Apple claims first spot on the world’s most valuable brands list, but how do Australian businesses rank?

Apple has once again topped the list of the most valuable global brands in 2014, but Korean tech giant Samsung is closing in.

According to the latest Brand Finance Global 500 list, Samsung’s brand value has increased 34% to $US79 billion ($A87.4b) in the past 12 months.

Netflix also saw an impressive rise in brand value, with the online TV and movie streaming business just making it into the top 500 list for the first time this year with a value of $US3.2 billion, an increase of 93%.

Apple maintained its top position with its brand value rising 20% in 2013 to $US104.68 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 were Google in third, followed by Microsoft, Verizon, General Electric, AT&T, Amazon, Walmart and IBM.

On a country basis, United States brands continued to dominate the list, claiming 185 spots within the top 500. Japan came in second, despite seven brands falling from the list in the past 12 months and Germany came third.

Independent brand analyst Michel Hogan told SmartCompany global brand value lists “obscure the true nature of the value of building a brand”.

“To be an organisation with real value, you need to understand what you stand for and filter this through everything you do, so then your customers will be able to connect with your value and will be inspired to buy what you’re selling,” she says.

“A brand is both valuable and powerful if this is achieved.”

Woolworths was Australia’s top ranked brand placing 109th on the list, as its brand value increased 24% last year to more than $10 billion.

Hogan says her understanding of value would not classify Woolworths as a “valuable” brand.

“It claims to be the fresh food people, to care about Australian farmers and to care about fresh produce, but a huge chunk of what it sells is sourced internationally. It’s tough to reconcile this,” she says.

“It doesn’t mean people don’t shop there, they do, but it’s often a convenience thing and if there was another option they could easily go the other way and shop somewhere else.”

Coming in second out of Australian businesses was Telstra, which had the largest growth of any Australian brand, with its 37% increase seeing it move above BHP Billiton.

Other Australian businesses that made the top 500 included Coles, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac and Optus.

As well as brand value, Brand Finance also looks at which brands are the most powerful.

In first place this year was luxury car company Ferrari, but while it’s well known for its fast cars and unaffordability it’s been unable to convert this into monetary value, not even ranking in the top 500 most valuable brands.

Hogan says while Ferrari is well recognised and highly desirable, this doesn’t necessarily correspond to power.

“When you think of power, it generally entails the ability to exert influence. So in this context it should be considered a brand which has a lot of influence over their customers, but Ferrari don’t actually assert much influence,” she says.

“It doesn’t particularly shape car design trends, it’s largely unaffordable for most people and it doesn’t influence any aspect of the automotive industry.”

Hogan says powerful brands are actually best identified by the willingness of their customers to support them.

“I think of (outdoor apparel brand) Patagonia as one of the most powerful brands in the world in terms of how I consider value and power,” she says.

“It has passionate and loyal customers who will tell people about how great their products are… and the business which customers care most about what the organisation stands for is probably Apple.”

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