Five of the most valuable global brands are well-known Internet companies.
According to recent rankings from WPP and Kantar Millward Brown, Google maintained first place in the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands with a brand value of more than $245 billion. Rounding out the top five were Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon. The latter moved up three places to No. 4 after achieving the highest dollar value growth, with a significant jump from $40.3 billion to $139.3 billion. (The ranking was released before Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods.)
One key competitive advantage Internet companies have is an established a global presence from day one, according to Kantar Millward Brown. They are also built on powerful, innovative technology platforms that enable them to cross regional and sector boundaries and grow their brand value at an unprecedented rate.
But there’s more to building brand value in the long run.
Deliver value and disrupt
The top-ranking companies in the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands disrupted incumbent industries, including those they don’t own. Facebook has irrevocably changed traditional advertising and media, while Amazon has raised the stakes for retail and logistics.
At the same time, Kantar Millward Brown found that strong brands continue to deliver value for the companies that own them, regardless of economic, political and category disruption.
A key differentiator for any brand, whether they operate locally or globally, is the ability to build trust with customers. The most valuable brands embrace authenticity, purpose and transparency.
Trust, however, is hard to come by, according to this year’s Trust Barometer, an annual Edelman study on credibility and trust. The 2017 report offered a bleak picture, finding that for the first time in 17 years, people’s trust declined in all four major types of institutions: media, government, NGOs and businesses.
Despite the gloomy outlook, there are several things companies can do to rebuild trust and in turn improve their brand value, starting with employee engagement. If most people believe the system isn’t working, Edelman says businesses should assume their employees are a subset of this population.
Creating ongoing dialogue with customers can also help companies build trust. “Brands have invested a lot of effort to cultivate personalized customer relationships, sometimes based on shared values,” writes the authors of the BrandZ report. “To consumers, that closer connection makes some brands seem more like friends than strangers.”
But talk is cheap. Ultimately any dialogue between employees, customers and stakeholders must translate into action to demonstrate that the feedback has made tangible impact, which can be in the form of better products and services that exceed expectations, according to the Edelman study.
Meet real needs
The BrandZ study has found that top ranking companies consistently meet their customers’ emotional and functional needs. They create a purposeful business that also stands out.
“Consumers are unlikely to consider a brand unless it is perceived as meaningful,” explains the report. “Once they have positively connected with consumers, brands need to stand out from other brands that also have built affinity.”
To create products that are relevant in the marketplace, companies, regardless of their size, need to engage with all key stakeholders. “Brands will need to ask what the brand means to the customer, to the employees, to shareholders,” the report recommends.
Valuable brands focus on long-term customer relationships
The BrandZ Top 100 is a reminder that the most successful brands are also those that are most customer-centric. Companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon continue to boost value for their shareholders not because they’re tech companies—rather, they’re succeeding because they deliver products and experiences that meet the needs of customers today.
In the end, to boost brand value, companies need to create long-term customer relationships that grow customer lifetime value. Without keeping their current customer base happy, companies will have a hard time driving business results.