Forbes recently published the 2015 edition of The World's Most Valuable Brands, the fifth year that such a list has been compiled. In coming up with the rankings, Forbes did away with the highly subjective results of consumer surveys and instead derived the values of brands by analyzing their financial numbers. Special priority was given to brands that belonged to industries where branding played an important role. Moreover, Forbes, being mostly a U.S.-centric publication, required brands to have some presence in America to qualify for the listing. As a result, huge global brands like China Mobile and Vodafone, were left off the rankings.
The result was 15 nations and 20 broad industries being represented in the list of the 100 most valuable brands in the world. More specifically, American brands comprised more than half of the list (followed by Germany with 9, and Japan and France with 7), while technology was the most represented industry with 15 tech brands making the cut. Not surprisingly, Apple retained its spot on the top of the list for the fifth straight year, with Microsoft placing a distant second.
What kind of growth did these brands exhibit in 2015? The 100 brands in the list expanded an average of 5% in value compared to their 2014 figures. But of course, certain brands grew at a faster pace than the rest -- a statistic that matters as brands with the most impressive growth rates are expected to continue on their trajectories in the year/s to follow.
Here are the ten brands among the top 100 that managed to post the largest 1-year growth percentages in 2015. (Ties were settled by ranking the brand with the larger brand value higher.)
Because the market for any brand is always limited, the huge challenge for already enormous brands is to continue growing. But Apple seems to be dealing with the challenge just fine as the world's most valuable brand for all of the five years in which the list has been compiled has still managed to post an impressive 17% growth. As a result, the leading technology company now has a brand value of $145.3 billion, handily beating out Microsoft, which sits at #2 with its $69.3 billion brand value and 10% growth rate. What makes Apple's achievement even more remarkable is that after the late Steve Jobs was ousted from the company in 1985, it seemed like the California-based company would never recover from its early-90s downward spiral. But another turn as CEO beginning 1996 allowed Jobs to bring Apple to new heights. Moreover, Tim Cook has managed to keep the company's momentum going with new product launches, including that of the Apple Watch last April, thus providing even more fuel to keep the brand growing.
MasterCard, with its brand value of $18.8 billion, may be only the 5th most valuable financial services brand in the world. But despite lagging behind the likes of American Express and Visa, MasterCard's 19% growth in brand value is the largest in the industry. Fast-paced growth in the Middle East and Africa, where the company just crossed the 100-million-cards mark, seems to be fueling the global payments company's impressive performance. Furthermore, transaction size in the regions grew a remarkable 20.9% in the first quarter of the 2015 fiscal year.
NIKE's stock value has increased 40% in the last 12 months, and despite the robust sales of smaller competitors like Under Armour and Lululemon Athletica, there is hardly any indication that the premier sports apparel provider is slowing down. As is true for many international companies, China has been NIKE's greatest opportunity for growth. In fact, despite the initial stumbles the company suffered in the region, it has managed to achieve the leading position in the hugely populated nation's apparel and footwear markets. This development has contributed to the NIKE brand growing 19% to $28.3 billion in value, making the Beaverton-based company the 18th most valuable brand in the world.
In 2014, after years of suffering from losses, Sony let go of its PC business and Sony Online Entertainment -- moves which analysts predicted would allow the company to improve its growth numbers. So far, the decision seems to be reaping rewards as for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2015, the Japanese tech giant reported profits of $573 million. In fact, for 2016, the company forecasts that it will quintuple that amount to a staggering $2.68 billion. But a lot of the company's positives are still hinged on its older milking cows, especially the PlayStation, which currently boasts of 10 million PlayStation Plus subscribers and tallied a 33% increase in sales. Nevertheless, Sony acknowledges that it is still in a phase of recovery as it reels from failing to meet profit expectations in previous years. However, the 21% growth in Sony's brand value, placing it 79th on the world's most valuable brands list, seems to indicate that the company is headed in the right direction.
Starbucks is expanding in more ways than one. First, it's trying out new store formats like drive-thrus and roadside stores that are expected to attract new types of customers. Second, Starbucks is targeting to add a huge number of stores in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in China, where already more than 1,500 new stores were opened in 2014. In addition, Starbucks is rolling out Starbucks Reserve, the high-end version of the brand's stores. And so far, the results have been keeping investors more than happy as the Starbucks brand grew 21% to $10.5 billion in value, enough to make it the 52nd most valuable brand in the world.
The San Jose online market place has managed to land in the 50th spot of the world's most valuable brands list with its value growing 21% to $11 billion. But the future is actually filled with challenges for Amazon's toughest competitor. For one, eBay has been downgraded in Google's search engine results, a move predicted to adversely impact the company's sales figures. Furthermore, eBay will soon have to deal with its decision to exist independently of its payment division, PayPal, after companies like Intuit, Apple, and Square have provided new ways for merchants to accept online payments. Nevertheless, the split has actually been perceived by some analysts to be a positive one in the long run, as PayPal and eBay will be able to explore new partnerships as standalone companies.
Toyota's 2009-2011 vehicle recall scandal suddenly feels like it happened centuries ago. Yes, Toyota's brand value grew 21% to $171.1 billion, strong enough to make the Japanese automotive giant the 8th most valuable brand in the world. In fact, Toyota has driven itself to $18.1 billion in profits for the current fiscal year through March, a cheaper yen and a sales boost in the U.S. being mostly responsible for the feat. However, company president Akio Toyoda acknowledges that the remainder of 2015 and all of 2016 will serve as a critical test for the rebounding brand. At the moment, though, the only foreseeable obstacle to Toyota achieving sustainable growth is another massive recall -- a possibility that Toyota is countering with stricter quality control measures.
Disney might market itself as a wholesome and lovable brand, but the company certainly hasn't been treating its business partners with kid gloves lately. In fact, the Burbank-based enterprise has increasingly asserted its will in its recent negotiations and disputes. An example is a suit it has filed against Verizon for its inclusion of Disney-owned ESPN in one of its sports bundles. Furthermore, Disney also recently stipulated that it would use the national average ticket price, rather than local market prices, as the basis for computing its box-office revenue shares. The new demand means that Disney stands to earn a much larger share of revenues from the ticket sales for its films, including its recent blockbuster, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Such assertive moves from the family entertainment giant has been partly responsible for powering Disney's 26% growth, its brand value currently sitting at $34.6 billion.
It's amazing to ponder that what started as an online bookstore could turn out to be the largest Internet-based retailer in America, but that's exactly what Amazon.com has accomplished. The 13th largest brand in the world, currently worth $28.1 billion, managed to grow an impressive 32% partly behind strong North American sales and its Fire TV set-top box, which provides access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, and Hulu, among other services. And it seems there's no stopping the Seattle-based behemoth as it recently launched Amazon Business Marketplace, a lucrative business-to-business (B2B) venture.
Most everyone knows that Facebook has been and continues to be successful, but how many would've guessed that a social networking service is today, by far, the fastest growing brand in the world with a 54% growth rate? The impressive leap to $36.5 billion in brand value has vaulted the company into the top ten (#10) of the biggest brands in the world, and all indications point to Facebook remaining a colossal tech force to be reckoned with. As of March 2015, the site has drawn 936 million daily users with 83% residing outside America. And with so many users, revenue generated by advertisements, especially video ads, have been rising rapidly. In fact, the Mark Zuckerberg-led company has unexpectedly emerged as a YouTube competitor for video views with Facebook's April figures indicating that its videos were viewed a total of four billion times from just one billion views seven months prior.