• Amazon’s brand value exceeds $150bn after 42% year-on-year jump
  • Tech brands claim all top five places for first time in rankings history
  • Chinese brands continue onward march, account for 15% of value

Amazon has supplanted Google as the world’s most valuable brand, according to the latest Brand Finance Global 500 rankings. With Apple, Samsung and Facebook rounding out the top five, technology brands dominate the top of the list. However, it is the continued rise of Chinese brands on the international scene that should be noted.

Amazon’s jump to a $150.8bn value (a 42% leap) is attributed to a number of factors. Curiously, while it has built its success in the online space (whether through its marketplaces or cloud infrastructure offerings), its move into the real world has provided a significant boost. In its report, released today, Brand Finance noted that the £13.7bn takeover of Whole Foods provided a foothold in the realm of bricks and mortar. This is set to continue, with the company generating headlines recently when unveiling its first Amazon Go retail store in Seattle.

Brand Finance adds that Amazon’s presence in shipping, music and video streaming, alongside industry speculation on an impending bank acquisition in 2018, means that this diversified approach sets it up for future dominance: David Haigh, CEO, comments: “The strength and value of the Amazon brand gives it stakeholder permission to extend relentlessly into new sectors and geographies. All evidence suggests that the amazing Amazon brand is going to continue growing indefinitely and exponentially.”

Technology remains the key sector to watch, though. For the first time, tech brands occupy the top five positions on the Brand Finance list (Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and Facebook). Samsung and Facebook both recorded significant year-on-year brand value growth of 39% and 45% respectively. As for the two brands that Amazon leapfrogged this year, Brand Finance provides a mixed report. Last year’s leader, Google, dropped to third place and – while it performed well in terms of revenues – the report suggests that “its focus on particular sectors is holding it back from unleashing the full potential of its brand”. With respect second-placed Apple, it states that “its future looks bleak”. This may appear odd at first glance – the brand’s value having rocketed 37% in one year. However, this followed a 27% drop in 2017, and the report suggests that the company “has failed to diversify and grown over-dependent on sales of its flagship iPhones, responsible for two thirds of revenue”.

The 20 most valuable brands (with last year’s rank in brackets) are:

Rank

Brand

Brand Value 2018 ($bn)

Brand value % change (YoY)

1 (3)

Amazon

150,811

42%

2 (2)

Apple

146,311

37%

3 (1)

Google

120,911

10%

4 (6)

Samsung

92,289

39%

5 (9)

Facebook

89,684

45%

6 (4)

AT&T

82,422

-5%

7 (5)

Microsoft

81,163

6%

8 (7)

Verizon

62,826

-5%

9 (8)

Walmart

61,480

-1%

10 (10)

ICBC

59,189

24%

11 (14)

China Construction Bank

56,789

37%

12 (22)

Alibaba

54,921

58%

13 (11)

China Mobile

53,226

14%

14 (13)

Wells Fargo

44,098

6%

15 (20)

Mercedes-Benz

43,930

24%

16 (12)

Toyota

43,701

-6%

17 (16)

BMW

41,790

6%

18 (28)

Bank of China

41,750

34%

19 (new)

State Grid

40,944

-

20 (15)

NTT Group

40,872

1%

Looking ahead, Brand Finance expects the dominance of digital to continue, citing as an example the doubling of YouTube’s brand value over the past year. Importantly, Chinese technology brands are also boasting high value growth, with Alibaba, Tencent, WeChat, Baidu, JD, and NetEase increasing by an average of 67% year on year.

Indeed, the rise of Chinese brands is a trend we highlighted as one to watch in the coming year, with the country’s government embarked on an ambitious ‘Made In China 2025’ initiative aimed at propelling domestic companies onto the world stage. The momentum is clearly behind Chinese brands as it seeks to meet this aim. Over the past ten years China’s share of global brand value has increased from 3% to 15% on Brand Finance’s list, growing 888% to $911.5 billion in 2018. State-owned utilities company State Grid was this year’s largest new entrant (entering the top 20 with a $40.9 billion value), while the fastest-growing brand was Wuliangye (which jumped 84 places after a 161% rise in value).

Haigh reflected on China’s growing presence on the list: “Since the 19th Party Congress in 2017, there has been a renewed emphasis on brand development by Chinese companies in all sectors. Interestingly, while China had been pursuing a dual strategy of building home-grown brands but also acquiring underperforming international brands, like Volvo and Pirelli, the emphasis is now firmly on home-grown brands. Brands like Huawei, Ping An, State Grid, Evergrande, ICBC, Yili, Haval, Wuliangye, and many others are now being recognised worldwide as quality brands. We expect to see this develop rapidly in more and more sectors.”

There was also success for Disney, who Brand Finance named as having the world's strongest brand. The report notes that its past acquisitions of LucasArts and Marvel have helped it cement its place on top, and its recent purchase of a majority stake in 21st Century Fox could see its brand strength further increase. Visa, Ferrari, Neutrogena and Facebook make up the rest of the top five. Last year's strongest brand, Lego, slipped to sixth place, perhaps due to mixed success in the movie space in 2017.

Brand Valuation rankings are often the subject of scrutiny. In a recent issue of World Trademark Review Haigh and Markables managing partner Christof Binder squared off over the publication of such lists. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, as we have noted previously, such rankings can have a positive benefit for the legal team charged with protecting brands. They also serve to illustrate how the brand landscape is changing. The key takeways this year are that tech brands are in a good place and the march of Chinese brands shows no sign of slowing.