US vs. the world (hint, it’s not close)
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but US brands are so much more valuable than those of other countries that they dwarf them in any visual representation. For example, the Top 30 US brands are together worth roughly 5x the value of the Top 30 brands in China, and more than 10x value of the Top 30 of Germany.
US brands are also much more valuable than their counterparts around the world at a brand-for-brand level. For example, the country’s #30 brand, Pampers, is worth $18.6 billion. That’s 5.5 times the size of the largest #30 brand in any other country rankings (China’s Suning, at 3.4 billion). As a result, a lot of great US brands that do not make its Top 100 would rank highly in any other country.
Categories and brands
Year after year, technology dominates the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable US Brands. Twenty of the brands this year come from the sector, including 5 of the top 10. This is similar to 2018, when 19 came from tech, and 5 of the top 10. In all, they total $1.4 trillion, or 33 percent of the total value of the Top 100. Technology brand growth is unsurprisingly focused on difference. Apple in particular has managed to leverage the astonishing meaningful difference of its iPhone brand to create premium pricing without sacrificing loyalty or love.
Retail brands fared quite well in 2019, with Amazon leading the category to a 37 percent increase over last year—and the #2 spot for categories. You might think that Amazon’s gain must be someone else’s pain, but The Home Depot leaped 25 percent in brand value, while Costco, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Target also notched double digit rises. All of these are using technology (even Costco, which historically has not been a digital heavyweight) to improve the customer experience around ordering, delivery, and even finding products instore. These changes translate to improved customer experiences and therefore differentiated brands for consumers.
Payments are also thriving, capitalizing on a sweet spot in the global economy as consumers shift spending habits to mobile and online consumption. These brands are typically lightweight with little physical footprint or direct interaction with customers. But they enable a seamless experience, and consumers love them for it. Every payments brand in the ranking grew substantially in 2018, with American Express the “laggard” at a mere 23 percent.
Telecom providers may have slipped to the fourth largest category (down from #2 in 2018), but it is an increasingly interesting one in the United States. As people are cutting cords and looking for ways out of pricey TV subscriptions, many of these companies are expanding into content, most notably AT&T with its purchase of Time Warner. The long-term strategy is to merge delivery and entertainment data to find new ways to anticipate customer needs. That plan has yet to bear fruit, as the category remains largely unchanged in value year over year, though CenturyLink, partly due to its acquisition of Level 3, proved a bright spot with a 45 percent gain.
Fast food remains a vibrant category for the US. McDonald’s, at #7, is the highest ranked brand in the category and accounts for more than 50 percent of its total value. But the fastest rising brands are KFC and Burger King. Both are legacy brands that saw their market shares erode as fast casual restaurants emerged in the past decades, but they are coming back thanks to smart digital campaigns and a renewed focus on their heritage.
Entertainment is an interesting category this year, in that it marked the first year BrandZ was able to rank several well-known American entertainment brands. Given the prevalence of American entertainment companies around the world, it’s not surprising to see iconic content producers like NBC and CBS jumping onto the list. Entertainment also contained the fastest growing brand by brand value in Netflix, which helped make it the 7th largest category overall.
Theory in action: Mastercard
Mastercard is the fastest-growing brand in the fastest-growing category. Like rival Visa, it does not directly interact with individual consumers, but rather provides a service for banks, which then issue cards in its name. Mastercard derives its growing value by being an expertly managed brand that invests heavily in effective communications. It also succeeds by enabling the seamless customer experiences that people around the world increasingly value. As financial companies race to improve their apps and more and more people adopt electronic payments, Mastercard’s future looks incredibly bright.