Assessments of the monetary value of brands has long interested and motivated the management of firms, and their investors. From a business perspective, the financial value is a preferred measure of brand equity or return-on-investment in brands. But a brand is a marketing-driven and consumer-based entity, and hence one cannot detach the financial value of a brand from its marketing foundations and drivers. In particular, from a consumer perspective, the brand is an abstract, mental concept to be assessed by psychological and behavioural constructs. On the other hand, non-marketers contend that psychological-oriented constructs and their measures (e.g., awareness, favourability, attachment and commitment) are hard to connect to business realities (e.g., budgets, planning, strategies). Therefore, research firms have taken different approaches over the years to integrate marketing-driven aspects into their methodologies of financial valuation of brands, primarily for constructing a summary assessment of the strength of a brand from the consumer (or customer) perspective.
This post looks at the Global 500 brand valuations and ranking produced by Brand Finance for 2022 (a report issued in January 2022). Brand Finance is a UK-based research and consultancy firm (founded in 1996) that has set as its guiding theme the aim of ‘bridging the gap between marketing and finance‘. The firm is engaged in financial and accounting practices as well as in marketing research, brand strategy and visual identity consulting. The methodological approach taken by Brand Finance is briefly described towards the end of the post.
Brand Finance reveals the estimates of monetary (in $US) values of the top 100 brands (all 500 brands are listed by value-based rank order). It should be noted that the names (and logos) of brands included in the list are by a large majority at the corporate level. It corresponds well when products or services are identified by the umbrella name of the company, or when products have brands closely endorsed by the company name (e.g., Apple, Volkswagen, Netflix, Coca Cola). However, the Global 500 ranking list includes only a few brands of product lines and ranges that may have a strong standing of their own without being identified using the corporate name (e.g., Pampers, Dove). One may find on the list the names of once-independent companies that are now brands owned or controlled by another company (e.g., LinkedIn owned by Microsoft, Gucci owned by Kering). Referring to a corporate name seems odd or less fitting when the company owns multiple brands that are not necessarily reliant upfront on the corporate name (e.g., on the product’s packet, as in chocolate brands owned by Nestlé). Still, it might be that most consumers recognise the products better in association with the company’s name as its brand.
Two well-known technology brands are in the lead. The top brand is Apple ($355.1bn), but Amazon ($350.3bn) follows right in its footsteps. The next two brands are already farther away from them in value: Google ($263.4bn) in third place and Microsoft ($184.2bn) in the fourth place. As seems to be reflecting the economy of our days, all four leading brands ascribe to technology companies. Amazon is particularly interesting because it connects between advanced information technologies (including analytics & AI) and retailing. Walmart, which is a traditional retail firm based on its network of brick-and-mortar stores, is placed fifth ($111.9bn). Nowadays, Walmart has an e-commerce arm while Amazon entered into the physical world with its Amazon Go ‘smart’ stores and through the acquisition of the physical stores of WholeFoods. Overall, the Tech sector holds the largest share of total brand value, followed by the Retail sector:
|Sector of brands||Value ($US billions)||% of total value||Number of brands|
- An infographic chart image by Visual Capitalist presents nicely, ‘in a nutshell’, the Top 100 Most Valued Brands from Brand Finance. Note that the chart by Visual Capitalist provides a different classification of brands into sectors (e.g., Retail and Consumer Goods, Banking & Insurance, Media & Telecoms); but one should be careful when comparing shares because shares in Visual Capitalist’s chart seem to apply to Top 100 brands only, not for all 500 as given by Brand Finance.
With regard to country of origin of brands, it is notable that the United States is the source of nearly half of total value of brands on the ranked list of Brand Finance (48.6%, n=198). The next country in line is China (19.3%, n=84), indicative of the growing strength of China on the global stage (Fortune Global 500 also notes the growing presence of companies from China on its list in recent years). China is the origin for many more brands and higher brand values than another emerging economy from Asia, India (1.4%, n=13). Brands coming from G7 countries other than the US account for shares smaller than 10% of value each: Germany (6.0%, n=25), France (3.6%, n=28), the United Kingdom (3.2%, n=23), Japan (5.7%, n=31), and Canada (1.7%, n=14).
It is quite sobering to find out that the famous brand of soft drinks, Coca-Cola, is now situated in the 44th place (5 places down from previous year), valued $35.4bn. It was on top of the brand value list of Interbrand in 1995. McDonald’s, still a strongly recognised and highly popular brand of fast food restaurants, is situated not far ahead at 36th place ($39.7bn), and Starbucks finds itself in the 29th place ($45.7bn). The famed Swiss brand Nestlé, mentioned earlier, remaining one of the largest food companies in the world and a most familiar brand, is ranked in 90th place ($20.9bn). These retail and consumer brands are indeed among the respected Top 100 valued brands. However, it still leaves one wondering how they have been pushed back from the very top of valued brands. Firstly, priorities have changed so that brands of other types of products and services are more sought after and appreciated (foremost technology brands like Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, and even TikTok [a new entrant in 18th place], and media brands no strangers to technology like Disney and Netflix, but also automobile brands such as Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla). Secondly, it may hint at gaps that exist between psychological aspects of consumer attraction to brands and the financial implications of their marketing strength and business performance. Thirdly, nonetheless, it is also possible that the method used by Brand Finance gives an advantage to the sorts of brands in their sectors that reached the higher spots on the list.
The methodology of Brand Finance entails two key concepts. As the general framework they adopted an approach for financial valuation based on a principle of the (opportunity) cost of licensing a brand. That means, in concise words, as if asking a company owning a brand: ‘If you did not own that brand, how much would you be willing to pay to get a license for it?’ The payment is based on a royalty rate, and that is one of the challenges in executing this method: to estimate the relevant rate for the brand. The guidance (and validation) for determining a royalty rate is based on examples of actual deals in which brands have been sold or licensed, compared by strength of brand, geography and sector. A high royalty rate would reflect a strong brand whereas a low royalty indicates a weak brand.
The second concept of brand strength is developed by inspiration from the academic model Brand Value Chain (BVC)[*]. In the BVC model serving as a theoretical ground, the chain includes four value stages: (1) Brand Building Investment; (2) Consumer Mindset; (3) Business Performance; (4) Shareholder Value. In between stages three value multipliers may apply to enhance value: Investment Quality (between stages 1 & 2), Marketplace Conditions (between 2 & 3), and Investor Sentiment (between 3 & 4).
Brand Finance developed its Brand Strength Index (BSI) to include three main factors: Brand Investment, Brand Equity, and Brand Performance. It is noteworthy that Brand Equity is the consumer-based part of the index that corresponds to the consumer mindset. The composition of the BSI for a brand may vary according to relevant attributes of its market domain (e.g., tech, media, automobile). The actual and final Brand Royalty Rate being applied appears to be adjusted for the brand strength, thus distinguishing between strong and weak brands, before deriving the sum of royalty to be paid, that is the brand value (as implied below).
Eventually, a BSI for a particular Brand A is multiplied by a fitting Brand Royalty Rate (%). This ‘score’ is then multiplied by a forecast stream of revenues for Brand A, and this financial outcome is finally discounted to produce the estimate of post-tax net present value of Brand A.
The appeal of the methodology constructed by Brand Finance is in the compelling way in which it relies on existing knowledge in the fields of financial valuation, marketing and branding, and integrates them into their own valuation process model. The approach may prioritise corporate-level brands because there would be more information about deals regarding whole companies changing hands rather than product brands, although there have also been acquisition deals of product brands between companies. The resulting ranked list of brand values, Global 500, reveals interesting aspects about the relative strength and financial impact of brands within and across sectors. Practitioners and academics may find this brand information instructive and useful.
[*] The Brand Value Chain was originally developed and introduced by Kevin L. Keller and Donald R. Lehmann (“The Brand Value Chain: Optimizing Strategic and Financial Brand Performance”, Marketing Management, 2003).