Apple has overtaken Google this year to become the world’s most valuable brand, according to WPP and Millward Brown’s annual “Brand Z” rankings.
Technology brands dominate the top 10, but there is also a surprise entrant.
Millward Brown’s study uses the views of around 2 million potential and current customers of a brand, alongside financial data, to calculate a company’s brand value.
Percentage change from last year: +19%
Last year’s rank: 13
What happened: Perhaps a surprise entrant into the top 10 for many people, Marlboro’s brand value has shot through the roof over the past year. It commands 43.8% of the US cigarette market, and outside the US, Marlboro’s share is bigger than the next two largest brands combined, according to Forbes. Millward Brown says the increase in brand value is largely due to the rise in Altria’s (the company that controls Marlboro in the US) share price, which has increased around 26% in the past year.
Percentage change since last year: -5%
Last year’s rank: 5
What happened: It was a testing year for McDonald’s, which had to battle consumer concerns around its ingredients, supply chains, and environmental responsibility. Its 5% decline in brand value this year follows another 5% decline in value a year ago.
Percentage change since last year: +4%
Last year’s rank: 6
What happened: Millward Brown also credited Coca-Cola for roughing out tough times by adjusting its product range and communications to more effectively address growing consumer concerns around health issues. The brand had particular success with its worldwide “Share a Coke” campaign
Percentage change since last year: +36%
Last year’s rank: 11
What happened: The report was written before Verizon’s huge announcement earlier this month that it is acquiring AOL for $4.4 billion. However, it had already been a busy year or so. In February, the company completed its $130 billion purchase from UK carrier Vodafone to take complete control of Verizon Wireless. That deal boosted its share price.
Percentage change since last year: +15%
Last year’s rank: 8
What happened: Last year AT&T acquired the Cricket brand to serve price-conscious customers with cheap pre-paid rates without the costly contract. The company also partnered with Uber to preinstall the ride sharing service’s app on all AT&T Android phones. AT&T also announced plans to link its connected home service Digital Life and its connected car service.
Percentage change since last year: +16%
Last year’s rank: 7
What happened: Last year Visa formed a partnership with Apple to allow iPhone 6 and owners of the latest iPads to make purchases by touching their fingers to their device. In 2014, Visa boosted revenue by 7.8% to $12.7 billion, while net income rose 9.2% to $5.4 billion.
Percentage change since last year: -13%
Last year’s rank: 3
What happened: IBM’s profits were cut into last year after the company made huge investments in the cloud, analytics, mobile, social, and security. It also signed a major deal with Apple to develop business apps for the latter company’s popular devices.
Brand value: $115 billion
Percentage change since last year: +28%
Last year’s rank: 4
What happened: Millward Brown says Microsoft shifted up one slot thanks to three things: “a shift in focus to the cloud, a more collaborative corporate philosophy, and an aura of optimism surrounding the installation of a new CEO [Satya Nadella.]”
Percentage change since last year: +9%
Last year’s rank: 1
What happened: Google fell to second place in the rankings this year as it forked out heavily on investments and revenue slowed, which was in part due to the strong dollar. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good year for Google. The company has been positioning itself for the future with initiatives including B2B software, Google Fiber, developing a driverless car, launching a WiFi telecom network, and pushing reset on Google Glass.
Percentage change since last year: +67%
Last year’s rank: 2
What happened: Millward Brown’s CEO Travyn Rhall writes in the report that Apple “practically wrote the playbook on being meaningful, different, and salient.” This year saw the launch of the iPhone 6, which contributed to an $18 billion quarterly net profit, the largest quarterly profit ever recorded for a public company. Ten years ago Apple did not even feature in the top 10, but this year its brand value has shot up so much it has taken the top spot, overtaking Google.