with semiconductor brands AMD (brand value up 122% to US$6.0 billion) and Nvidia (brand value up 100% to US$16.0 billion) both seeing notable growth. A rise in gaming, cryptocurrency mining, and artificial intelligence, coupled with the global chip supply shortage, saw demand for both brands’ products remain high throughout the year, leading to increased revenues.
The retail sector continues to thrive, it positioned as the second most valuable in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, crossing the US$1 trillion mark for the first time. Prior to the pandemic, retail was the third most valuable sector behind banking, but a boom in e-commerce has seen it pull away whilst banking has remained stagnant. Over the course of the pandemic, retail has been the fastest-growing large industry in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, with a brand value increase of 46% – outpacing the tech and media sectors which grew by 42% and 33% respectively. This year, one of the sector’s top performers, Walmart, continued to see brand value growth and reclaimed its spot in the top 5, with the retailer climbing from 6th to 5th following a 20% increase in brand value to US$111.9 billion. Germany’s Edeka is the highest-ranked of the nine, entering the ranking at 340th place with a brand value of US$6.5 billion. Despite the success of the sector overall, retail is also home to the fastest-falling brand in the ranking. Alibaba.com bucked the trend with a 42% brand value decrease to US$22.8 billion. The brand was accused of abusing its market dominance by forbidding merchants from using other e-commerce sites, and subsequent regulatory changes saw it face increased competition, which led to slower growth and a downturn in fortune.
Pharma brands have been in the limelight since the start of the pandemic as the world turned to the sector for COVID-19 tests and vaccines. As a result, unsurprisingly, the sector has seen faster growth in the Brand Finance Global 500 over the last two years than any other sector. The number of pharma brands in the ranking has doubled from four to eight, with brand value increasing by 94% to US$54.0 billion. All eight brands featured are more valuable than they were in 2020, with those that produced COVID-19 vaccinations seeing the biggest increases. Johnson & Johnson remains the most valuable, with a 24% brand value increase to US$13.4 billion. New entrant to the ranking AstraZeneca secured the title of the sector’s fastest-growing, with a remarkable 77% rise in brand value to US$5.6 billion, followed by Pfizer as the second fastest-growing at 58%, pushing its brand value to US$6.3 billion.
Telecoms brand, STC continued to see good growth this year, with its brand value increasing by 16% to US$10.6 billion. Over the course of the pandemic, STC has been the fastest-growing brand in the region in the Brand Finance Global 500, with a brand value increase of 32% over the last two years – with its successful rebrand playing a key role. The strong results come off the back of the brand continuing to invest and diversify. This year it announced it would be investing US$400 million to build the region’s largest cloud-enabled data center, and saw its subsidiary STC Pay awarded one of the first digital banking licenses in Saudi Arabia. South Korea-based Samsung Group’s brand value stands at US$107.3 billion in 2022, a 5% increase from last year, which has allowed it to defend its long-time position as the most valuable brand in Asia-Pacific, although it fell down to 6th in the global ranking, overtaken by Walmart.
The author, Nazir Ahmed Shaikh, is a freelance columnist. He is an academician by profession and writes articles on diversified topics. Mr. Shaikh could be reached at email@example.com.