By Callum Keown
Apple has overtaken Amazon to become the world’s most valuable brand for the first time in five years, according to a global report.
The value of the technology giant’s brand has climbed 87% in the past year to $263.4 billion, the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 Index found. The rise was down to Apple’s diversification strategy, which has seen the company expand into digital and subscription services and potentially into electric cars in the future, said London-based brand valuation consulting firm Brand Finance.
Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -1.58% became the first U.S. company to reach a $2 trillion market cap in August last year. It is also expected to post its largest ever quarterly revenue total and its first ever total above $100 billion when it reports earnings on Wednesday.
“As Apple reclaims the title of the world’s most valuable brand from Amazon five years since it last held the top spot, we are witnessing it Think Different once again. From Mac to iPod, to iPhone, to iPad, to Apple Watch, to subscription services, to infinity and beyond,” said Brand Finance Chief Executive David Haigh.
Amazon’s /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -0.91% brand value grew 15% to $254.2 billion, in a year that has seen the e-commerce giant benefit from stay-at-home orders around the world and surging demand. The company has also innovated and expanded in recent months, launching an online pharmacy store as well as the Halo fitness tracker. Earlier this month, Amazon bought its first fleet of planes , from airlines Delta and WestJet, to expand its airfreight network. However, the company lost its top spot to Apple.
Tech giant Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +1.10% has the third-highest brand value, edging 1.4% higher to $191.2 billion, while rival Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -0.36% stayed in fourth with a brand value of $140.4 billion, a 20% rise, and conglomerate Samsung /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -0.36% kept hold of fifth spot. Retailer Walmart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.05% jumped two places to sixth, while social media company Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.87% stayed in seventh.
In a year dominated by COVID-19, technology and innovation helped drive the value of the world’s largest brands, with ride-hailing app Uber /zigman2/quotes/211348248/composite UBER -5.42% and Chinese e-commerce platform Meituan /zigman2/quotes/205161725/delayed HK:3690 -0.88% enjoying strong growth.
But Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA -4.86% was the fastest-growing global brand in terms of value last year, jumping 158% to $32 billion. Brand Finance said record sales numbers, a production ramp-up and expansion into new markets helped boost the electric-car maker’s brand.
While some sectors have performed well, others have endured a difficult year. Airline and aerospace brands accounted for six of the 10 fastest-falling brands: Boeing /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -1.68% , American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -4.19% , United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -4.62% , Delta /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL -2.87% , Airbus /zigman2/quotes/208224336/delayed FR:AIR -2.08% and Safran /zigman2/quotes/206963350/delayed FR:SAF -1.07% . Hotels also had a tough 2020 due to travel restrictions and lockdown measures, with Hilton’s /zigman2/quotes/202780307/composite HLT -1.96% brand value falling 30% to $7.6 billion, while Marriott /zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite MAR -1.05% dropped out of the top 500 altogether, along with Airbnb /zigman2/quotes/222990650/composite ABNB -0.09% .
A brand’s value is the economic benefit it would achieve if it was licensed in the open market, according to the consulting firm.
The combined value of the 21 U.K. brands among the world’s top 500 fell 11% year-over-year, making it the worst-performing country, as Brexit uncertainty and the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy. Oil major Royal Dutch Shell /zigman2/quotes/206428183/delayed UK:RDSA +1.47% kept its place as the U.K.’s most valuable brand but dropped 11% to $42.2 billion, while second-placed rival BP /zigman2/quotes/202286639/delayed UK:BP +2.20% fell 8% to $21.4 billion.
“As the vaccine rollout advances it will be interesting to see which British brands thrive and which will flounder while navigating a future outside the European Union,” Haigh said.
The index also includes brand strength, which is calculated as the efficacy of a brand’s performance relative to its peers.
Chinese mobile app WeChat replaced car maker Ferrari /zigman2/quotes/208128355/composite RACE -1.92% as the world’s strongest brand. WeChat ran several government-mandated health apps to keep track of people traveling and in quarantine, giving access to real time data on COVID-19 and online consultations and self-diagnosis services, the index said, boosting its brand.