Apple leapfrogged Amazon to become the world's most valuable brand for the first time in five years, while oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco retained its top brand ranking in the Middle East, followed by Abu Dhabi National National Oil Company (Adnoc).
Apple's brand value jumped 87 per cent to $263.4 billion, as it reaped the rewards of its diversification strategy beyond the iPhone, according to a report by the Brand Finance consultancy, which reviews the world's biggest brands annually. It assesses their strength, quantifies their value, and ranks them across sectors and countries.
California-based Apple was followed by Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Samsung as the top five most valuable brands globally.
"Steve Jobs' legacy continues to flow through Apple, with innovation built into the brand's DNA," David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, said. "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."
In the Middle East, energy and telecoms companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia led the top five rankings.
Saudi Aramco retained its position as the Middle East’s most valuable brand, despite recording a 20 per cent drop in brand value to $37.5bn, according to Brand Finance.
"At present its scale is huge but its brand equity is at an early stage of development," Mr Haigh said. "We believe that over the next decade the brand will grow from strength to strength as it enters the world stage.”
Adnoc, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Etisalat and Qatar National Bank rounded off the region's top five brands by value.
Adnoc is the second most valuable brand across the Middle East with a brand value of $10.8bn, making it also the most resilient of all national oil companies globally despite the challenges facing the global economy, the report said. The company has attracted some of the world’s leading institutional investors as partners across its business and raised more than $64bn through such transactions since the start of its transformation in 2016.
In terms of brand strength, Etisalat emerged as the Middle East’s strongest brand for the first time, overtaking Emirates airlines, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 87.4 out of 100 and a corresponding AAA rating – the only brand in the region to achieve this, according to the report. This puts Etisalat among the top 25 brands globally for BSI.
STC is the region’s fastest growing brand, up 14 per cent to $9.2bn and simultaneously jumping 53 positions to 189th. STC has recently doubled the capacity of its network and has also achieved a AAA- brand rating for the first time because of its brand and business transformation, the report said.
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the fortunes of companies in the brand valuation ranking.
Amazon, which ranked second after Apple, recorded a 15 per cent gain in brand value to $254.2bn. The retail giant is one of the few brands that benefitted considerably from the pandemic and the resulting unprecedented surge in demand as consumers turned online following store closures.
Google, which ranks third, saw a marginal 1 per cent rise in brand value to $191.2bn. The company recorded its first ever revenue decline due to the pandemic as its revenues rely on advertising, which took a hit over the last year when marketing budgets tightened.
Airline and aerospace companies accounted for 6 out of the 10 fastest-falling brands in the ranking as the pandemic pushed the industry into the worst crisis in its history.
These include Boeing, which plunged 40 per cent to $13.6bn, American Airlines, which fell 40 per cent to $5.3bn, United Airlines, which dropped 39 per cent to $5bn and Delta that declined 38 per cent to $5.8bn. Toulouse-based Airbus sank 36 per cent to $9.1bn and Safran dropped 32 per cent to $4.3bn.
"Few sectors have been as deeply affected by the pandemic as the aviation industries," Mr Haigh said. "The road to recovery and hopes are pinned on the speedy and successful roll out of the vaccines to open borders and kick-start the global economy once again."
China's Alibaba.com has benefitted from the unprecedented surge in demand, as consumers turned to online shopping during the pandemic. The retail giant’s brand value doubled to $39.2bn, making it the second-fastest growing brand in the list.
Tesla's brand value shot up 158 per cent to $32bn, making it the fastest-growing brand in the Brand Finance Global 500 2021 ranking.
Hospitality suffered from travel and dining restrictions during the pandemic, as Marriott and Airbnb check out from the ranking while Starbucks, McDonald’s, and KFC saw their brand values drop. The world’s most valuable hotel brand, Hilton, registered a 30 per cent drop in brand value to $7.6bn.
Online booking platforms have also plummeted, according to the report. Booking.com recorded a 19 per cent brand value loss to $8.3bn, dropping 43 positions to 220th place.
In another triumph for tech companies, China's WeChat overtook Ferrari to become world’s strongest brand with a top score of 95.4 out of 100 an AAA+ brand strength rating.