Each of the 14 categories examined in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2014 increased in overall brand value.
Ten categories experienced double-digit growth led by apparel with a rise of 29 percent. The strong performance across categories reflects general economic improvement and consumer spending enthusiasm even for big-ticket items like cars.
Spending attitudes and shopping habits have changed, however, shaped by the financial austerity of the past few years and the influence of technology, particularly mobility and social networking.
These attitudes touched many categories, causing stress and even disruption and transformation. Consumers expected wide product choice, low prices and instant gratification. In addition, they expressed concern about ethical sourcing and product impact on health and the environment.
These four categories experienced less than double-digit growth – telecoms, regional banks, soft drinks and oil and gas. But even this performance was relatively strong. Only soft drinks and oil and gas improved in brand value by less than 5 percent. Here’s how these trends affected the various categories:
Consumer and Retail
Led by apparel, the consumer and retail categories topped the category ranking in overall brand value growth, with cars up 17 percent and retail and luxury each up 16 percent. Personal care advanced 12 percent.
Fast Food and Soft Drinks
Although these categories continued to experience steady growth, they felt the impact of consumer concerns and habits that impacted the rate of growth. The beer category rose 14 percent in brand value; fast food, 10 percent; soft drinks, 4 percent.
The global banks made money and the category brand value increased 15 percent overall. Less tainted by the risky practices that precipitated the financial crisis, the regional banks enjoyed strong results, but brand value rose only 6 percent because the growth of Chinese banks slowed. Insurers enjoyed a strong year and the category grew 11 percent.
The brand value of oil and gas appreciated 3 percent, the most modest gain of any category, as companies slowed exploration in response to shareholder pressure for improved ROI (Return on Investment).
Technology companies continued to appreciate in value, especially the consumer-facing brands, while business-to-business brands adjusted to the era of Cloud computing and big data management. The category rose 16 percent in brand value.
Consumer and Retail
The strong apparel brand gains show consumers were shopping again, replenishing wardrobes. But they purchased in an informed way, looking for value and waiting for sales. The most successful brands provided a value proposition that combined fashion, speed and price.
Retail also contended with smarter shoppers. The category is experiencing a transformation in response to shoppers who expect everything all the time: the range and price available online combined with the immediate experience and gratification provided by physical stores.
Feeling entitled and less constrained by recession-inspired frugality, consumers spent money on luxury, too. The luxury brands reclaimed some of the exclusivity and margin they sacrificed to drive volume during leaner times.
Car brands benefited from consumers who returned to the dealerships as the days of cash for clunker incentives faded in the rear view mirror and the resurgent US economy drove car sales. Car sales gained in Europe and China as well.
Slower economic growth in China, and the emergence of competitive Chinese brands, affected personal care brand value growth, as did problems in the Brazilian economy, home to one of the major personal care brands, Natura.
Food and Drink
Consolidation continued in the beer category. The rate of consumption slowed in developed markets and drinking preferences evolved, with consumers more interested in distinctive flavors and experiences rather than volume.
The brewers invested in fast growing markets to build volume and realize the potential, especially in China, which is a large and fragmented market with relatively low per person rate of consumption.
Changing consumer attitudes about health impacted both the fast food and soft drinks categories. The fast food brands that appreciated most in brand value had a clear brand proposition that addressed the issue of health and also offered an ambiance that was more comfortable than a traditional take out location.
In soft drinks, people consumed less CSDs (Carbonated Soft Drinks), an ongoing trend that especially impacts the leading cola brands. The brand leaders expanded their brand portfolios to include other beverage options, such as flavored waters or juices, but even these drinks weren’t immune to health scrutiny. Drinks that offered a jolt of energy or some other functional benefit continued to do well.
Most of the global banks had repaid government loans issued during the financial crisis, and had implemented reforms that reshaped their businesses. However, the public and government regulators remained unsatisfied with some of the changes. Banks experienced criticism for past practices and high executive compensation. Although profits were up, trust was down.
Less tainted by the risky practices that precipitated the financial crisis, the regional banks enjoyed strong results and brand values appreciated, particularly among bank brands in North America and Australia. The category brand value softened because four of the regional leaders are Chinese banks, which felt the effects of the country’s slowing economic growth rate.
Insurance brands experienced a positive year and brand values increased, particularly among the major global carriers. Property and casualty brands were in the midst of a transformation, trying to harness big data to understand individual needs and create ongoing, lifetime customer engagement.
Commodities and Technology
Brand value of the oil and gas category appreciated 3 percent, the most modest gain of any category. Compounding the normal risks of exploring for oil and gas reserves in fragile environments, oil and gas brands felt investor pressure to return more profit to shareholders. To accommodate these needs the major brands sought new efficiencies and looked to sell assets.
Technology companies continued to appreciate in value, especially the consumer-facing brands. Google claimed the number one position as the world’s most valuable brand in the BrandZ™ Global ranking, followed by Apple. Like Facebook, which experienced strong stock appreciation, these brands continued to acquire or develop competencies to build ecosystems and become indispensable.
At the same time, the Chinese Internet brands, Tencent and Baidu, increased sharply in value and Chinese technology brands became more of a presence in the West, as Alibaba, 24 percent owned by Yahoo!, prepared for an IPO.
The business-to-business technology brands benefited from corporate investment in the storage and analysis of big data. But the brands also adjusted to fundamental changes, including the shift to Cloud computing, pay-as-you-go business models, the rise of mobile and decline of the PC. Overall brand value rose 16 percent compared with a 1 percent drop a year ago.
Similarly, brand value of the telecom category rose 8 percent following a 1 percent rise a year ago. Developed market brands grew in brand value during a period marked by more industry consolidation and price disruption.