Trevor Little

In IP circles, the designs dispute between Apple and Samsung has received plenty of coverage. In research published today, the two are also slugging it out for the title of ‘the most valuable brand in the world’. However, it must be remembered that value isn’t everything.

According to the 2013 BrandFinance Global 500, a list of the world’s top 500 most valuable brands, Apple currently leads the way with a brand value of $87 billion. However, Samsung – which ranked sixth last year - is fast closing the gap. While Apple grew almost a quarter in terms of brand value – itself no mean feat – Samsung jumped up by 54% year on year and is now the world’s second-most valuable brand. Such a leap poses the question of whether Samsung can continue its forward momentum. Brand Finance’s CEO David Haigh thinks so – writing in the upcoming issue of WTR, he states: “At present, the betting money seems to be on Samsung ending 2013 as the world’s most valuable brand. As Apple’s brand value grew by a stunning 132% in 2011 to reach the number one position, it would not be unprecedented for Samsung to produce a similar result next year.” What is clear is that the competition between the two will continue to dominate headlines though the coming year.

The BrandFinance Global 500 top-five most valuable brands are:
Apple (€87.3bn)
Samsung (€58.8bn)
Google (€52.1bn)
Microsoft (€45.5bn)
Walmart (€42.3bn)

However, commenting on the research Haigh notes that brand is just one of many intangible assets that can drive profitable growth: “Technology, contractual, human capital and customer intangibles as well as general goodwill all drive overall corporate value. With revenues in the tens of billions, Apple and Samsung are slugging it out for global brand supremacy and are vying with each other to create strong ‘customer love’ for their brands. However, there are other brands in the Global 500 that, though they may never challenge the brand value giants, are nonetheless extremely powerful and well-loved.”

One such is Ferrari, which achieved the highest brand rating in the research despite being a niche sports car manufacturer with a much smaller enterprise value than many of the other global brands in the list. In terms of product, Ferrari will never achieve the same degree of market penetration that other multi-national brands can boast - this writer, for one, owns a branded smartphone and tablet, but has yet to put away enough of his journalistic salary to boast a Ferrari in the drive.

However, brand rating takes into account other financial metrics such as net margins, average revenue per customer, marketing and advertising spend, as well as qualitative measures such as brand affection and loyalty. In this regard, Ferrari – which today announced record results for the first nine months of 2012 (recording an increase in net profits by 7.6% to €152.4m on a turnover of €1.76 bn) – tops the pile.

The top five brands by brand rating are:
Ferrari
Google
Coca-Cola
PwC
Hermes

While four of the top five most valuable brands come from the tech and internet sectors, Google is the only one to also appear in the top five by brand rating. This makes Google another company to watch as it seeks to leverage this loyalty further. The company is already positioning itself to be one of the major players in the gTLD online expansion and this weekend the ‘9to5Google’ blog, citing what it termed “a reliable source”, reported that the search engine giant is “in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the US”.

The Apple store model has worked well for Apple, and points to a possible future for Google as it looks to leverage customer loyalty and market such new projects as Google Glass, its augmented reality glasses. The blog also speculates that the stores would provide “an opportunity to demonstrate other upcoming and Google X projects like driverless cars and mini-drone delivery systems”.

While this year Apple led the way, with Samsung leading the chase, it would not be a surprise to see other tech and online companies in the mix when 2014’s most valuable brands list is compiled.

The upcoming issue of World Trademark Review, available online for subscribers next week, will present exclusive analysis of the BrandFinance Global 500.

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